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Engineer Finds Success as CAD/CAM Technician
Advanced scanners help enable creativity along with speed and precision
When Attila Pal started his career in dental technology, he did not expect it to last long. A 25-year-old instrumentation engineer from Hungary, he had been traveling in the US and Canada when he met the woman who would become his wife. He decided to stay in Calgary, but it was shortly after September 11, 2001, and jobs were difficult to come by, especially in the engineering field. So Pal accepted a position at a large dental laboratory where his eventual wife, Elizabeth, worked as a dental technician. The job, an assembly line-type position, was supposed to be temporary while he continued to search for engineering work.
Almost 15 years later, Pal no longer has any intention of returning to his old profession. He and Elizabeth own Creative Dental Laboratory in Calgary, and thanks in part to his engineering background, business is going so well that Pal says returning to his former profession “would not make financial sense.”
Pal was right about one thing: He did not stay at the large dental laboratory for long. After three years in various roles such as waxing, trimming, and finishing, he started his own business with Elizabeth out of their home, taking classes at the same time to improve his skills. Six months later, he leased an office space and hired two employees. They now have five employees and all the work they can handle.
“We have been going strong,” Pal says. “We focus on being a boutique and working on cases that nobody wants to touch: complicated cases, implants, bars, and more.” Pal’s natural artistic ability helped him become a skilled dental technician. Meanwhile, his engineering background, which included some experience with programming, was helpful as CAD/CAM gained more popularity in the dental industry.
“CAD/CAM was nothing special or magical for me,” Pal says. “It came naturally, and I was able to adapt quickly. I never attended training sessions. I just played with the equipment and learned myself.”
Creative Dental Laboratory acquired its first scanner approximately six years ago and started designing zirconia crowns to be outsourced to milling centers. However, the results were not up to Pal’s standards. He purchased a milling machine so he could control the manufacturing, but he was still unsatisfied.
“My original scanner had limitations in regards to both scanning capabilities and the software,” he says. “I like to think outside the box rather than conforming to a manufacturer’s workflow. When I wanted to use my shortcuts or make improvements, I encountered impediments in the software. I needed something more open and customizable.”
Pal researched scanners and software extensively. He decided he wanted to use exocad software, so he narrowed his scanner search to products that could accommodate that. He decided on Medit, which had recently released the Identica Blue.
“I was quite happy with it. You can scan almost anything, without any hassle. It is so open,” Pal says. “You can customize the script for the whole scanner.”
Pal says one of the best features of the Identica Blue is that if a scan is missing one part, you can add more scans to it rather than re-scanning the entire object.
“That saves a significant amount of time,” he says. “It made our work much easier.”
This past December, Pal added Medit’s brand-new Identica Hybrid to his laboratory. He says this model is faster, but most importantly it can scan impressions.
“I ran a few tests scanning impressions, and they came out perfect,” he says. “Now we can do crowns without a model. We can scan, design, and send it to the milling machine in approximately 10 minutes.”
Even when a model is required, the Identica Hybrid still can cut production time in half by allowing the technicians to fabricate the model and mill the restoration simultaneously.
“Time is money, and it saves a lot of time,” Pal says.
The Identica Hybrid also can fit a full articulator, and Pal says it has the biggest variety of jigs he has ever seen. There is also a third camera that scans texture.
“This is important if you want to mark margins or anything else on the model, and visualize them right away,” Pal says. “Also, the newest feature is the ability to scan a full upper case with 16 dies. You can take all those dies, stick it in putty, and scan it all at once, and it finds all of them and aligns them individually with precision.”
Speed and precision are crucial for any laboratory owner, but they are especially appreciated by Pal, given his background. Whereas six years ago only 20% of his cases were digital, now 90% of his work uses CAD/CAM, and most of it passes through his Medit scanners.
“I liked engineering,” Pal says, “but I’m still doing it somewhat. Twenty years ago, dental technicians did not need to use computers, but now it is becoming a requirement. The correct machines and software can be an invaluable asset to any laboratory.”
Medit’s Identica Hybrid sets the new standard for speed, reliability, and accuracy with increased scan speeds, usability, and workflow improvements.