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Porcelain Furnace Update
Staying ahead of advancements in firing capabilities
By Keith Miolen, CDT
Evolution can be defined as the gradual development from a simple to a more complex form. One could say that the laboratory industry has witnessed the evolution of many of its materials, techniques, equipment, and processes in recent years far beyond the expectations of our predecessors. Just in the first decade of this millennium, we have seen the introduction of virtual implant placement via 3D imaging and witnessed soldering evolve to laser welding, centrifugal casting to bench top induction machines, ceramic build-up to pressing, pressing to milling, and milling to 3D printing. We have even seen the launch of a single material that comes in multiple forms such as powder, block, and pellet, all the while gold climbed to nearly $2,000 an ounce. These are but a few of the changes that have taken place over the past 10 years and it has sparked a revolution of progression in both the clinical as well as the technical side of dentistry.
The ceramic firing oven has been no exception to the evolution of change. Today, it is more vital than ever that ceramic firing ovens be more dependable, accurate, self-troubleshooting, easy-to-use and capable of adapting to our ever-evolving industry. Ceramic ovens of years past served their purpose but came with a number of drawbacks, such as inaccuracies in firing due to analog temperature settings. Production was hindered when a problem arose because troubleshooting an issue involved identifying and resolving the problem manually through test firings. Another downfall of previous generations was their bulky size and weight, as well as the need for constant calibration testing as a means of preventive maintenance. In addition, multiple program expansion and pre-programed cycles were also almost non-existent.
Throughout 2013 several manufactures launched newer versions of their already dependable lines of ceramic firing ovens. The technology in the 2013 line is nothing short of spectacular and far beyond the expectations of most technicians. The following overview is a means of providing accurate information along to you, the consumer, so that when looking for a ceramic oven you will choose one of many that will keep your laboratory ahead of the curve instead of behind your delivery date.
On the Firing Line
Below are descriptions of some of the most popular porcelain furnaces on the market.
Ivoclar Vivadent recently launched its new generation of porcelain firing furnaces. The Programat 510 and 310 ceramic ovens bring powerful additions to an already impressive 2013 oven line up. The key feature of the Programat P510 furnace is its infrared camera, which measures the temperature at the surface of the object in the firing chamber and automatically controls the pre-drying and closing parameters. The automatic double-range temperature calibration (ATK2) feature allows the temperature to be checked in two different ranges to ensure high firing precision and the automatic double-range temperature calibration (ATK2) feature allows the temperature to be checked in two different ranges to ensure high firing precision.
More compact than the 510, the Programat 310 offers advanced user-friendly features due to its high-resolution, color touchscreen. The required program can be selected quickly via the touchscreen or the proven membrane-sealed keypad. The clearly structured menu contains modern icons, which can be click-activated to reach the desired programs or settings. Users have a variety of maintenance programs at their disposal as well as 300 individual firing programs.
The venerable P700 has been upgraded and has newly added features, which include integrated Power Saving Technology allowing the reduction of power consumption in the unit’s stand-by mode by up to 40%. The touch screen display is still as easy to use as ever with its colored by material icons. Additionally, the furnace is equipped with voice output providing the user with useful information in 13 different languages. The integrated Cooling Shock Protection (CSP) with a specially developed opening and cooling process prevents the formation of tension and cracks within the ceramic.
Vident’s VITA VACUMAT 6000M has a unique ergonomic design that requires very little bench space and is a premium microprocessor-controlled, fully automatic furnace used to fire all types of veneering and crystallization ceramics. The premium microprocessor is the brain of the unit but the heart of the system is the feature-rich control unit, which enables the operation of up to four furnaces using a single control pad. The control pads feature three levels of customization: the vPad easy, the vPad comfort, and the vPad excellence. Besides these control options, the oven provides quality firings, expandable program options and is self-monitoring with safety functions. The VACUMAT 6000M’s flexibility enables the user to purchase only the modules they require initially, then add further components, such as additional furnaces, control units, or accessories as needed.
The IBEX Summit offers consistent firing quality with its trademarked Radiance Ring Technology that provides consistent fires regardless of where the restoration is placed within the oven. The oven offers such consistency in regards to firing that a “star test” to prove its technology is recommended by its manufacturer. The star test is a firing technique used to evaluate heat zones and cool spots within an oven by firing symmetrical tabs of porcelain laid out in various zones within the oven. The goal of this test is to have symmetrical firing of the ceramics, which provides accurate color, natural surface texture, and uniform shrinkage of ceramics regardless of placement in the chamber.
