Inside Dental Technology

May 2015, Volume 6, Issue 5

Published by AEGIS Communications




Calvin Shim
Managing Director
Creodent Prosthetics
New York, N.Y.



Thinking of Becoming a Milling Center?

With so many milling machines and scanners hitting the market, laboratory owners may be tempted to get into the game. We at CreoDent would like to share our experience that machine salesmen or distributors likely will not tell you. Milling machines cannot do everything that hands can do. Most CNC dental milling machines on the market cannot mill the cervical area in detail for a full-arch zirconia bridge. Because of this, technicians still have to shape it by hand after milling. This type of labor matters more than people might realize, especially in a high-production environment.

One of the biggest issues is that some equipment distributors do not know the additional costs that laboratory owners must consider. They are not laboratory owners or dental technicians. Even if they had this knowledge, they may not be inclined to provide the information.

Milling machines have been around for many years but only recently have been made for the dental industry. Typically, these machines are massive, with heavy-duty components. Manufacturers did not build them like this for no reason. Because milling machine distributors needed to bring down the cost of these machines to sell more, they began using cheaper components.
These components are minimally specified to last past the warranty period. They had to do this because it is not easy to make a profit manufacturing and distributing milling machines. In order for a machine and distributor business to be profitable, it would have to sell this equipment with at least a 50% margin. Of course, competition prevents this, so the parts are the first places companies often look to save money.

Dental laboratory owners are used to long-lasting, minimal-maintenance machines such as porcelain furnaces. Milling machines are nothing like this. They require constant maintenance such as cleaning, bur replacement, calibration, troubleshooting, and material replacement. They generally will not last effectively past 4 years. The level of functionality for our 4-year-old $100,000 milling machines is the same as a $35,000 new unit. During this time, we expended enormous resources maintaining this machine. This is the difficult reality of these complicated machines.
There are all sorts of other issues that can arise. If you decide to start a milling service for other laboratories, you need a backup machine because the main one inevitability will go down. Other issues include labor for machine operation, nesting, breakage, shrinkage issues, limitation of optical scanners’ capability to accurately scan large cases, lack of experience, learning curve, and the need and cost of high-performance air compressors with an excellent air dehumidifier.

From the revenue aspect, because products such as zirconia copings went from $55 to $30 in just a few years, making a profit as a milling center will prove to be more difficult. Titanium abutments require FDA clearance, which makes any non-cleared abutment illegal and any milling center not registered with the FDA noncompliant. We have learned that the FDA soon will be more vigilant regarding illegal manufacturing of titanium custom abutments. There are many milling centers and illegal blank manufacturers that are starting to market these products. The liability and consequences of these actions will be substantial for both the distributor and purchaser. Aside from this issue, it will become harder to make a profit providing milling services due to this illegal competition.

In conclusion, it is not that purchasing a milling machine cannot be profitable. However, there are many factors that need to be considered when calculating the production cost of restorations. Most distributors will provide spreadsheets, but often they do not include every expense. We are providing this information because we have sustained significant unexpected losses that drastically affected our profitability calculations. These things can be learned only through experience, and our intention is to provide important information in preparation for such a large purchase.

For More Information

Creodent Milling Center
P 888-803-4242
New York, NY