exocad DentalCAD, the next generation
exocad, a company based in Darmstadt in Germany, follows the approach of continuous integration to increase product quality. For this reason, our design software, exocad DentalCAD, has been developed incrementally since its launch. This year, there is an update that is unique in its scope. It represents a major leap forward and as such it presents the next software generation in one fell swoop. Some of the many new and ongoing developments are presented briefly in this article.
How it all began
The Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research in Darmstadt is one of the world’s leading institutions for applied visual computing. This is where the initial DentalCAD software was developed. It was characterized by its particular ease of operation, rapidly achievable results and open interface for integrating various scanners and milling machines. The first version was completed in 2008. On 1 March 2010, the then newly established spin-off company, exocad, was announced as the exclusive licensee. Even then, the clientele ranged from A for Amann Girrbach of Koblach in Austria to Z for Zirkonzahn of Gais in Italy. Figure 1 provides an image of the software in 2010. A great deal has changed since then and the new version is being launched not only with additional features, but also with a completely redesigned user interface.
New user interface
The basic tried-and-trusted workflow when creating jobs and casting remains essentially unchanged despite the update, so that users of the current version can still find their way around instantly. However, we have implemented closer integration of the exoscan scanning software and the exocam CAM software (Fig. 2).
Besides the usual process chains, however, the update provides far more than a mere facelift in terms of the user interface; this has been completely redesigned. Until now, only subtle changes have been made to the design in order to keep the training costs for existing customers to a minimum. However, according to exocad CEO Tillmann Steinbrecher, the time had come to give the software a contemporary look, take account of the current technical findings in software development and match them to a changed user experience. With regard to the graphic conceptual design, this involved implementing a contemporary flat look. In this style of interface design of applications and websites, the use of realistic-looking textures, shadows and ornamentation, as well as 3-D elements, is deliberately avoided. The move away from gradients in favour of flatter space and a rather minimalist design is intended to guide the user’s eye in a more focused manner towards the essentials and support more intuitive menu navigation. The new software’s clear structure is also supported by a bolder use of colour in the design language, such as with group lists (Fig. 3). The demand in the past for realistic icons, based on physical objects as far as possible, is long since obsolete. As (almost) every regular dental technician now has much greater experience in this area owing to tablets, smartphones and the like, increased abstraction is possible. This design also takes into account that with desktops there has been an increasing use of touch screens, which could eventually become the standard. Some newcomers may feel that navigation in a 3-D space with a conventional mouse is certainly a challenge. Operation with three-finger multi-touch is usually easier.
The cloud-based tool dentalshare (Fig. 4) will in future make process co-ordination easier when working with manufacturing service providers. Their specific material configurations are stored in the cloud and are always kept up to date without further action required by the user. By specifying the recipient when placing a new order, the appropriate design parameters are automatically used.
One change, which users will notice indirectly, is the 3-D engine’s switch to a new development platform. This enabled us in the context of TruSmile technology, for example, to achieve an even more realistic representation of different tooth colours and materials (Fig. 5). In combination with 2-D photographs, this will make it even easier to plan treatment outcomes and an optimized marketing tool is available. It is true that it has been possible to load photographs in exocad DentalCAD for quite some time, but owing to the new webcam integration, it is now especially easy (Fig. 6). Shots can also be imported from several perspectives and each positioned spatially or certain areas can be cropped out and overlaid or blanked out at any time, for example to visualise the lip line.
If required, there is an option to export a 3-D PDF of the plan, including notes in the 3-D space, in order to obtain the dentist’s feedback, for example. In designing, the wizard can now be opened and closed at will without the history being lost. Access to frequently used features has been made easier, so that displaying penetration by the counter bite is achievable with just one click of the mouse.
Plus, new notifications, for example with contextsensitive prompts, ensure that the user is made aware whenever the software notices inefficient working methods. This may be the case, for example, whenever time-saving hot keys, that is, key combinations for specific commands, are not used.
The tools for free forming have been developed with the claim of being able to do everything that is possible in wax. Among other things, any geometrics can be added or subtracted and marked via the new paint and pull features for dynamic reshaping. For example, interlocks can now be designed more flexibly (Fig. 7). Furthermore, the ZRS Wiedmann Dental Library (Manfred Wiedmann Gesicht und Zähne) has been expanded with additional posterior teeth samples (Fig. 8) and our Model Creator now even supports the use of implant libraries (Fig. 9).
For those who like experimenting
In November 2014, exocad announced its purchase of STI’s SensAble Dental Lab System. According to exocad’s executive board, this is the most flexible and high-performance platform for model casting designs currently available. However, its operation is said to be rather complicated and only suitable for power users so far.
The software is now available as a technology preview for exocad users to download free of charge at exocad.com/technology-preview. An integrated and optimised version will appear during the year.
Editorial note: This article was published in CAD/CAM - international magazine of digital dentistry No. 02/2015.