Keep your eyes open and your feet moving forward. You’ll find what you need.
Why You Should Read This
In my previous blog, I covered the reasons why anyone thinking about incorporating CEREC into their practice should strongly consider buying used. This post will guide you through the used CEREC marketplace and, much like a lighthouse, help you avoid the hazards.
Before anything else, you want to establish a budget. I’ve often heard from consumers that they do not have a budget, which of course was not true. If you don’t have a budget, then that really means money is no object. If money is no object, then why would you buy used? Everybody has a budget- large or small. The customers “without” a budget typically haven’t put enough thought into the process and were not prepared to buy. I know the word budget often has a bad connotation in today’s spendthrift consumer age, but it is a positive step towards preparing yourself mentally to pull the trigger should an acceptable deal come along. If you establish your budget and later discover that it doesn’t quite get you what you want- rethink your budget or your expectations, but do not lowball! I’ve never met a seller who responded well to a low-ball offer and it will significantly reduce the probability of a successful negotiation. The presence of a solid budget will help your credibility with the seller and in turn they will be more willing to work with you on getting a deal done. If you’ve thoughtfully crafted an offer and the seller is still offended, perhaps they are simply struggling to accept the expensive reality of CEREC depreciation. I promise you, sooner or later they will come to that realization, but in the meantime keep looking.
Which CEREC is Right for You?
After you have determined how much you can afford to spend, you’ll need to identify the CEREC generation that fits within your budget and weigh it against your wants/needs. As a helpful guide, I have compiled a recent history of CEREC transactions on eBay to help produce a general price range of each unit individually or as a package:
- CEREC 3 with Redcam & Compact milling unit: $2,000-$7,500
- CEREC AC with Bluecam & Compact milling unit: $12,000-$20,000
- CEREC AC with Bluecam & MC XL milling unit: $25,000-$50,000
- CEREC AC with Omnicam & MC XL: $65,000-$120,000
- CEREC 3 with Redcam: $500-$2,500
- CEREC AC with Bluecam: $5,000-$15,000
- CEREC AC with Omnicam : $40,000-$50,000
- CEREC Compact milling unit: $1,500-$5,000
- CEREC MC XL: $15,000-$40,000
If you are new to CEREC, you may have little idea which generation suits your needs best. While I could replicate comparison charts and Internet research to cover that topic in depth, my intention is to write a blog post, not a novella. At the same time, I don’t want to leave you empty-handed so I will outline some basic considerations:
- A chairside Compact mill, also known as a Classic milling unit, was unveiled in 2000 along with the CEREC 3 Redcam. This mill is limited to single unit restorations (inlays, onlays, crown and veneers) and can mill a crown in about 17-24 minutes.
- In 2007, Sirona rolled out the MC XL, appropriately named as it was 37% larger and 54% heavier than the Compact. In addition to inlays, onlays, crowns and veneers, you can mill bridges, abutments and drilling guides. The milling process is also faster: the MC XL can mill a crown in approximately 11 minutes. I would suggest reading the MC XL and Compact milling unit bur charts for additional information on bur and block combinations organized by software version.
- Recently, Sirona split up their milling unit offering into 2 models: MC X and MC XL Premium. The MC X takes the place of the earlier versions of the MC XL. The MC XL Premium comes with a touch screen, four motors and fulfills the complete chairside and labside spectrum using all CAD/CAM materials.
My suggestion: if you can find and afford a used MC X or MC XL with less than 750 mills, it’s well worth the investment!
- The CEREC 3 Redcam acquisition unit was introduced in 2000 and utilizes infrared light to acquire images. It has 8 MB of image acquisition memory and can process an image in 0.133 seconds. This system uses individual images to create a 3D model.
- The CEREC AC Bluecam acquisition unit made its debut in 2009 and utilizes blue LED light to acquire images. At 16 MB, it has twice the image acquisition memory of the Redcam and can process an image almost twice as fast at a blistering .070 seconds. While this system also uses individual images to create a 3D model, the Bluecam performs the “click” automatically. Both the Redcam and Bluecam require the use of white contrast powder.
- The latest and greatest scanner is the Omnicam, which launched in 2012. The Omnicam allows for continuous capturing of 3D color scans. This “color streaming” results in a natural color 3D model without the need for contrast powder.
My suggestion: the Omnicam is certainly tempting, but way too new and thus is still in its peak depreciating years. If you remove the “cool factor” out of the decision and just think in terms of value per dollar invested, the clear choice is the Bluecam. Sirona also still thinks highly of Bluecam- stating they continue to sell ACs with Bluecam because it “continues to be an outstanding camera, delivering highly precise restorations in a reliable manner.” (sirona.com)
The 4 Pillars of Used CERECs
Now that you’ve decided how much you can afford and what type of system you need (or want), you will need to know some critical evaluation criteria to help you sort through the playing field.
Pillar 1: Model Year
The first thing you want to know about every unit is its year of manufacture. Some dentists will tell you the year they purchased the unit, but that’s not good enough. While auto manufacturers and their dealers will sell you 2016 model year cars in 2015, it appears Sirona and Patterson will sometimes do the opposite: sell you 2009 equipment in 2010 for example. I’ve come across this issue often and it’s important to ask the seller for a picture of the serial sticker on the back of each unit to be sure. This is especially important when evaluating mills. There are hundreds of moving parts on a CEREC mill and those parts deteriorate over time. Seals and hoses dry up, pumps go bad, gearboxes wear down, circuits blow, spindle motors breakdown…the list goes on. Just like with a vehicle, you will want to take both the age and “milleage” into consideration as they are the primary determinants of its resale value. Look for milling units with less than 750 mills.
