The Hidden Cost of Low-Priced Tools


The tooling that you select to support your CadCam workflow should be considered carefully. Tools weigh heavily on the quality and efficiency of your production process. It’s surprising that many labs don’t consider their tooling options thoroughly. In this post, we’re going to cover some of the things that you should be thinking about when looking at a tooling solution.

Tools Directly Affect Profitability.

The cost of tooling accounts for a big part of your cost to produce a zirconia restoration. It’s definitely worth looking at. When it comes to picking tools for your lab you have a couple of options: One is to choose inexpensive tools and save money on the purchase of the tools. Alternatively, you can spend more upfront on the tools and save money on your overall process.

The best way to quantify this is to look at your tooling cost per unit produced. Take a few minutes and calculate your milling tool cost per unit. The way you do it may vary, but usually we tell labs to figure it on a monthly basis. Take your monthly spend on tooling and divide it by your monthly unit production.

Now that you know where you sit, take a look at the example below and compare:


As you can see, the performance of your milling tools has a direct effect on your labs bottom line. It’s surprising to see how much can be saved per unit by spending more upfront on your tooling. If you’re still using lower yield tools it might be time to reconsider.

Better Tools Reduce Indirect Costs.  

Not only do good tools help your per unit cost drastically, they also reduce other costs around the lab.

  • One of the biggest ones is the reduction of internal remakes. When you factor in material, labor, and opportunity cost, the actual expense of a remake is incredibly high. If you can avoid a remake you should. Using long-lasting tools help you avoid machine related remakes because they will run many more units before chipping and other adverse results start to appear.
  • Good tooling reduces labor cost. There are labor savings in the reduction of remakes, repairs on milling related defects, and also less time spent changing tools out.
  • Premium tools are easier to your equipment. High-quality coatings and optimum cutting geometry reduce the cutting force during milling. Lower cutting forces reduce the wear and tear on your milling machine which helps you get more from your investment.

The Takeaway:

It’s always important to look at the big picture. It can be a mistake is to focus on the micro when you should be focusing on the macro. If you consider how each buying decision affects your overall system you always come out ahead.


Cleaning Milling Tools


Should I clean my milling tools?

In order for a tool to work at its peak efficiency, it needs to be clean. This is because as the tool cuts it makes a small chunk of material each time it spins around. When that chunk of material gets cut, it needs to get out of the way. There’s a short channel behind the cutting edge that gives the material a path to flow away. If you have too much build-up of material behind the cutting edge, it will keep the tool from moving material out effectively. Material build-up can cause the tool to re-cut material, which increases the wear rate of the tool and decreases the surface quality of the finished unit. Clean tools do run better.

How often should I clean them?

We recommend cleaning tools every 70-80 units and whenever you switch from one material to another. Some materials (i.e. high resin content wax and different brands of zirconia) will tend to stick to the tool more when milling. It’s important to remove that build-up to ensure the tool can perform properly.


How should I clean them?

We recommend using soap and water between the fingers, followed by an alcohol dip, then dry. Check out the detailed procedure below:

IMPORTANT: Do not steam clean diamond coated burs. The fast change in temperature can cause a thermal shock. We know it’s tempting… don’t do it.

Here’s our recommended procedure for cleaning milling burs:

What you’ll need:



-Isopropyl alcohol

-Dirty tools

Step 1: Apply a small amount of soap/water on the tool with your forefinger and thumb. Gently work the soap mix into the tool to release material build-up.

Note: Be mindful of the cutting edge of the tool. If you handle it wrong it could cut your skin.

Step 2: Rinse the soap from the tool then look at it. If there’s still any visible build-up on the tool, repeat step 1.

Step 3: Dip the flute end of the tool in Isopropyl alcohol. This will remove any other residue left by the soap.

Note: It’s important to do this step! Left-over soap residue may encourage the material to stick to the tool when milling.

Step 4: Place the tool on a paper towel to dry.

Note: It’s important for the tool to be 100% dry before using again. Any left-over moisture can make material stick to the tool and may corrode other parts of the machine.

Note: If you choose to use compressed air to dry the tool (not recommended), be very careful not to send it flying.

Step 5: Get milling!



Keeping your tools clean is an easy way to extend the life of your tooling and get better results from your milling machine. Add it to your process today and you won’t be disappointed.




Tools Have Feelings too: Some Best Practices for Tool Care

In this post, we’ll go over a few best practices for tool care.

The dental lab can be a harsh environment. There’s always a lot going on, and it’s easy to lose track of things. When it comes to tools you need them to be trouble free and reliable. While the large part of that reliability comes from using quality tooling, the other part is in your hands. There are a few things you can do to ensure the longevity of your tooling.



Always store your tooling in its original packaging.

I’ve certainly been guilty of throwing a pile of them in a drawer to use later, but that’s a quick way to mess them up. If they bang into each other the cutting edges can be damaged. Damaged tools may still cut, but the life will be drastically reduced.



For a tool to perform at its peak ability, it should be clean.


We recommend cleaning tools every 70-80 units and whenever you switch from one material to another. Some materials (i.e. high resin content wax) will tend to stick to the tool when milling. It’s important to remove that build up to ensure the tool can perform properly.

Please check out our post on cleaning technique for more information.
HERE (link)


When you’re holding a tool, always hold it from the shank (opposite the cutting) side.

Carbide is a great material to make a tool from. It’s very hard and long wearing.  Especially when it’s combined with a good coating. However, that doesn’t mean that the material is bulletproof. In fact, it’s much the opposite. Carbide is a very rigid material that doesn’t like to flex. Some of our dental tools are thin and fragile. Tools can be broken or damaged just by dropping them or even holding them incorrectly. I know I’ve ruined a few myself. Next time you have a spent tool in your hand (1mm or smaller) try to snap it in your fingers. You’ll be amazed by how easy it is.


When you install a tool into your machine, be mindful of the tool’s cutting tip.

It’s easy to hit the tool’s tip on the tool holder when you are changing it out. Make sure you insert the tool straight down without hitting it on anything. Use the same mindset you would playing the game “Operation” — except don’t worry about the electrical shock.

Some machines require the user to install a metal collar prior to using the tool. Always install the collar from the shank first. That way you don’t run the risk of damaging the cutting edges.


When you make the investment in quality tooling for your milling machine, you are investing in your own reputation. Good tools take care of you if you take care of them.