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31 Mar 2015 | eLABORATE

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An interview with Takuro Hosome - Manager of Medical Business Sales for Roland DG

New Products

Takuro Hosome, Manager of Medical Business Sales for Roland DG, speaks with us about the company's direction in CAD/CAM and its latest entry, the DWX-4W wet mill.


Mr Hosome, what opportunities do you see for Roland DG CAD/CAM milling machines in the dental industry?

At dental labs, the focus has centered on digitalisation of prosthetic workflows as CAD/CAM systems and milling machines have come into widespread use. However, small to mid-size dental labs face large initial investments and a lack of experience in operating CAD/CAM systems. This leaves many potential users who are hesitant or unable to take that first important step into digitalisation. Our company began as a computer peripherals maker, developing and releasing the world's first desktop-sized 3D milling machine in 1986. Over the next quarter century, we continued to deliver fabrication tools utilising digital technology that came to be used across a wide variety of fields, such as product design, rapid prototyping, education, jewellery making and creating arts and crafts. Over the years, we focused on creating enhanced value through the tenets of desktop-size, easy-of-use and affordability. We believe we can provide the same value to solve the issues that many dental lab technicians now face. By providing affordable milling machines that any technician can use, we can benefit the production of higher quality prosthetics, industry efficiency and education of the next generation of technicians.

What possibilities do you see for the DWX-4W in dental labs?

The dental milling machine production process is changing with the evolution of prosthetic materials and the evolving needs of patients and clinics. One of the most popular restorative materials is lithium disilicate, a glass ceramic that is extremely popular with dental clinics and patients for its superior hardness and aesthetic qualities. Roland developed the DWX-4W milling machine especially to meet the demands of this growing market. We see the DWX-4W greatly improving the productivity of the industry.

Why did you choose to release a wet-only milling machine instead of a machine that allows wet and dry?

In the current market, we are familiar with products that combine the functionality of dry milling and wet milling into a single machine. While these machines can process a variety of dental CAD/CAM materials, the combination of two separate functions in one machine means both functions are comprised to some degree. The price is also inevitably higher, which raises the barrier to entry for many.

They also suffer regarding productivity, since they require a changeover when switching between wet and dry machining, which entails disposal of milling residue, cleaning the inside of the machine and drying out the processing area. Furthermore, they are unable to flexibly support variation in production amounts that may come along with future materials, meaning it is quite possible you will never get the most out of your investment.

Instead, Roland DG's multiple device solution combines dry milling and wet milling machines with the advantage of being able to handle the simultaneous processing of different materials using both dry and wet milling without the inconvenience and delay of a changeover. Each machine specializes in its intended function, which delivers optimal functionality and when compared with a dual-use machine, is more efficient.

Furthermore, having separate machines opens up the ability to add an additional unit to meet increased production demands. For example, if the ratio of work involving zirconia and glass-ceramic is 3:1, an optimal setup could be a combination of a single unit of the flagship DWX-50 5-axis dry milling machine and a DWX-4W, or three 4-axis DWX-4 dry milling machines and a DWX-4W. After that, it is a simple matter to change the setup according to any shift in the workload.

What concept and what type of users did you envision during the development process?

Our company made its initial foray into the dental industry with the DWX-30 dry milling machine in 2009, just as zirconia was coming into widespread use. While zirconia is still widely used for prosthetics today, much of the industry has focused on glass ceramic for its high strength and aesthetic quality. In order to establish a brand in the dental industry, we knew it was imperative to create a lineup of products that could support a wide variety of materials. Through 2012, we continued to research the wet processing market. When competitors revealed their dual-use dry and wet processing machine at IDS 2013, we aimed to differentiate ourselves by analyzing how customers use these machines in the industry and release what we believed to be a superior device. Our market research revealed that productivity and functionality are somewhat limited in dual-use machines. We also realised the importance of eliminating the issues existing among competitors' wet milling machines, such as leakage and rust. In development, we carefully considered the best system for pleasing our customers and how to realise optimal functionality for a product that is safe, stable and hassle-free.

Where did you put the most care and attention in the development of the DWX-4W?

