Oqton, Ghent, Belgium, a wholly owned subsidiary of 3D Systems, has reported that dental laboratories are realising a more than 50% boost in production efficiencies after having adopted its AI-driven Manufacturing Operating System. The company reported that several hundred dental labs are now using the Oqton platform to manage their operations, with its AI capability optimising all critical Additive Manufacturing elements into a single workflow in the production environment.
One such example is Bertram Dental Lab, reportedly the largest USA-based Removal Partial Denture (RPD) manufacturer. Since the adoption of the Oqton platform, the company has reported a 50%+ boost in efficiency. “Oqton consistently maintains the highest level of quality that has enabled us to increase efficiency and scalability exponentially,” stated Andy Timblin, Bertram Dental Lab’s CAD/CAM production supervisor.
“The adoption of advanced automation through the use of deep learning is tipping the scale on more and more business cases for using additive manufacturing in production,” added Dr Ben Schrauwen, SVP of software and general manager for Oqton. “It is a technology that improves the end part quality and overall cost, enabling an increased adoption rate. The Oqton Manufacturing Operating System is able to holistically drive, track and integrate all of the production steps, including post-processing, machining, and quality. It is also completely vendor agnostic and open, exactly what is needed in the heterogeneous production environment of today.”
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During the COVID pandemic, organisations became increasingly interested in Additive Manufacturing as a means to address supply chain gaps and risks. 3D Systems noted from its own experience the emerging need for a technology, and supplier-agnostic software platform, which could grow and evolve alongside the maturing industry. This lead the way to 3D Systems’ acquisition of Oqton and its choice to establish it as an operationally independent business unit, an approach which allowed the subsidiary to focus on the Additive Manufacturing industry at large rather than marrying to a certain technology. This technique’s effectiveness is demonstrated in the dental market, where 85% of Oqton implementation involves equipment manufacturers other than 3D Systems.
The AI embedded in the Oqton software is noted as essential to its ability to manage the entire factory workflow, optimising production efficiencies and providing critical component traceability where needed in regulated industries and high-performance system applications. This same approach is now being taken in several other market verticals, including within the healthcare, energy, aerospace, automotive and contract manufacturing markets. Based upon early customer feedback, 3D Systems believes success in these markets will mirror that of the dental market in the years ahead.
Dr Jeffrey Graves, president and CEO of 3D Systems stated, “Our company has always been at the forefront of innovation in Additive Manufacturing, and our acquisition of Oqton is a reflection of our dedication to aggressively embrace AI technology to help unlock the full benefits of Additive Manufacturing in production environments. By providing AI-driven automation solutions to customers like Bertram Dental Lab, we are helping them realise unprecedented levels of efficiency and competitiveness in their industries. In this case, we leverage deep learning for automatic identification, segmentation, and orientation of dental parts, as well as using powerful AI techniques to generate very dense part nesting on the print bed. This leads to greatly increased productivity and reduced labour requirements while maintaining high part quality. We are now taking the same approach in adjacent market verticals as the Oqton platform rollout continues.”
“With meaningful adoption statistics we are now able to estimate a ‘lifetime value to customer-acquisition cost’ (LTV/CAC) ratio of roughly five, which we believe is illustrative of the economics we will see as Oqton is adopted at an increased scale in other market verticals,” Graves concluded. “What this translates to is a software platform that will benefit not only our company but all customers and suppliers to the Additive Manufacturing production environment as we had originally envisioned.”