What Top-level Challenges are presented by scanning for the Dental and Medical Industries?

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Like most industries, the most significant challenges are costs: onshore costs, offshore costs, and the goal to eliminate costs associated with manual labor. We have known cost to be the driver that forces many dental lab networks to outsource manufacturing to South Asian countries such as Vietnam or Thailand.  

Cost is intrinsically linked to challenges associated with speed. Compared with that of X-ray, the 3D-CT scanning process takes more time. You might complete a low-level scan in one or two hours; high-level scans that take thousands of projections can take eight to twelve hours.

Switch an X-ray machine on, warm it up, and in a matter of minutes, you can be scanning a new part. With 3D-CT scanning, this process can take longer, including the machine setup time, the pre-engineering of the component, and its technical development to determine whether it aligns with your CAD. It will, however, provide incomparable accuracy via ADR.

Then there is the challenge of technical skill and know-how. Computed Tomography systems are complex scientific instruments, and users can often feel technically and scientifically challenged with their operation. Some machines require highly-trained specialists to operate them well. A dentist’s expertise lies in dentistry, while a manufacturer’s job might be to make tools, equipment, or automated inspection technology. Irrespective of your knowledge or what you are manufacturing, automated inspection via CT should be easy. It should empower multiple individuals in their collective roles.

The other complexity is in engineers of dental and medical equipment understanding enough about the manufacturing quality and design consistency enabled through 3D-CT. Recognizing these benefits is important in justifying investment in this type of technology. Any manufacturer that invests in high-end technology wants to see a return on their investment, and rightly so. 

For many, the level of automation that 3D-CT provides is what justifies an investment in this technology. Still, for most, adoption is not without procrastination and deliberation around several key primary questions. Does the initial outlay make business sense for my organization? Do we have multiple needs or just a one-off requirement? What considerations are there for the machine’s ongoing maintenance? 

Companies that consistently manufacture multiple parts and have enough volume to justify the investment are the most likely to choose to bring 3D-CT in-house. 

Those that do not have in-house automated inspection pay around $500 per hour for scanning time via a 3D-CT scanner, so if one scan takes 12 hours, that is a $6000 cost.

These machines’ reputable hirers will ensure that they are upfront and transparent with all involved expenses, which can help those hiring. But you can quickly see how the cost associated with hiring service can mount up.

Digital Radiography (DR) encompasses Computed Tomography (CT). It is the technology that compiles numerous digital images to produce 3D pictures for defect analysis. While CT scanning has been the foundation of medical imaging since the early 80s, its application is still relatively new across industrial Non-destructive Testing (NDT).

When scanning a dental impression, the scan is made up of 400 to 2000 images, depending on the level of detail you are trying to capture for any given part. Take an 800-image CT scan as an example. If we take 360 degrees and divide it by the 800 images, we get a little under half a degree (0.45). With each 0.45-degree rotation, we take a picture of the impression. The process is continued until we get 800 projections and have completed a 360-degree circulation of the scanned item.

It is worth remembering that ultrasound scanning falls under the umbrella of NDT. While 3D-CT is quickly becoming the go-to for fast, accurate scanning, ultrasound is often preferred over X-ray to check for defects when forging metal from aluminum or steel billets, or welding metal to metal. Ultrasound scanning can, in some instances, be a more cost-effective way of inspecting internal faults and cracks before investing time in forming the metal. Those who contemplate 3D-CT adoption in-house are looking for solutions to what they consider to be their day to day challenges, such as how they can best identify and isolate manufacturing process defects and ensure uniform consistency of manufacturing output.

Various analysis tools and software packages on the market enable comparing raw image outputs against images with original CAD data to measure how true the finished part is. Using your CAD, the software can create a heat map—a data visualization technique that presents the information back to you in color hues of varying intensity. The heat map tells you how precisely your image has been produced against its original design, often referred to as Nominal-actual Comparison or 3D Compare. On a color-scale—green being most true to design and red being inconsistent against design—software reporting would demonstrate various gradations in deviation from the original intention.

The process is time-efficient and drives consistency and uniformity while maximizing manufacturing outputs. 

Porosity and inclusion analysis play a critical role in manufacturing outputs. It is no exaggeration to state that casting and bubbles—better known as pores—go hand-in-hand. But pores compromise the structural integrity of a part. A CT scanner identifies the pores inside the part within a specific range. For example, a manufacturer or engineer might want to reject a part with pores larger than half a millimeter of the part’s surface. As 3D-CT typically takes 400 to 2000 projections of any part, reporting on porosity becomes effortless.

Beyond hassle-free reporting on pores, specialists in quality control desire better technology, faster equipment, and cheaper solutions. They seek next-generation machines that deliver accuracy and are reliable and dependable. In an ideal world, as an investor in 3D-CT, a company would want to pass along the cost of its investment to its customer with consideration not just to the initial outlay of the machine itself, but also to the time it takes for engineers and technicians to complete daily NDT.

It is important to remember that NDT, per se, does not add value to your part. If your part retails at $20, it retails at $20 whether it has gone through NDT or not. Non-destructive testing tells you whether your part is good or bad and whether it needs a redesign or modification. When the part aligns with your CAD, it is tested, meets all operational criteria, and is safe—that is where the magic happens. You then have product quality and safety as selling points to drive up unit sales, increase your profit margin and bolster your reputation. 

The key to passing the cost along to your customers is to ensure that users see automated inspection via 3D-CT as a value-added process. 

Yes, 3D-CT will find flaws in products; there will be deviations, variations, new reasons to monitor and measure, and trends that will need to be observed. But understanding pain for gain will enable customers to buy into both the product and the processes, and see how they add long-term value.

Forward-thinking companies such as Tesla are not shy in buying into new products and processes. They relish change and are not leaders in their field through standing still or putting up resistance. We see some industries adopt change more quickly than others because it is a function of what they do every day; it is second nature. Tesla is a front-runner in its field, not by accident but by design.

Find out more about the VedaCT 2020 model

The VedaCT, best-in-class CT imaging, revolutionizes automated inspection, empowering you to make the right choices for your design and its mechanisms, giving you back control, and delivering confidence.

It observes in machinery what science observes in its analysis of microparticles, capably high-resolution scanning both external and internal surfaces using Non-destructive Testing (NDT).

The VedaCT takes advantage of a granite base. Known for the effective absorption of vibrations, the granite foundation enables precision scanning that delivers a comprehensive analysis of the constituent of any material, supporting design innovators across a multitude of industries. The machine’s 400 mm diameter turntable offers 360-degree image processing, commendably examining every element of a scannable component.

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Download and learn about the benefits of automated CT for dental in our whitepaper

  • Insight into recent advancements in CT technology and its significance to manufacturers, engineers, dentists, and medical professionals
  • How X-ray CT scanning addresses the challenges faced by the dental and medical industry and overcomes the drawbacks of optical scanning 

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