January 2017
Volume 8, Issue 1

Improved Ovens offer New Options for Firing

New technology makes traditional equipment more versatile and efficient

By Keith Miolen, CDT

The dental industry is undergoing a continuous transformation. The change has altered how we fabricate, what we fabricate with, as well as new material options for restoring. Many of these changes are now considered standard procedures in today's market, but some of our fabrication processes and equipment requirements remain the same. One such piece of laboratory equipment that remains a daily necessity is the ceramic oven. Still, even this most common piece of equipment has undergone dramatic changes in recent years.

The current lineup of ceramic firing ovens brings with it new technology and more dependability and fabrication options, such as additional cycles that allow pressing ceramics. Other advanced attributes include internal troubleshooting and calibration programs, along with enhanced firing consistency due to more even heat distribution and better built parts. These attributes equate to higher quality restorations, allowing technicians to fabricate ceramic restorations with more predictability and consistency than ever. Not only are these firing furnaces built better, but manufacturers also have integrated processes such as pressing that technicians use to produce the products we deliver. The addition of pressing cycles in several new ovens is largely due to the expansion of workflow processes within the CAD/CAM arena, which allows the milling or printing of materials that then must be fired or pressed.

Technicians have always utilized the ceramic oven. Few products get produced and delivered without it. The new technological advancements incorporated into these ceramic furnaces may be less obvious than those of a new milling machine in the laboratory, but make no mistake about it: These digitized and interactive furnaces are no longer the mechanical dinosaurs of yesteryear.

New Technology, Smaller Footprints

Dentsply Sirona's Multimat NTX and NTXpress furnaces (degudent.com) are designed for all firing and pressing programs. They produce dependable firing results with easy program customization and come equipped with high-quality True Color touch screens, extremely small footprints, continuous thermocouple monitoring, and an automated self-test feature that guarantees proper function of the entire unit on power-up.

A quartz glass tube to ensure symmetrical heat distribution within the chamber protects the Multimat oven's newer heating coils. A supplementary real-time controller assists the main CPU in providing extra power and a highly precise temperature curve. With the NTX PC software, programs can be used to conveniently create and administer firing and pressing programs for subsequent transfer to one or multiple furnaces via USB sticks. The Multimat logical folder program structure intuitively guides the operator through all menu levels, directly to the desired program, and is compatible with USB and JPEG to view cases while building and firing on its color monitor.

Ivoclar Vivadent's ceramic furnace line (ivoclarvivadent.com) also combines high-tech features with modern design in an efficient and user-friendly furnace. The Programat EP 5010 is a combination press/fire furnace that is optimally coordinated with Ivoclar Vivadent press ceramic materials such as IPS e.max Press. This innovative, efficient, and user-friendly furnace optimally combines sophisticated design with advanced technology and can be operated from the 7-inch color touch-screen and the membrane-sealed keypad. In addition to the many pre-loaded programs, which are specially coordinated with the company's materials, the furnace features 500 customizable firing programs and 20 press programs.

The Programat EP 5010's integrated thermal imaging camera measures the exact temperature of the fired object or that of the investment ring. By controlling the temperature of the preheated investment ring, the preheating furnace and the press furnace can be coordinated with each other. If the investment ring is preheated insufficiently, a warning is automatically displayed. If the furnace is used in the firing mode, the camera automatically controls the closing and pre-drying process. Thus, the integrated infrared technology provides a wealth of new possibilities, which increase the furnace's user-friendliness, process reliability, and efficiency. The new QTK2 heating muffle in combination with the SiC bottom reflector ensures homogeneous heat distribution in the firing chamber. As a result, the investment ring is preheated more evenly and reliably. Furthermore, these features enable the user to press difficult-to-press objects, eg, with very thin marginal areas, and to achieve even higher quality results.

