National Optronics’ Axiom Generator cuts curves so accurately that there is virtually no elliptical error.
Optical Works’ SL-2RC Surface Generator is a high-performance three-axis freestanding unit, capable of processing all organic materials.

Mid-sized and larger offices question offering in-house surfacing, with the main concern being profitability.

The benefits to your patients of in-house surfacing are obvious—offering one-hour service lets you play with “the big boys” if you process most of your lenses in-house. The question is whether you can make it profitable and if you have the space in your office to do the job.

Equipment manufacturers are well aware of the potential challenges eyecare professionals (ECPs) face. What might surprise you is that new lines of surfacing equipment are being developed to help in-house processing become as much of a focus as lens edging.

Let’s assume the only type of surfacing you’ll do is with plastic (CR-39®, polycarbonate, Trivex® material, high-index, etc.). While trying to calculate your return on investment (ROI), you need to be knowledgeable about your best-selling lenses.

It’s also important to account for lenses you’ll send out for proprietary anti-reflective (AR) treatment, because they’re only done at “super labs.” In these cases, the super lab will do the surfacing and you will miss out on getting the profits that come from processing these lenses. The way around this is to find an AR lab that does work on lenses you surface and can give you advice on properly preparing the lenses you send them.

Another consideration is whether or not you can get semi-finished lens blanks for your favorite progressive lens styles. Some lens manufacturers require you to be a distributor in order to get their lenses. It would be wise to check out other progressive brands you know will be available to you.

If you take a six-to-12 month look back at the lenses that you have surfaced outside your office (or keep track for the next year), you will have a pretty good indicator of whether or not you can make a surfacing lab pay.

The basic average savings* per pair of lenses while doing your surfacing in-house are as follows:

  • Single vision, out-of-stock range, clear: $10.00
  • Single vision, photochromic and polarized: $15.00
  • Flat-top bifocals and trifocals, clear: $10.00
  • Flat-top bifocals and trifocals, photochromic and polarized: $15.00
  • Progressives, clear: $35.00
  • Progressives, photochromic and polarized: $55.00
The small size of Coburn’s SGXPLUS generator allows it to work well for in-office use, with tool-cutting abilities and a wide curve range.

The small size of Coburn’s SGXPLUS generator allows it to work well for in-office use, with tool-cutting abilities and a wide curve range.

A modified surface lab (designed specifically for in-house processing) will run in the neighborhood of $25,000 to $35,000. A five-year lease with a low residual buyout will be about $500 to $600 per month depending on interest rates and the principal cost of equipment being leased. In addition, you will need about $50 to $100 per month in consumables and you will have to factor in labor costs.

Labor costs, if you already have a designated lab tech, will be minimal once staff become acquainted with the surfacing process. That’s because most of these machines are automatic and can be set, started, and running while other lab duties are being performed. Multitasking is a key factor here but plan on an additional 20% increase in lab labor.

Let’s say your office is able to do five pairs per day of a combination of single vision, flat top, and progressives that net you $100 more than what you currently are paying for uncuts. Multiply this by 22 days per month for a total of $2,200 per month. Subtract your $600 lease payment and your $100 for consumables and additional labor of $600 and you still have a net profit of $900 per month. At this rate, your ROI pays out in about four years. ($900 x 48 months = $36,000).

DUST, NOISE, ODORS When considering your options, ask your landlord to find out if there are restrictions on noise, dust, or chemicals that would prohibit your ability to do in-house processing. When you design your floor layout, consider installing an external dust collection system, which is little more than a huge shop vacuum mounted to the outside of your building. This will greatly reduce the dust coming from all of your lab machines.


National Optronics
The Axiom Generator from National Optronics is a dry cutting system that has tremendous range for its 21.5 in. H x 35.5 in. W x 26 in. D size. Lens curve ranges from +6.00D to -30.00D and lap tool ranges from -6.00D to +30.00D are possible using the high-range cutting tool. Because of National Optronics’ engineering, this machine cuts curves so accurately that there is virtually no elliptical error, which results in more efficient fining and polishing. The Axiom is compatible with all OMA-compliant lab software and has a user-friendly control panel. Add a layout blocker, vacuum, and a pair of cylinder machines and you’ll be set to do your own surfacing.

Optek International
Each component in an Optek lab system is designed for space efficiency and operational simplicity. A complete system can be installed in as little as 100 sq. ft. The Unity MAX blocker and Contour MAX generator have touch-panel controls and preview jobs on screen before processing. Sound-insulated steel construction minimizes operational noise. Optek systems process a complete Rx range and require minimal maintenance and no special skills to operate. Lab layout design, installation, and training are included with complete systems.

MAINTENANCE Equipment suppliers will train your lab techs on a very regimented maintenance routine. This is key if you want your equipment to outlast your lease. Make sure that you give your techs sufficient time to do this critical work because machines that are not maintained often lead to major problems. After your lease is up—and if your lab tech has been maintaining your equipment well—your profits could almost double.

Optical Works (OWC)
Some companies, like Optical Works Corporation (OWC), offer everything from layout software and blockers to generators and cylinder machines. For example, OWC’s SL-2RC Surface Generator is a high-performance three-axis freestanding unit, capable of processing all organic materials. This generator can process lenses and laps with equal ease and accuracy. Dry cutting means there is no coolant to change which greatly enhances the ease of use and maintenance.

Coburn Technologies
More than 50 years under its belt in ophthalmic lens fabrication and surfacing equipment has led Coburn Technologies to develop a variety of surfacing laboratory solutions for retailers and laboratories globally. Most notable in the common Coburn lab is the market- leading SGXPLUS generator, with more than 4,500 units shipped to date, according to the company. When combined with the alloy-free Eclipse wax blocker, its small size (about the size of a good edger) and layout interfacing capability make it work well for in-office use. Its tool-cutting abilities and wide curve range make this dry cutting system a solid choice for any in-office lab. Coburn’s Premier Lab contains virtually everything needed for complete in-office lens processing of traditional Rx work and it is one of the strongest turnkey systems on the market.

My best advice on whether or not you should do in-house surfacing is this: Don’t run from it, and don’t run to it. Make solid research a part of your decision and you will not regret it.

Michael Frandsen is the owner of Quality Performance Ophthalmic, Inc., a custom service optical laboratory in South Jordan, UT.


Coburn Technologies, Inc.
800-905-2240 ext. 1016

National Optronics
800-905-2240 ext. 1041

Optek International
800-905-2240 ext. 1047 •

Optical Works Corporation (OWC)
800-905-2240 ext. 1049 •


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