Development focused on three key aspects we have used for all 3D products: desktop-size, easy of use and affordability. We want our customers to realise their optimal workflow without the headaches. Desktop size is a must and we designed the product to be an inseparable part of the dental lab. The design of the DWX-4 has received praise from the market and we continue to improve on the clean and sharp form in a way that matches perfectly with the image of the dental industry. Ease of use refers to our one button interface. After setting up the material, you simply turn on the power. Then everything can be controlled via the Virtual Machine Panel (VPanel) on your PC, which sends processing data to the machine. Automatic calibration for axis positioning is one of our prized features, which enables anyone to easily achieve superb milling accuracy on every task by utilising a calibration jig and the VPanel. There is no compromise on quality whatsoever. Compared with a top brand machines across seven evaluation items, including chipping, margins and fitting, the accuracy of our machines shines through in overall points. Our machine combines a high-spec Jäger DentaDrive spindle and a reinforced frame to generate maximum power for accurate processing.

How did you manage to prevent water leakage?

Along with making the machine itself watertight, we adopted a waterproof silicon rubber membrane to prevent water leakage and rusting. In the event water does somehow leak, there are sensors in place that will cut the flow of water. A stainless coating ensures that rust will not occur.

Where do the DWX-4 and DWX-50 fit in the market?

The DWX-50 uses 5-axis control to produce precision milling of a wide variety of materials with an open architecture system at an affordable cost. We are positioning it as our standard model for the creation of prosthetics to support a large number of dental technicians. The DWX-4, which matches the high-precision processing of the DWX-50, is a product designed with a more compact size at a more affordable price for small-scale dental labs where space and investment are particularly important issues. While the DWX-4 is limited to standard block and pin-type materials processing, it supports zirconia as well as composite resin materials, using specialised milling burrs. To date, the DWX series has shipped around 3,000 units.

Tell us about the Roland DG service and support system.

Roland DG sells products in over 200 countries and regions worldwide through our network of sales subsidiaries and dealers. Most products are for professional use and one of our main strengths is the service and support structure we have in place to ensure our users' work is never disrupted. Roland DG has built a comprehensive customer support system consisting of Roland DG Creative Centers, Roland DG Academy and Roland DG Care to contribute to the development of its customers' businesses. Creative Centers showcase application samples to invite customers to experience the full potential of our products. In Australia, these are located in Sydney and Melbourne and here, customers can easily share ideas and consult with us about ways to grow their businesses as well as solutions that can transform their ideas into reality. Academy offers seminars and workshops to our customers worldwide, designed to help them utilize our equipment and software to the maximum potential and acquire the skills they need for their businesses. Care provides a broad range of customer services and support including maintenance and troubleshooting to ensure that there are no obstacles preventing work from getting done. Roland DG hosts the Global SE Awards with the goal of raising the quality and uniformity of maintenance services provided by Roland DG service engineers to the highest levels worldwide.

Tell us about the production system used for the DWX series?

Digital YATAI is a proprietary cell-based (one person, one cell) production system developed and used at Roland DG. Workers confirm each assembly task on an electronic display, receive the necessary parts from an automatic rotating rack and assemble an entire machine using the indicated electronic screwdriver. Measures are in place to ensure the correct parts and screwdriver are used each step of the way and product quality checks are run at the completion of each task to guarantee quality of work. Digital technology is utilized to complement human memory and focus in order to achieve the utmost in repeatable quality and productivity. There is an entire production floor dedicated to the assembly of medical-use machines, including the DWX series. For manufacturing and marketing the DWX series, Roland DG has obtained a license for Medical Devices Marketing and is an authorized Medical Device Manufacturer pursuant to Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Act, which regulates the manufacturing, import and sale of drugs and medical devices in Japan.

How has the 3D printer Roland DG released last year been put to use in the dental industry?

Roland DG released the company's first layered projection system 3D printer in September of last year. Using its 3D printing technology, we are researching and developing applications for dental prosthetics. We focussed our market research on restorative materials at IDS 2015.

Can you share with us a plan to further expand your dental business?

First, we want to look into the degrees of satisfaction of our existing DWX series users, followed by solving any issues that customers have experienced. As the market continues shifting to CAD/CAM technology, our customer base will continue to expand, so we want to push for the development and improvement of our products and our organisation to ensure we can deliver the products and services that meet their needs. Sales of the DWX series are driven by strong performance in Japan, China, Australia and the US and we anticipate a bright future in Europe, South America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

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