The FIRELITE from Whip Mix (whipmix.com), meanwhile, features a small footprint, multi-position keypad/display panel, and ease of use. It stores up to 50 firing programs that can be customized for any type of porcelain, and its fast-cool cycle uses a vacuum to cool the muffle. The special lift design ensures smooth lift operation so that work pieces won't slump or vibrate off the lift, and the large elevated cooling tray allows for easy staging of work. The oven quickly cools just-fired restorations, and it incorporates two-point calibration for low- and high-fusing porcelains. The Firelite offers a 3-year warranty or 3750 muffle hours on each unit (North America only) and a large, four-line, 20-character LCD screen.

The Focus line from ShenPaz (shenpaz.com), featuring the 4010 and the 4010HT, also offers a smaller footprint design. 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 three pre-programmable cooling steps permit the user full control of the entire cooling process. Each oven is also manufactured with power failure protection that allows the oven to resume its cycle once power is restored.

New technology also can be found in VITA North America's New Generation line of firing ovens (vitanorthamerica.com). VITA's innovative modular concept provides dental technicians with ideal custom solutions when configuring their firing ovens via exterior LED keypads, known as V Pads or control units, that can operate four ceramic ovens. Up to 1,000 additional programs can be customized depending on which V Pad control unit is selected. Further custom solutions are offered through a variety of color combination press units, a pump system known as Multi-Pump that supplies up to four dental furnaces with the required vacuum using just a single vacuum pump, as well as a variety of accessories. Even heat distribution, USB connection, micro-processor control, and state-of-the-art design for minimizing bench space as well as free software updates are among the additional features of this new generation of furnaces.

Dekema Austromat furnaces (dekema.com), meanwhile, include a firing chamber that offers excellent firing results within multiple temperature ranges. The Austromat furnaces come pre-programed with 200 active programs but provide the ceramist with the option to change programs during operation. An intuitive user interface guides the user through all the processes and a high-resolution touch screen allows for easy operation in the laboratory or remotely via a smart phone. Multiple software options as well as options to connect operational controls via a mouse or keyboard to the USB interfaces are among the features of this conveniently controlled furnace line. In addition, a database of other ceramic material manufacturers' firing programs is included as well as internal test monitoring during cycles.

KDF (kdfus.com) utilizes Japanese technology in each of its Master S porcelain furnaces. Lately, the KDF ovens 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 three-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.

Zubler's Vario line (zublerusa.com) comes with many features, such as USB connection to transfer and backup data; Omni Visible screen technology that allows screen viewing from multiple angles; a modern touch-screen glass display with a lifetime warranty on the glass; and PFC (Power Failure Control) technology for resuming the firing cycle in the event of a power outage. Another unique feature is the Z dry mode, which allows the firing tray to adjust up or down during pre-drying and is dictated and controlled through a virtual sensor. Zubler also developed the software for its furnaces in-house, ensuring it is specifically designed for dental ceramic applications. Any updates required to accommodate new materials can be easily installed.

Ibex ovens (ibexdental.com) are known for their long-life muffle with Radiance Ring technology. Radiant Ring technology was developed to provide consistency of firing regardless of work position on the tray. The company even recommends a “star test” to verify firing consistency when using its SUMMIT furnace.

As with many others, the Ibex line of ovens has evolved to be USB programmable. Other features include mid-program editing of firing parameters, elimination of temperature calibration, and a user-friendly digital touch screen along with the sleek ergonomic design of both their firing and pressing ovens.

Conclusion

Using today's firing furnaces, technicians can expect quality firings and consistent, reproducible results, adding value and excellence to the restorations we produce. These new-generation furnaces are designed to accommodate the progress being made in all facets of our industry. Manufacturers are using industrial-grade electronic devices and precision-engineered mechanical tools to ensure these modern ovens meet our demands and expectations.

Keith Miolen, CDT, is the Chief Operating Officer of Aurora Dental Arts in Auburn, New York. He is an NADL Pillar Scholarship recipient and an active IDT Editorial Advisory Board member.

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