Coburn’s CobaltLTE is a free-form capable model that delivers wet-cut quality results without a water management system.
Schneider’s DSC Prolab uses an environmentally sound, plastic-based blocking material that adheres securely to the lens.
The FastGrind system from Super Systems tells the operator which lens to process.
Optical Dynamics’ Q-2100R lens production system delivers free-form results without a generator.

These compact surfacing units can help ECPs turn out quality lenses quickly.

Surfacing is moving into the retail space with a variety of new technologies and techniques such as free-form and casting. An eyecare professional (ECP) can now make premium lenses in his store, offering greater quality control and a quick turnaround.

Coburn Technologies, Inc. has completed development of a new compact generator platform specifically designed for the free-form retail lab space. The CobaltLTE is a free-form capable model that delivers wet cut quality results without the need for a water management system, and it only requires about 20 sq. ft. of lab space, including its external vacuum.

“It utilizes the same qualified mist cut generating technology used in its big brother, the CobaltDS,” says Jason Smith, director of marketing communications. “It uses a special lubricant that is shot straight at the point of the diamond cutter where it intersects with the lens. After it leaves the cutting chamber, it evaporates. You can essentially have the same dry cutting environment, which requires less equipment and maintenance, and still get a more accurate cut.”

Unlike Coburn’s dry-cut CTL generators, the CobaltLTE mist-cut generator will work with both qualified soft-tool polishers and with Coburn’s LaunchPad™ polishing technology, which allows ECPs to polish free-form lenses on a conventional cylinder machine.

“The CobaltLTE also features direct drive motor technology and precision air bearings that increase cutting accuracy and lens through-put,” Smith concludes. “It’s the first time we’re offering it in such a small package.” Coburn will also offer a conventional Rx generator model-the CobaltLT-as an entry-level machine which is upgradeable to free-form capability.

The DSC Prolab from Schneider Optical Machines Inc. is an all-in-one generator, polisher, and laser engraver with a through-put capacity of seven to 10 pairs per hour. It has a modest footprint-only 3 ft. deep by 6 ft. long-to fit almost any retail space. It is significantly quieter than a normal generating and polishing system.

While free-form lenses typically require a potentially toxic alloy material for blocking, the DSC Prolab uses an eco-friendly, plastic-based blocking material called Connex. “The great part is that you’re not introducing a harmful alloy into the environment. You are also not requiring any special handling or disposal of the blocking material,” says Kevin Cross, director of sales, North America. “The plastic-based material is disposable as ordinary trash, but it still provides a stable and rigid bond between the lens and the block, allowing the machining of the lens nicely and easily.”

The DSC Prolab features a touch screen that guides the operator at every step, resulting in a free-form lens in about an hour. “We can take someone with no lab experience and have them running the Prolab making digital lenses within three or four days,” Cross says. “I typically tell retailers that if they’re spending more than $6,000 a month on a lab bill, then they should consider buying the Prolab and doing some of that work in-house,” Cross explains. “They can usually finance a Prolab for five years for anywhere between $5,000 and $6,000 per month, depending on their individual financial situation.”

With a groundbreaking design, Satisloh North America Inc.’s VFT-micro generator has a barrel-shaped chamber made out of a single piece of cast aluminum that is smaller and lighter than any of its previous digital units. The entire chamber and machine bed are symmetrical, and all the cutting action-including the cribbing tool and the turning motor-is fastened onto the same homogenous structure, providing stability and vibration dampening.

“As the barrel-shaped chamber warms up and cools down, all the axis motors are bolted directly to it, so they all move in exactly the same way, if there is any movement at all. So the machine is extremely thermally stable,” states Ian Gregg, director of sales. “There’s no calibration drift during the day.”

Another major benefit of the VFT-micro is Satisloh’s new concept for tooling. “The diamond tooling is fixed in a way that it’s calibrated at the factory. It has a special interface on the machines, so there’s no final calibration needed,” Gregg explains.

When the diamonds wear out, the operator can take the entire assembly out by unscrewing one bolt, replace it with a new assembly, run an auto-calibration procedure, and they’re good to go.

With two proprietary lensmaking systems, QSpex Technologies, Inc. offers the NanoLab and MiniLab. These fabrication systems can create multiple pairs of premium lenses in just 30 minutes so the high-volume practice or optical retailer can make up to 24 pairs in an hour with the NanoLab, and 120 pairs an hour with the MiniLab. Both systems use the company’s exclusive 1.55 index liquid monomer and disposable lens molds to produce single vision and progressive designs with integrated options such as anti-reflective treatment, photochromic, or polarized. The NanoLab and MiniLab systems are easy to operate and require minimal space.

With a lens production system called the Q-2100R, Optical Dynamics promises retailers many of the same benefits of a free-form generator, but without the generator. “We use a precision glass mold library that was manufactured on free-form generators,” states Mike Yager, vice president of sales. “By casting directly from those molds to the finished prescription, we deliver the same type of precision that digital generation gives.” Since the finished lens comes directly out of the mold with no additional polishing needed, it eliminates having to keep an inventory of semi-finished progressive lens blanks.

The Q-2100R measures roughly 34 in. x 25 in. with a 12-in. deep mold library sitting underneath. Instead of a keypad, information is entered with a single rotating knob. The operator scrolls through the menu options until all the data are entered. ECPs can easily produce three to four pairs per hour with the Q-2100R.

Optical Dynamics also offers the nanoCLEAR AR system, an automated anti-reflective treatment (AR) coater that works hand-in-hand with the Q-2100R. The cost for both systems along with a customizable mold library is $60,000 to $70,000.

Super Systems Optical Technol- ogies does not manufacture a free-form generator but rather a system that turns out the same kind of product. Its FastGrind system takes up 2 ft. x 2 ft. “The beauty of the FastGrind is that anybody can operate it and make a digital lens,” says John Corsini, president. “We call it “˜Surfacing for Dummies’. This is one machine that does it all.”

After the operator inserts the prescription into the unit, the machine tells them which lens to get and which back curve to put on the lens to shape it to fill the prescription-both identified by number. “Basically the operator just has to pick up two items by number and put them on the machine,” Corsini asserts. “The machine times itself automatically and does the work. I could have anyone make a lens in 20 minutes.” FastGrind’s modest cost is between $25,000 and $27,000.

ECPs can take a step toward producing their own lenses with these efficient systems.

Robert Lerose is a freelance writer based in New York.


Coburn Technologies, Inc.
800-262-8761 •

Optical Dynamics

800-797-2743 •

QSpex Technologies, Inc.
888-259-9845 •

Satisloh North America, Inc.
800-866-5640 •

Schneider Optical Machines
972-247-4000 •

Super Systems Optical
800-543-7376 •


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