REQUIRING LESS SPACE AND A SMALLER INVESTMENT THAN IN THE PAST, TODAY’S SURFACING EQUIPMENT ENABLES RETAIL OPTICALS TO FABRICATE THEIR OWN OPHTHALMIC LENSES.
The eyecare professional (ECP) benefits from a montage of technological advances within the optical industry. Nowhere is this more prevalent than an ECP having in-house capability to fabricate ophthalmic lenses. Gone are the days when this was the exclusive realm of large wholesale laboratories. With the advent of computer numeric control (CNC) software and machinery design, a surfacing lab occupies a small footprint in regard to lab floor space, resulting in better service, greater profit margins and quality control.
The Fast Grind System by Super Optical International is an in-house surfacing system backed by 20 years of proven technology. Many features of the system are attractive to the ECP. Its 5 sq. ft. footprint is not much larger than needed for a standard lens edger. Lenses come pre-blocked, eliminating the need for additional equipment and fabrication costs. In addition, pre-blocked lenses reduce the potential for remakes. Special fabrication software and upgrades enable inexperienced staff to be productive in lens fabrication in a very short time. The Fast Grind system can surface a variety of lens designs from single vision to common bifocals and trifocals up to digital high definition progressive lens styles. Finally, anti-reflective lenses may be surfaced as well. This is the only surfacing system approved by EyeMed and certified by the U.S. Military. It is used around the world.
Optek International’s Oasis Max Surfacing System takes advantage of advanced CNC technology for lens fabrication. Each major workstation is interfaced to the main computer, thereby reducing remake errors due to improper data input. The system is designed with the ECP in mind with respect to present lens production and can easily be expanded as practice needs grow. In addition, the Oasis Max system can be configured to process a wide range of lens materials including CR-39, polycarbonate, high index and Trivex.
The heart of the Oasis Max is the LensMate lab software, which integrates with most VCA-compliant finishing equipment to ensure a smooth, seamless fabrication process. In-house surfacing is a big step for most ECPs, therefore Optek International provides lab layout designs based on space availability and floor design of the ECP’s lab area. Factory training and support are included in the lab package. Optek International is celebrating 45 years of family ownership and U.S.-based manufacturing and support this year.
Schneider Optical Machines offers two major surfacing systems that are ideal for the modern optical retailer or doctor’s office. The DSC Prolab is an all-in-one unit, making it ideal for virtually any location. The unit’s all-in-one functionality features a generator, onboard laser engraving and a polisher with rinse tank. The complete unit occupies a space of 3 ft. in depth with a length of 6 ft. The DSC Prolab unit can produce eight to ten pairs of quality lenses per hour.
Schneider’s Nano line of machines adds further surfacing options for the ECP. Two versions are offered, the Nano X and Nano XP line. The ECP can make the choice between the two lines based upon production needs and a monetary investment.
The Nano X line is an entry-level machine for a startup lab that needs a cost sensitive way to get into digital surfacing.
The Nano XP is an upgraded line that ensures the ECP can cut all premium lenses. Both lines can be tailored to the needs of the ECP. Features common to both versions are modular design and flexibility in fabrication for all curves and lens materials.
Schneider machines feature additional fabrication capabilities such as the CCP Nano Polisher, which can polish lenses up to 18 diopters in curvature, a 50% increase over similar units. In addition, the SHC Nano Spin Coater uses the latest UV curing and hardcoating technology to cycle lenses in 60 seconds. Finally the RPT Nano unit gives rapid response times to AR coat lenses. The unit can coat up to four lenses at a time with cycle times of 12 minutes per side. The RPT creates quality AR-coated lenses that are consistent without the additional burden of a clean room. Remote Diagnosis Capability is an important feature of Schneider machines that saves time and minimizes unnecessary production loss.
MINI AND MICRO LABS
Coburn Technologies offers some new opportunities for the ECP exploring an in-house laboratory option. Advantages include lower startup costs and the possibility of using parts of an ECP’s existing lab equipment. The Coburn mini lab includes the Eclipse LX surface blocker, which can block traditional lenses as well as free-form. The new Cobalt NX generator can cut curves on traditional and free-form lenses. In addition, the Cobalt NX generator utilizes “Cold Mist” and dry cut technology as well as onboard engraving that provides a superior lens surface without a costly water management/filtration system or engraver.
The LaunchPad lens polisher uses a proprietary material configuration that allows free-form lenses to be processed on a traditional cylinder machine. Coburn Technologies has an extensive line of surfacing options for the ECP to choose from. Coburn Technologies can put together a complete lab to suit the business needs of the ECP. In addition, the company will work to utilize any existing lab equipment the ECP has to keep startup costs down.
Satisloh’s OBM Micro-Lab requires minimal space for entry into digital lens production. Start with front side AR-coated, OBM pre-blocked blanks or block them on-site with the ART-Blocker-M. Its modular concept allows for future lab expansion as volume grows, and all machines can operate independently. The Micro-Lab produces 20 lenses per hour with a total process time of less than 30 minutes per job.
Choosing an in-house surfacing capability is a big decision. Take all equipment manufacturers in as your partner in success. Use their expertise in your planning of short- and long-term goals. In addition, they can provide projections on increased profit potential over a period of time. Consider going to an optical expo to see the equipment up close and personal. Finally, take a critical look at your existing staff to see if changes need to be made.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The ECP enjoys vast technological benefits that can be utilized in the dispensary/practice. In-house surfacing provides a solid platform to cut lens costs, boost profits, control quality and provide superior service over competitors. Some factors to consider when making the decision are:
• existing staff/additional; training upgrades
• space availability and location(s)
• present lens use/growth potential
• investment capital/plans for startup
• initial surveys of offerings
• equipment capabilities and future upgrades
• factory assistance: lab layout; set up and technical training; follow-up assistance
• technical/troubleshooting support (long-term)
Richard W. McCoy, LDO, ABOC,NCLEC, is program director, opticianry at Reynolds Community College in Richmond, VA.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Coburn Technologies, Inc. 800.262.8761 • CoburnTechnologies.com • CustomerCareCenter@CoburnTechnologies.com // Optek International 727.522.2301 • OptekInternational.com • Sales@OptekInternational.com // Satisloh North America, Inc. 800.866.5640 • Satisloh.com • Info.USA@Satisloh.com // Schneider Optical Machines 972.247.4000 • Schneider-om.com • Info-USA@Schneider-om.com // SuperOptical International/FastGrind 800.543.7376 SuperOptical.com Jennifer@SuperOptical.com