Making Sintering More Efficient
Speed, ergonomics among the important features
Keith Miolen, CDT
Sintering ovens' specifications are primarily focused on temperature and heat rate; they are not the most complex pieces of equipment. However, if they are used incorrectly then the translucency, color, and strength of the zirconia restorations can be negatively affected.
What are the most important considerations when purchasing an oven?
The ability to program custom settings is important if you want the freedom to use any type of zirconia. Custom settings provide the flexibility needed to zero in on the exact settings recommended by the manufacturer of the zirconia. Additionally, rapid-fire options are a game-changer for laboratories; I predict tremendous growth in that area. In the past, if a dentist needed a case rushed or a case needed to be redone at the last minute, our only option was to use a different material because zirconia took so long to process. Now, with some new ovens capable of sintering in 20 minutes, we have the ability to be more versatile.
What are some other noteworthy features?
Automatic drying is a cool feature. It is not absolutely necessary, because we have gotten by for years without it, and its usefulness is dictated by the program you use, but for shorter cooling cycles, it can be very helpful. The ergonomic designs of many new sintering ovens can help in managing counter space, as we have gone from bigger footprints to taller, more slender ones. With a small internal footprint, however, stackable trays become critical in order to avoid limiting your production capabilities.
What are the maintenance requirements?
Maintenance is quite simple. Heating elements must be replaced occasionally. Some laboratories can run into trouble when they decide to replace one heating element and then the others fail shortly after. I prefer to replace all three or four at once, which is costlier, but then the aging ones can be used only as backups. Besides that, sintering ovens are fairly reliable; the placement of the heater coils provides even distribution of heat so there are no hot spots like with a burnout oven.
If you know the specifications for the product you are sintering, and your oven can accommodate those specifications, the market for sintering ovens has many viable options.
About the Author
Keith Miolen, CDT, is the Chief Operating Officer of Aurora Dental Lab in Auburn, New York.