Distributed by Jensen Dental, the Dekema Austromat 624 offers a wide variety of options to coincide with easy to use touch screen display. One such option that is unique is the ability to manage and monitor multiple furnaces through three different measures: cental program display, e-mail, or an Intergrated in ERP or SAP system. The firing oven also offers display of patient imaging along with an easy-to-use Program Manager with 200 programs, intuitive program entry, large, scratch-resistant glass touchscreen, and USB interface for easy data transfer, software updates or operation using a mouse. An auto-dry mode is incorporated for precise drying and cooling.
The Jensen Dekema Panamat 620 is a scaled-down version of the Austro 624 and offers all the necessary options and capabilities to provide any laboratory with its firing needs and more. This oven runs an automatic self-test, offers program load and back-up from a USB or stick drive, and patient image display.
Whip Mix’s FireLite offers a small footprint and stores up to 50 firing programs technicians can customize for any type of porcelain. The platform of the cooling tray is large, allowing for more restorations to be fired. In conjunction with its large platform, the oven’s ease-of-use is a definitive aid to production. Designed with a sleek appeal, its smooth surfaces allow for easy wipe down when performing general maintenance and cleaning as a dust preventative. The mechanics are just as smooth allowing for a passive transition from bottom plate to heating area, which prevents slumping of porcelain due to vibration.
The Whip Mix Pro 200 porcelain furnace is an affordable option to the Firelite. It is intelligently designed with cutting-edge technology and is offered with pressing capabilities (ProPress). Pre- programmed cycles open up the door of opportunity for an array of materials that can be fired such as e.max® , In Ceram®, Wol-Ceram®, Captek™, sintered alloys, and advanced porcelain products.
Zubler USA’s Vario 200 was originally introduced in 2011, but a recently updated version promises exceptional firing results due to a completely redesigned firing chamber. The change was made to improve and maintain a balanced field of temperature throughout the area where the ceramics are positioned. Therefore, Zubler has now added technology from their 300 series press line. The precision electronics from the Vario 300 series combined with their new chamber design balances the temperature throughout the working field, allowing the ceramist to make use of a much larger portion of the firing tray. The oven offers versatility as a firing oven as well as a sintering oven for infiltration firing and for processing most ceramic materials on the market through individual programmed firing and sintering cycles.
The newly designed DENTSPLY Prosthetics’ Multimat® NTX furnaces are fast and simple to operate and can be customized down to the most minute detail, supported by their intuitive user interface and its high-quality ‘True Color’ touch-screen. Proven parts such as the heating coil, protected by quartz glass against contamination, and the precise temperature control of the Multimat® furnaces are complemented by a new design of the motherboard, improved processor performance, optimised reaction time by ‘One-Touch’ access, and simplified navigation and management of individual programs as well as simplified printing of firing protocols.
Another oven offered from DENTSPLY is the NeyfireT. Ergonomically designed, its small footprint conserves bench space, while the hi-tech engineering of the NeyFire T offers generous, 1600-program capability.
The Focus 4010 from ShenPaz is an ideal solution for technicians who want to add a porcelain furnace to their arsenal, but have limited space in their laboratory. Small in size, the Focus 4010 is easily movable, while offering precise and reliable performance. The furnace has an intuitive full-color digital screen that displays a graph of cycle progress and its 3 pre-programmable cooling steps permit the user full control of the entire cooling process.
KDF’s Master S series of porcelain furnaces have been upgraded to include a quartz spiral heater, which features excellent muffle heat distribution and steady heat rise. This component allows technicians to produce natural color shades, natural translucency, and uniform glaze. Master S furnaces offer users a quiet 3 tray robotic firing system controlled by a precision stepping motor system that will automatically and sequentially place each tray into the muffle and remove it after firing is complete.
It is apparent that the firing ovens of today are not in any way comparable to those that were available at the turn of the millennium or prior. Today’s ovens are equipped with technology introduced from other advanced disciplines, such as the aerospace, computer, and communication industries. The advancements brought forth from outside industries have evolved the common firing oven into a vital piece of laboratory equipment that offers colored shade communication through digital photography, Internet access, USB ports for external device data transfers, touch screen program control, self-troubleshooting capabilities, external speaker ports, multiple language voice outputs, remote operation through Internet access, and even email capability. These new “bells and whistles” are very intriguing and bring forth endless opportunities for laboratories that can now use a common firing oven for many uncommon uses.
Keith Miolen, CDT is the Director of Education at Gibson Dental Designs in Gainesville, GA.