Proven Science and Artistry Lead to Quality and Consistency
Kuraray Noritake provides consistency during difficult times
Kuraray Noritake's top priority in serving its dental laboratory technicians and dentists is to provide quality and consistency in its materials, from KATANA zirconia to Super Porcelain EX-3, CERABIEN ZR, and more. Thus, when the COVID-19 shutdown led many companies to downsize their workforces in order to cut costs, Kuraray Noritake committed to keeping its full team intact so that the quality of its products would not suffer.
"Financial support is important, but the most important thing for laboratories is to keep business going," says Manabu Suzuki, Director of the Dental Division of Kuraray America. "If products fail, laboratories lose time and money, so it is as important as ever right now to use stable, high-quality materials with proper education."
Some changes were made during the COVID- 19 shutdown in order to comply with city, state, and national mandates and guidelines. Videoconferencing became more common as employees worked remotely.
"We kept everyone engaged," says Lawrence Zeno, Senior Sales Manager for Kuraray America. "Outside of making products, it is ‘people first' for us-be it our employees, our customers, or their patients. Our executive team was very diligent in making sure we were all engaged, comfortable, and able to continue serving our customers."
Quality and consistency have been the company's hallmark for several decades in dentistry. Noritake was established in 1904 to manufacture tableware products for the US market and expanded its ceramic technology to other industrial fields; the dental business started in 1987. Kuraray was established in 1926 for artificial fiber manufacturing and expanded its technology to the organic chemical industry; the dental business started in 1978. The dental divisions of both companies were integrated in 2012 as Kuraray Noritake Dental Inc.
"It was a really strong synergistic integration," Suzuki says. "Organic and inorganic technologies can create innovative new products in dentistry, and the integrated company can work with dentists and technicians at the same time."
Zeno adds, "Science and art are coming together to advance dentistry."
Kuraray Noritake's manufacturing prowess affords it the advantage of producing materials from scratch. Suzuki says that, as good as the zirconia powders are that some other companies use to make their discs, those companies are limited because they do not actually make the powder.
"We make small batches with special technology dedicated only to dentistry," Suzuki says. "We have very particular manufacturing processes- for example, controlling the grain size, which makes a difference."
That level of control allowed Kuraray Noritake to be the first dental manufacturer to introduce multilayer zirconia several years ago. Others have since developed their own versions, but Kuraray Noritake's KATANA is unique because of the proprietary powders.
"Each layer has slightly different pigments with slightly different shrinkage properties, so controlling shrinkage is very difficult with multilayer zirconia," Suzuki says. "We manufacture zirconia powder to get the best match with pigments, binder, other ingredients, etc, so we can control expansion and shrinkage. We control every detail."
Similarly, CERABIEN ZR FC Paste Stain is a high-quality surface stain for the easy characterization of zirconia, and EX-3 and CERABIEN ZR porcelains offer a superior coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) that remains stable during repeated bakes.
"We are very specialized in what we do," Zeno says. "We are not trying to be everything to everyone. We want to be the best at what we do. CERABIEN ZR FC Paste Stain is very consistent, and our dental porcelains offer the finest quality. We always listen to our customers and key opinion leaders to tell us what they need."
After quality and stability, Kuraray Noritake's next priority is educating and informing its customers in order to help them use the products correctly. This area was where the company directed much of its efforts during the COVID-19 shutdown.
"We have been offering seminars, hands-on courses, and other education for many years," Suzuki says. "Now, the market is changing, especially with COVID-19, so we are creating more digital offerings than ever-webinars, YouTube videos, and more. We were already doing these things, but now we are doing more. We also developed the KATANA app, which includes a zirconia color simulation, a comprehensive cementation guide, technical videos, instructions, brochures, and seminar information. We will continue to offer more of this kind of digital education in the future."
The goal, Suzuki says, is to provide the same or higher levels of service to customers after the COVID-19 shutdown-no easy task, but one to which Kuraray Noritake is committed.
"What we want to contribute to dentistry is utilizing industrial technology," Suzuki says. "We are studying, relearning what is in demand and the direction of the dental market. We will continue to innovate next-generation technology to help dental technicians and dentists make their work easy and simple but also beautiful."