Get The Most Out Of Your Dental Milling Machine
In the fast-moving world of digital dentistry, it may be tempting to constantly chase the latest equipment and adopt every hot new technology. But when it comes to fabricating precise, functional, and beautiful restorations, sometimes it pays to stick with tried-and-true methods. Despite advances in 3D printing, dental milling machines remain workhorse appliances most labs will rely on for years to come.
With mills being central to production, getting the most out of your equipment is key to efficiency and profitability. So what should savvy lab owners consider when buying, operating, and optimizing milling systems? Let's walk through the essentials for purchasing, maintenance, and performance.
Keep Calm And Mill On
Even with 3D printing capturing headlines, milling will likely dominate fabrication for at least another decade. Why? Affordable zirconia blanks keep costs down while delivering durable results. The milling process is proven, familiar, and still more of an art than 3D printing. And adoption of new tech in dentistry is slow—it takes 5-8 years for most practices to fully transition. With 3D printing not reaching critical mass yet, mills will remain workhorses for the foreseeable future.
When purchasing this backbone equipment, the relationship with your vendor beyond the sale is most critical. Seek dealers invested in an ongoing partnership through support and service. Ask around to colleagues about their experiences before deciding. Require referrals of happy long-term customers. Prioritize companies with longevity in the industry, so you don't end up stranded if they disappear in two years.
While mills will stay relevant, new developments are still valuable for increasing efficiency and profitability. The trajectory of more power, precision, and clever engineering at ever lower costs has made digital workflows accessible to more labs. Key innovations to seek out include:
- More rigid, durable mechanical designs—cast frames, granite bases, closed-loop servo control—that improve accuracy and repeatability.
- Higher horsepower spindles with faster RPMs enabling faster material removal without sacrificing surface quality.
- User-friendly interface and workflow that simplify training and ongoing use.
- Smaller footprints fitting into tight spaces while delivering industrial performance.
- Economical acquisition costs and maintenance plans improving return on investment.
The best mills balance these upgrades with a proven approach that avoids downtime and complications.
Optimizing Your Mill
To maximize the performance of your milling workstation, start with preventative maintenance. A finely tuned system will reward you with better process control and results. Clearly define your priorities upfront—is speed or precision more important? While you often sacrifice one for the other, the right methods can achieve both productivity and quality.
A key factor is your CAM software. With open systems that provide more programming control, you can tailor machining strategies perfect for your machine, tooling, and materials. One experienced machinist increased production 10-25% just through software improvements, equivalent to adding another mill!
Work with your vendor to analyze the entire production ecosystem—equipment, tooling, software, strategies, and restorative materials. Well integrated components designed for each other will squeeze every bit of speed and precision from your mill.
Keep Milling On!
While eager to incorporate new technology, lab owners shouldn't abandon tried-and-true appliances that remain central to profitability and quality. For milling, the keys are finding vendors invested in your long-term success, seeking incremental innovations that boost performance, and optimizing the entire digital workflow from software to final restoration. With smart purchasing decisions and maximizing capabilities through careful maintenance and programming, your mill will keep delivering exceptional efficiency and results for years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Will Milling Be Relevant?
Milling is likely to remain critical for dental labs for at least another decade, if not two, due to the maturity of the technology, proven durability of milled restorations, gradual rate of adopting new tech in dentistry, and continued affordability of materials like zirconia blanks.
What Should I Look For In A Company?
Look for dealers focused on long-term partnerships and support, not just making the initial sale. Require referrals of satisfied long-time customers. Prioritize vendors with a stable position in the industry.
What Machine Features Should I Prioritize?
Seek out rigidity, durability, precision enhancements like closed-loop control, more powerful spindles, user-friendly interfaces, smaller footprints, and reasonable maintenance costs.
Can I Really Have Both Speed And Quality?
With the right integrated components like software, tools, and strategies tailored for your equipment and materials, you can increase efficiency significantly without sacrificing finish quality. The whole workflow must be optimized together.
Why Is Software So Important?
Your CAM software determines machining parameters and toolpaths. Open systems in particular give you more programming control to maximize your specific machine performance, improving speed, precision, or both.