A combination of high-tech equipment and low-tech hand tools allows some opticians to create extraordinary lens designs.
EDGERS FOR CUSTOMIZED LENSES
Coburn Technologies has two edgers that can create unique lenses: the HPE-8000X and the HPE-810. The HPE-8000X includes 11 lens edge finishes and enables step bevel cutting for both high-wrap frames and specialty-shaped cuttings. The high performance wheel enhances speed and polish quality, and six edging positions provide more choices when matching lens and frame eyewire geometry. The HPE-810 features an optional “Design Your Imagination” with Cut & Scan and Easy Click Editing for Chemistrie clips. The HPE-810’s high power drill and easy hole editing management “create a great combined effect for rimless glasses,” according to Coburn.
Mr. Blue 2.0 with M’Eye Sign by Essilor Instruments provides quality finishing of high base curves, fast and accurate drilling and automatic centering and blocking. Its Fit-4-Frame 2.0 technology provides a wide range of bevels for every groove profile. M’Eye Sign’s engraving process can be completely integrated into edging.
MEI’s EzFit No Block Developer is based on the company’s TBA (Throw the Block Away) technology, giving high-volume retail stores and small labs the ability to edge lenses without blocks. Its NoBlock module automatically provides error-free lens centering forsingle vision, bifocals and progressives and is equipped with a dual-loading arm for automatic machine loading and unloading. EzFit No Block Developer also features an integrated “Shape Finder” tool to create jobs directly in the machine.
Optek International’s Shape lens finishing center can produce various edge types such as rimless, groove, square bevel and step bevel, plus blind hole, countersunk and jewel hole/slot types. Its freeEDGE software technology produces design features such as free-form edges and engravings plus a digitize trace system for importing artwork.
Santinelli International’s ME-1200 edger includes step-beveling technology plus high-curve beveling, exclusive partial beveling, faceting, 3D grooving and drilling and more. “A full-color interactive screen allows the operator to masterfully design scalloped or blended/feathered facets to achieve the desired look,” said Franco Aluigi, product manager at Santinelli.
Engravings, tintings, bevels and facets: key features that can take run-of-the-mill lenses into ones that “wow.” For many customers, eyewear is meant to be noticed, and for some opticians being able to offer customized lens options—in
some cases even designing and producing them themselves—is what they’re known for.
“We have done the Superman shape, a stop sign, triangles—there’s not a lot we can’t do at a patient’s request,” said Wendy Salle, an optician at Salle Opticians in Atlanta, who said she began customizing lenses years ago because “they were more fashionable than what the companies were putting in them. When someone comes in and looks at rimless, one of the first things we tell them is depending on the hardware, we can custom design size and shape of the lenses.”
At Salle Opticians, the custom lens design process
begins with a sketch, then a demonstratio
n lens to show the patient for approval. Santinelli International’s ME-1200 edger is her go-to machine, which she says is quiet and fairly fast too compared to other edgers.
“Overall for edging and drilling it’s a fabulous machine,” she said. For engravings and etching, she uses a C02 laser engraver, and for custom tinting, Salle uses the 6V and 9V Phantom Heating Systems from Phantom Research Laboratories, which allows her to offer customers 15 lens tints.
“We do all our own custom tints in-house,” Salle added. “The only thing we send out is mirror coatings.”
Shon Skiles, owner and lab manager of Stahl Optical in Spokane, WA, wants his customers to be more excited about their glasses. “Once I felt like I was really good at making quality specs, I started adding rhinestone
s and edge colors, and it expanded from there,” he said.
While a lot of his work is done with various hand tools such as a Dremel grinder and hand drill, Skiles uses tinting machines from Brain Power, Inc. and relies on Essilor Instruments’ Mr. Blue 2.0 edging system equipped with Essibox, a network control system that creates various shapes and drilling patterns, and M’Eye Sign for lens engravings.
“It has different features and capabilities all in one system, and the Essibox allows me to use all of my creative cunning to produce a one-of-a-kind, artistic pair of specs,” he said. “It allows the patient to put their personality on display.”
Skiles said his custom work has grown through word-of-mouth, and he also keeps samples in the store to show customers and have them try on. He’s done a heart-shaped lens on a pair of Silhouette International frames and can even do lens cut-outs on full-framed eyewear.
“After working with various tools over the years, I’ve been able to perfect the right tools for the right job.”
WHEN MACHINES ARE NOT ENOUGH
However some opticians – such as Tom Kirkland of Tom Kirkland Opticians in Richmond, VA, relies on an independent lab for custom work.
“When you have a Cartier frame, you need to know what you’re doing—it’s not your basic frame,” said Kirkland, who sends custom jobs to Luxe Laboratory in Garden Grove, CA. “Luxe is the only place I know that can do high-quality, specialty work, and my customers want something that’s cool and luxury at the same time.”
Luxe can do custom work on any lens material and is an authorized lab for such eyewear companies as Kirk & Kirk, Cartier and Tag Heuer.
“Quality and luxury are coming back,” said Richard Wilhelm, owner of Luxe, which he founded in 2013. While Wilhelm did say he has all the standard lab equipment, he is quick to stress that when it comes to creating truly personalized eyewear, jobs done the old-fashioned way are the best way to go.
“The equipment part is the secret sauce,” he said. “Everything custom is done by hand, and we do what equipment can’t. Equipment takes the talent out, and custom eyewear still needs a hand to finish the job.”