Tip: check for signs of leaking fluid on an older compact mill by inspecting or asking for a picture of the front panel pulled down. If you see an oily brown substance along the edges or behind the face plate there’s a good chance the hoses and gaskets are leaking. Stay away as this is not a cheap fix!
Pillar 2: Hardware
The model year is also important when evaluating acquisition units because that will give you a good indication of its hardware performance, but there is always a chance it could have been upgraded. There is a two letter code on the back of CEREC 3 Redcams and CEREC AC Bluecams on the PC frame. The higher the letter combination, the newer and more capable the motherbard, CPU, graphics card and memory will be. This is the easiest method of find out if the acquisition unit has been upgraded or not. For your convenience, I have cross-referenced some Bluecam hardware specs with their PC Hardware Series:
LQ (2012): MSI X58 Pro motherboard, MSI N450GTS graphics card, Intel Core i7 CPU 950 @ 3.07 GHz, 6 GB RAM
LP (2011): MSI X58 Pro motherboard, MSI N250GTS Twin Frozr graphics card, Intel Core i7 CPU 920 @ 2.67 GHz, 6 GB RAM
LA (2010): MSI X58 Pro motherboard, MSI N250GTS graphics card, Intel Core i7 CPU 920 @ 2.67 GHz, 6 GB RAM
KA (2009): MSI P45 Neo3 motherboard, MSI N9800GT graphics card, Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400 CPU @ 2.66GHz, 4 GB RAM
HQ (2008): MSI P35 Neo3 motherboard, MSI NX8800GT graphics card, Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU @ 2.4 GHz, 4 GB RAM
The Omnicam uses a number-based system; here is what I found on its hardware:
v2.2.1: 2 graphics cards- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 Ti & NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570, Intel i7 CPU 3930K CPU @ 3.2 GHz, 16 GB RAM
v2.2.3: 2 graphics cards- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti & NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti, Intel i7 3930K CPU @ 3.2 GHz, 16 GB RAM
v2.2.5: 2 graphics cards- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti & NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760, Intel i7 3930K CPU @ 3.2 GHz, 16 GB RAM
v2.2.7: AMD R9 285 Graphics Card, Intel i7 4930K CPU @ 3.4 GHz, 16 GB RAM
v.3.2.1: AMD R9 285 Graphics Card, Intel i7 5820K CPU @ 3.3 GHz, 16 GB RAM
Pillar 3: Number of Mills
Without a doubt, the most critical piece of information when evaluating any CEREC system is its number of mills. The number of mills on a compact milling unit is expressed in “minutes”. To determine the general number of mills on a compact, we divide the number of minutes by 24- the maximum amount of time it takes to mill a single unit. Like I mentioned before, you should ideally try to stay under 750 mills. When looking at the Milling Info screen, be sure to pay attention to the serial number shown in the top bar to make sure it matches the serial number on the back of the unit. If the numbers do not match, this means the board inside the milling unit has been swapped out and the milling time does not accurately reflect that machine’s actual use. Also, be aware that part of the 30,000 minute service involves resetting the minute count. If you see a mill with a low minute count, but the unit shows some obvious signs of heavy use – i.e. the bur shanks are pushed up against the gearbox – then the timer has likely been reset.
The number of mills on an MC XL is more clear cut. After accessing the Machine Data Type screen, you will see a Unit Counter value. What you see is what you get, no math required. With both the compact and MC XL, you are sure to get several thousand mills out of the machine with regular maintenance.
Pillar 4: Software Version
This is perhaps the least important criteria when evaluating a CEREC system because it is the easiest to change, but there are several key things you should know. The CEREC 3 Redcam is compatible with XP or Vista operating systems only. Starting with CEREC 4.0 and later, this software requires a Windows 7 64-bit operating system. So that means 4.0 SW and above will not work with your Redcam. Most CEREC AC Bluecams and Omnicams come pre-loaded with Windows 7 64-bit Pro operating systems from the factory, but it doesn’t hurt to double check anyway. CEREC 3D 3.8 Biogeneric software will run on Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems either in 32 or 64-bit. This software does not require the use of a dongle and is obviously platform flexible. CEREC 4.0 and above on the other hand require a USB stick with an activated license key that can be moved from AC to AC as needed. It is important to note that when it comes to any of the 4.x software versions you cannot go backwards. For example, if you installed 4.3 and want to go back to 4.2 or 4.0, you will unfortunately have to perform a clean install of your operating system in order to do so. Fortunately, this problem does not apply to the 3.x software versions so you can still use 3.8 and any 4.x software on the same machine. Various software versions, license keys and vouchers are usually readily available on eBay.
Look in the mirror, you are now a master used CEREC shopper. Armed with these four pillars of CEREC knowledge, you are well on your way out of the bottom 93% of non-CEREC using dentists while also saving beaucoup cash! If you need help along the way, don’t be afraid to reach out to me through the contact page or call (844) DTL-HERO. Good luck!