Old-School Technician’s Son Becomes Leader In Digital Dentistry
3D printing is the next new venture for one of the most well-known CAD/CAM specialists
There was a time when Francisco Acosta did not want his son, Frankie, to become a dental technician, and he did not want to incorporate digital dentistry into AA Dental Design in Murrieta, California.
Father and son are not always in agreement, though, and now Frankie is an internationally recognized technician and AA Dental Design, with Francisco still at the bench, is one of the most progressive CAD/CAM laboratories in the country.
“We do not always see eye to eye,” Frankie says, “but we have an amazing relationship and everything has worked out well.”
Francisco Acosta, a Cuban immigrant, has always considered his craft to be an art, taking immense pride in the beauty he creates with his hands. His laboratory was based out of the family’s garage in its early years, so young Frankie saw his father’s work firsthand.
“He would tell me, ‘Stay in school. Become a dentist or a lawyer,’” Frankie says. “As he was saying that, however, he was teaching me how to pour a model and perform other tasks in the laboratory.”
Frankie began working in the laboratory at age 16. From that point on, his high school and college schedules revolved around his work in the laboratory. Finally, he decided to abandon college and pursue a full-time career in dental technology.
“My father was upset and told me it was a mistake,” Frankie says.
As digital dentistry technology became available, father and son again were at odds. When a manufacturer representative came to the laboratory and showed him a CAD/CAM milled crown, Francisco had no interest.
“He is an old-school dental technician,” Frankie says. “He said, ‘I built this laboratory with these hands, and if I do not create every restoration by hand then the business will go downhill.’”
Things changed almost out of necessity. Approximately six years ago, Francisco was hospitalized after suffering a heart attack at the bench. His absence presented a challenge because the laboratory had been structured such that every case ended up on Francisco’s workbench.
“I saw my whole life flash in front of me, knowing this was going to happen to me,” Frankie says. “I decided that when my father came back, we were going to make some changes.”
Frankie finally persuaded his father to implement a CAD/CAM system, and after a few years, they became proficient at digital dentistry — so much so, in fact, that Frankie began teaching courses for dentists about how to use CAD/CAM. Word spread, and eventually he was asked to teach courses for technicians about working with dentists in a digital workflow.
“They started asking me to speak here, speak there,” Acosta says, “and next thing I know, I am in Latin America, Europe, all over the world, speaking about what I love.”
The laboratory, meanwhile, remains a family business run by Francisco, Frankie, their wives Millie and Allison, and Frankie’s sister, Millie. CAD/CAM machinery allows them to produce 50-60 units per day despite their relatively small workforce.
They plan to continue evolving with technology, with the next step being 3D printing. They purchased a Stratasys® Objet Eden260VS Dental Advantage™ recently to print models for orthodontic appliances, as well as surgical guides for implant dentistry. The driving factor for this purchase was an increasing availability of orthodontic design software for clinicians.
“We are entering an entirely new era in which dentists send orthodontic appliance cases digitally, but we still cannot fabricate the appliances digitally so we need to use models,” Acosta says. “Meanwhile, with the implant world growing, we are receiving a lot of calls from dentists who have intraoral scanners and CBCT scanners, and they want surgical guides.”
Prior to purchasing the 3D printer, Acosta had either milled models or outsourced them. The former was imprecise and labor-intensive; the latter usually took at least four days.
“The first day we got the printer, we put all of our model files in, which took only 10 minutes, and then we just let it run for two and a half hours,” he says. “We were floored. The models were so accurate.”
Acosta says a requirement for any new technology that he purchases is to open new revenue streams. He has started marketing his surgical guides and exploring other applications for the printer. He has even had other laboratories begin calling about outsource services.
“In the first three weeks I had the 3D printer, it changed my laboratory 100%,” Acosta says. “It has drummed up a lot of new business, and I am looking forward to seeing how much we can do with it in the future.”
With such a bright future for the laboratory, Francisco appreciates now that his son chose to become a leading voice in the industry and take their business to the cutting edge of dental technology, rather than becoming a dentist or a lawyer.
“He said to me one day, ‘I have to tell you, I am very proud of what you have done and how far you have come,’” Frankie says.
Objet Eden260VS Dental Advantage
The Objet Eden260VS Dental Advantage streamlines in-house production of dental models, orthodontic appliances, and surgical guides. It delivers the lowest cost per part with the accuracy needed for fine details and complex surface geometrics.
For more information, contact:
stratasys.com • 952-937-3000