Third-Generation Technician Thrives on Integrating New Technology
Asiga 3D printers from Whip Mix provide quality and versatility
Working at the family dental laboratory was initially supposed to be a summer job for Jordan Shafer in 2004 before enrolling in graduate school to pursue a career in the psychology field. However, Shafer enjoyed the work enough that he decided to take a full year off from school to stay in the laboratory longer. Eventually, he was charting a new career path: helping Bay View Dental Laboratory transform into a modern, digital operation.
"The more I got involved with the laboratory, the more passionate I felt about it," Shafer says of the business that his grandfather, Vernon Shafer Sr., started in Chesapeake, Virginia, in 1976. "I did not want to learn the old ways of the laboratory, though. I wanted to help transition into new technology and new ways of doing things to move the business forward."
Shafer has spent time working in various areas of the laboratory. He worked with the front-office staff to implement laboratory management software. He helped set up the milling department. He was involved as the laboratory ramped up its scanning and digital designing, improving efficiency by reducing the amount of work being done by hand.
Now, Shafer leads the laboratory's digital department, a large part of which involves 3D printing.
"We use 3D printing for almost everything it can currently be used for in the dental field," Shafer says.
The primary application is printing models; while Bay View has model-less capabilities, Shafer says their technicians prefer to have models in their hands when they finish restorations. They also print almost all of their patterns for both lithium disilicate and gold restorations.
"We do not hand wax much anymore because we have a lot of success printing the patterns," Shafer says.
They also print surgical guides and splints—the latter of which, Shafer says, has helped bring in a number of new clients.
"The market for splints and night guards is growing," he says, "and it is a gateway product that leads many dentists to start sending us other work as well."
Printing so many different products, Shafer quickly realized the importance of not only open-source printers but also a manufacturer committed to helping make various materials work. After researching options and talking to people at trade shows, he decided to purchase the Asiga Pro 2 through Whip Mix.
"We loved it from Day 1," Shafer says. "The printer allowed us to use all of the different materials that we wanted to use. As new materials came out, we found that Asiga provides a lot of help with the INI files, whereas some other printers require the user to experiment and figure it out on their own."
Shafer knew Whip Mix would provide top-notch support because Bay View has purchased other products from them for many years.
"The team at Whip Mix is responsive when you call them, and their support is excellent," he says. "Whether for CAD/CAM support or just acquiring certain products quickly through our sales representative, no matter what it takes, Whip Mix makes it happen. They have our back."
The integration of the Asiga printer into the workflow was fairly seamless, Shafer says. In fact, perhaps the biggest challenge was how successful it was.
"As soon as we started using this printer, we really knew we had found something," Shafer says. "We liked everything we were getting out of it. The problem we ran into was that we could not produce enough. With Whip Mix's help, we started adding more Asiga printers, to the point that space became an issue. We set aside an entire area of the laboratory, and then we outgrew that. We now have two printing areas, and we're looking to expand even further." Bay View now has a total of 10 Asiga printers.
"As new materials are developed," Shafer says, "we are always looking to integrate them into our system and fine-tune our workflow. We are always finding new ways to evolve."
In this environment of constant evolution, Shafer knows he made the correct decision back in 2004 when he chose to work at the laboratory.
"It is always a fun place to come to work," he says. "I tell my wife that I really enjoy coming to work and doing what I do now. When you find something you enjoy, it is really nice to get to do it every day."
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