Read This Before Buying a Used CEREC

Keep your eyes open and your feet moving forward. You’ll find what you need.

– Anonymous

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.

The “B-word”

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:

  1. CEREC 3 with Redcam & Compact milling unit: $2,000-$7,500
  2. CEREC AC with Bluecam & Compact milling unit: $12,000-$20,000
  3. CEREC AC with Bluecam & MC XL milling unit: $25,000-$50,000
  4. CEREC AC with Omnicam & MC XL: $65,000-$120,000
  5. CEREC 3 with Redcam: $500-$2,500
  6. CEREC AC with Bluecam: $5,000-$15,000
  7. CEREC AC with Omnicam : $40,000-$50,000
  8. CEREC Compact milling unit: $1,500-$5,000
  9. 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:

Milling Units

  • 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!

Acquisition Units

  • 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.

Happy Hunting

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!

23 thoughts on “Read This Before Buying a Used CEREC

  1. This is great information, thank you for sharing. Do you know if there are any annual maintenance fees associated with the purchase of a unit? If so what are the amounts?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Steven. I appreciate it. There are per unit fees associated with inLab mills and “Pay Per Unit” Acquisition Centers. Most chairside systems offer unlimited use without any fees, although they do cost more up-front. There is an optional CEREC club membership offered by Patterson for about $250 per month. Benefits of the CEREC club include free software updates/annual maintenance kits and discounted service calls.

  2. Hi, I have a CEREC AC with Omnicam & MC XL that has a GTX 570. Since the graphic card is old, can I upgrade it with another graphic card or newer graphic card.

    1. Thank you for the question. You could upgrade the graphics card to a newer model, but if you have anyone other than Patterson open your machine it will void the warranty. Nowadays, Patterson is offering a 7-year warranty with Service Club membership, so it is possible your machine is still under warranty and I recommend you preserve that. If you are experiencing a decrease in the performance of your system and you are part of the Service Club, it may make sense to upgrade the hardware through Patterson. One of the benefits of Service Club membership is a discount on hardware upgrades.

  3. This is very interesting. Have you worked cost evaluations? I know I’m probably asking a beginner question, but what would it cost the dentist to produce a single crown— I’m trying to see the cost per unit vs using an expensive lab.

    1. That’s an excellent question. We estimate the cost of materials for a single crown to run about $50 if you use an e.max block. From there, you’d have to figure out your division of labor and associated costs to account for approximately 1.5 hours to produce the crown. We are currently working with a practice to put together a comprehensive ROI for a future blog, but it will be a work in progress for several months. From what we’ve gathered so far, the ROI on a brand new CEREC does not makes sense for most practices. However, it is significantly better when using used equipment. The practice we are working with to produce this future ROI content estimates they will realize an annual net savings of approximately $12,000/year.

  4. this blog is just amazing….I´m traveling to us next november and seriously thinking about getting an used ac bluecam and bring it back to Brazil in a suitcase….was checking some on ebay and here…but you just have units seeling with the milling together….
    Do you think it´s too crazy to buy an used ac and bring it to Brazil?
    The price here is too expensive,and really hard to find used ones…
    What are the most dangerous things about getting it used…i mean…not considering the milling machine,because there´s a lab here I can send.
    Sorry my poor english and thank you

  5. Hi All!
    Recently I have purchased an iTero scanner from Invisalign as I do plenty of ortho work, but I came with the idea why not a milling unit as I have the scanner already! I have two main questions I’m a complete beginner forgive me for my ingnorance. Can I have a cerec 2nd hand milling unit and the next question is, do I need an oven too? Or there are blocks that I don’t have to bake?
    Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi there! Thank you for writing. Unfortunately, CEREC is a closed architecture system, meaning you cannot use CEREC mills or scanners with other brands. I would recommend open systems like the TS150 mill from iOS Technologies or Planmeca’s PlanMill 40 for use with your iTero scanner. To answer your second question- there are a lot of different blocks out there that don’t require firing in the oven. Here is a link to an article about CAD/CAM materials that you might find helpful: http://www.dentaltown.com/dentaltown/Article.aspx?i=316&aid=4300. Best of luck on your new journey with CAD/CAM dentistry!

  6. Very useful what you wrote!
    I’m interested in a method(soft)for prosthetics registration then I’ll send records to technician.I do so saving on time and materials.. and also it is comfortable for the patient. I am interested in CEREC components for working dentist. I thought to CEREC AC with Bluecam or CEREC AC with Omnicam.What do you think?
    Where can I find at second hand in Europe (becouse transport)
    I am waiting for your answer, thank you!

  7. Hi Cad/ca Hero!

    I believe I have the following:
    KA (2009): MSI P45 Neo3 motherboard, MSI N9800GT graphics card, Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400 CPU @ 2.66GHz, 4 GB RAM

    Is it possible to upgrade the motherboard, graphics card, or processor to something newer? I’d like to give this unit a speed boost. I don’t believe the unit has a warranty any longer, so this would be a upgrade at your own risk situation. I’d just like to see what’s possible in terms of updates.

    Thanks!

  8. Hey whats your latest assessment with Blue vs Omnicam? Is omnicam into a good depreciation window or is blue still the best value / supported? Since this was written almost two years ago. Curious if the 47k omni used package vs 18k blue packages (camera, mill, oven) if the 30k delta is worth the headache expense.

    1. Hi Chris. Thanks for the question. A lot can change in two short years, especially when we’re talking about CAD/CAM technology! To put it into perspective, there were almost no Omnis for sale on the used market in summer 2015 and if there were, they were priced at around $120,000 (packaged with MC XL and oven). Fast forward to today and you’ll have at least a dozen or more options at any given time. The increased competition and additional age of the machines means prices have dropped dramatically- as you’ve already noticed. The answer to your question is all relative to the individual posing it. For some- $30,000 is a minor investment while others won’t even consider it. In my opinion, if you can swing the $50K then Omni is the way to go.

  9. Hi, i will get a cerec bluecam with compact milling the software is 4.2, i want to know if i upgrade to 4.2 in lab software the machine will be make bridge??

  10. Hello and thank you for this useful article! The latest hardware listed in this article ist 3.2.1. Are there any newer information available as this article was publicated over two years ago?
    And do you have any information if it is possible to run Win10 successfully on an Omni-AC? Best regards, Johannes

  11. hi. could you expand on dongles and the need for one. for example if you had a bluecoat with up to date software and were sending files to a lab using cerec connect, would you need one? thanks

  12. Hi what happens when the mill reaches 30000 minutes? Does the motherboard need to be changed to reset the timer?

  13. Thank you very much. Are you able to reset the 30000 minutes counter remotely like team viewer? How much would it cost?

  14. Hi
    Thank you for all the insight to cerec.
    We have been using cerec for 1.5 yrs-4 mill w omnicam-training unit. There have been issues on and off . Not always resolved timely by Patterson. The latest involves the bur replacement alert coming on frequently- not resolved.
    In addition we had crowns fabricated w open margins – resolved by calibration of the mill and camera .

    Schein stopped by and mentioned that 2 motors should be replaced . That may resolve the bur issues – Patterson never mentioned it.

    What is the benefit of each service provider.
    Is it worth it to switch ?

    AS

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