by Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FICD
For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: Mark Quadling, Henley Quadling, D4D Technologies, lasers, Dr. Jeff Dalin.
Many dentists are involved in CAD/CAM dentistry either through prescribing zirconia-based restorations or with digital impressions. Currently, there are several manufacturers of intraoral scanning devices, but only two offer the complete solution for chairside dentistry — the CEREC system (Sirona) and the E4D Dentist System (D4D Technologies). This month we are talking with Mark and Henley Quadling of D4D Technologies, who have developed the newest system on the market.
Dr. Dalin: In dentistry, we have become familiar with dentists who start companies to produce products for which there is a need. But the two of you — identical twins from South Africa with no background in dentistry per se — have developed technology and introduced it successfully into the dental profession. Tell us about your journey from inception to delivery, and how you became interested in dentistry.
Quadlings: We like to tell a story about seeing the 1982 movie “Tron” in which Kevin Flynn (played by Jeff Bridges) is digitized by what appears to be a laser and ends up “inside” a computer. Of course, we did not get the idea for this system from “Tron,” but it was a groundbreaking movie because of its extensive use of computer graphics. Also, the movie played a huge part in getting us interested in computer graphics, as well as being our “introduction” to digitizing a real-world object to create a digital version.
Our introduction to dentistry came much later while we were both graduate students (in physics and computer science) at the University of Minnesota. We worked part time in the Minnesota Dental Research Center for Biomaterials and Biomechanics, and became involved with the scanning of dental models that were used in various wear studies.
After we left the University of Minnesota, we moved to other areas, such as engineering applications in automotive and weather graphics. But we remained interested in the dental applications of CAD/CAM because of the challenges presented by the high accuracy and detail requirements and difficult scanning environment of intraoral scanning.
In 2002, while we were in Dallas presenting our real- time 3D weather graphics software to a flight simulator software company, we met Basil Haymann. Basil became interested in another project we were working on at the time, a small laser digitizer for dental labs. He was so interested that, within an hour of meeting us, he proposed that we move to Dallas and form the company.
Dr. Dalin: What did you note as limiting factors in existing or pending technologies that made you see an opportunity with laser-based scanning for dentistry?
Quadlings: There were a number of key requirements that we placed on our system, based on what we heard from dentists. First, the system had to be hand-held and small so that it could be used easily for intraoral scanning while producing accurate data. Second, it had to be a powder-free system.
Dr. Dalin: Why did you pursue laser technology?
Quadlings: A scanning method based on lasers was the only method that we believed was feasible for satisfying the requirements of producing an ergonomic scanner that does not require powdering. Laser technology lends itself to miniaturization, and is the highest quality light source in terms of brightness and spot size.
Dr. Dalin: You have described your design system as intuitive and logical. What processes did you use for software development?
Quadlings: As with all of our engineering development, we listen carefully to users (namely dentists) and consult with experts in the field about how to deliver what users want..
We have done our jobs if the user of our system is unaware of the details behind the scene and can concentrate on what is clinically important. We are fortunate to have a talented engineering team. On the clinical side, a key feature is our automated design process, which was developed in close cooperation with Dr. Gary Severance and Lee Culp, CDT.
Dr. Dalin: Initially, I recall you milled metal on your machine. Now we see that you are offering thin veneers down to a thickness of 150 microns. Is there anything your system can't do?
Quadlings: Well, it can't automatically polish the restoration ... yet. But we do have a patented tool changer and will continue to add new functions to our system. While we will continue to work together with material partners Ivoclar Vivadent and 3M ESPE to optimize the milling performance of their current materials, we are also excited to work with them on new futuristic materials for the dental profession.
We'll continue to add functions to the mill as new materials become available. For example, we plan to offer a Whisper Thin Veneer option for use with Ivoclar Vivadent's IPS e.max CAD material. This will allow veneers to be fabricated as thin as 150 microns!
Dr. Dalin: As a high-tech company dedicated to the comprehensive dental solution, you are always pursuing development. What can dental professionals anticipate from D4D Technologies in the future?
Quadlings: Our ultimate goal is to offer comprehensive dentistry — from diagnostic to full restorative services. We are poised to change the implant world and scan directly on surgical sites. Many exciting developments are coming that will continue to raise the bar of performance while offering efficiency and productivity to customers and their patients. While many talk about owning the digital highway, we have a more global approach. We are on the way to becoming a comprehensive solution provider rather than just a data exchanger.
Dr. Dalin: Thanks for this valuable information. I am sure it will help DE's readers to ask questions and make good decisions.
Quadlings: We are hugely indebted to Basil Haymann. He had the foresight and courage to team up with a couple of guys in tattered jeans who turned up at his house one Saturday afternoon, and had the experience and drive to achieve what we have in such a short time. It is sometimes easy to say, but it's true — this is a dream come true.
Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FICD, practices general dentistry in St. Louis. He is the editor of St. Louis Dentistry magazine, and spokesman and critical-issue-response-team chairman for the Greater St. Louis Dental Society. Contact Dr. Dalin at [email protected].