By Julie Bos
Behind optical prescriptions and finished pairs of glasses is one common denominator—a team of human beings working to deliver timely, accurate vision solutions to the patients who need them. With all the complexities involved in the lens manufacturing process, however, many laboratories struggle with optimizing process efficiency and minimizing waste.

That’s why in today’s manufacturing environment, using the most modern, cutting-edge finishing equipment, is as vital as ever. With the ongoing evolution in technology, even equipment that’s only five years old may be an unwitting culprit in holding your lab back.

To learn more about how labs are gaining tremendous value—and moving ahead—through the latest, most advanced finishing equipment on the market, we went right to the sources. Here, three labs share their finishing success stories.

Select Optical

Select, which is based in Columbus, Ohio, installed the National Optronics QM-X3 edger earlier this year. The QM-X3 (the “QM” stands for “Quality Manufacturing”) is designed to “bridge the gap” between industrial 5-axis edgers and 3-axis tabletops and, according to the manufacturer, it is up to 30 percent faster than other tabletop edgers currently on the market. It features a fixed, dual-diamond blade design (designed to eliminate the need to frequently change blades) and remote diagnostics offering immediate technical support and current software updates.

Efficiency gains witnessed: “Compared to our previous system, the National Optronics QM-X3 edger is not only quicker, but also more accurate on sizes,” said Stephen C. Darrah, General Manager at Select. “As a result, we’ve seen improved throughput. Since [installing] this equipment, we’ve also benefited from added production capability, one run-on size and nice sharp bevels. By having the National Optronics QM-X3 edger online with our other edgers, we have seen increased production by a couple of hundred jobs per day.”

According to Darrah, system uptime has also improved.

With online troubleshooting, we’re able to see what what’s going with the edger and can fix certain issues online,” he added. “Now we can order parts without having to wait for a technician. The process is seamless and, in most cases, production is not stopped. All of this means that we’ve been able to cut back on downtime and we’ve seen greater productivity.  Having the option to do software updates online has also helped speed up the edger’s production time.

Other performance improvements: “We’ve seen many improvements, including less breakage and increased throughout,” Darrah explained. “We’ve only had the equipment a short while, so it’s too soon to put a number on it, but we’ve definitely seen savings. Finishing quality has also improved. The nice sharp bevels that the edger consistently cuts results in the lenses being less likely to come out of the frame, along with less breakage.”

Expert Optics

Shorewood, Illinois-based Expert Optics added the new Schneider HSE Modulo Automated Edger to its production line recently, and the lab’s Director of Operations, Bob Pommier, and Finish Manager, Tyler Pommier, told LABTALK that the new system has significantly expanded their finishing capabilities and increased efficiency. Schneider describes the HSE Modulo as the “first high-speed, double-spindle edger” designed for “fully independent edging of the left and the right lens,” either on-the-block or blockless. The edger features two separate multi-axis systems and it offers “high rigidity and precise tool clamping” for maximum throughput.

Efficiency gains witnessed: According to the Pommiers, the HSE Modulo’s automation has significantly increased the lab’s “capacity to edge more jobs with the same staff,” which allows experienced employees “to do other things in the lab that contribute to other efficiencies.” They describe the machine as a “workhorse” that can quickly handle difficult jobs “so we can better serve our clients.”

In addition, with its multiple edge type capability, the machine is an all-in-one edger for Expert, as it can handle edge types and high base curve jobs that previously were routed to several different edgers in the lab. The “milling-style roughing” of the HSE Modulo also greatly reduces slippage and increases throughput,” the Pommiers added. Finally, the machine’s block-less capability “has been a true game-changer” for Expert. Now, instead of having to “manually spot a lens, have it blocked for edging and then edged,” the lab can now send lenses through the HSE without spotting or blocking, taking two steps out of the process, which saves time and money. All of these benefits result in what the Pommiers call an “excellent ‘first-time-fit’ rate.

Other performance improvements: “Our cost savings comes from labor and consumables,” said Bob. “Fewer labor... Fewer labor hours are needed to prepare a job to be edged in the HSE. Without need for a lensometer and manual blocking, we’re able to save eight hours of labor per shift. Being able to produce more jobs per hour with the HSE means fewer labor hours needed to run other, more labor-intensive edgers. This adds up to another eight hours saved per shift. The cost savings continue because we no longer need edging blocks and pads.”

The Pommiers noted that the HSE has improved “all facets of our finishing quality,” by producing a clean finish in both unpolished and polished form and placing a uniform safety bevel on all lenses. They told LABTALK that slippage with the machine is almost non-existent, and that that it can accommodate multiple edge types, high powered jobs, and high base curve jobs “with relative ease, increasing the amount of work we can automate.”

Lenses Only

Lenses Only, which operates out of three retail storefronts and two ophthalmology dispensaries in Connecticut, installed Exxpert Lens Edgers from Coburn Technologies in each of its five locations, according to co-owners Tom Gonthier and Steven Abbate. That the system is available in multiple sizes and capacities is perfect for Lenses Only, which has different needs at each location. Exxpert edgers feature an “integrated, accelerated long-life milling technology,” which eliminates axis twisting, and a wide range of bevel options, according to Coburn.

Efficiency gains witnessed: Gonthier and Abbate told LABTALK that the best thing about their edgers is that “we only have to put the lens in there once.” Indeed, with their auto-lensometry feature, the machines perform “accurate and precise tracing and blocking, providing full versatility from just the one cut,” they said. If the job is prepped correctly, it is correctly finished at the push of a button.

“In my previous shop, I was using competitive finishing equipment that was about five years old,” Gonthier noted. “Compared to that system, our Coburn equipment is cutting lenses in at least one-third of the time. We can also do more intricate things, like rimless glasses and other intricate shapes, which could often require as much as one to two hours each. Yet with this machine, we can get it all done in about 20 minutes.” 

Other performance improvements: Since installing the Exxpert lens edgers, Lenses Only has seen significant labor savings; workload that previously took three to four employees can now be done with only one to 1.5 employees, the owners explained. All of the edgers are capable of processing 100 pairs per day. Because the labs are now doing this work in less time, with fewer people, with far fewer reworks—about half as much as with the systems they replaced—Lenses Only is saving about $3,000 per month, on average, in production costs.

“Years ago, in my older labs, we had a remake rate of about 10%, but with modern machinery, most labs are able to cut that down to about 6% to 7%,” Gonthier said. “In our shop with Exxpert lens edgers, we’re running way below that—about 2.9%—which is about half of the industry standard.

“Furthermore, we’re able to turn jobs faster,” he continued. “What might take another optical shop two to three weeks to deliver a pair of glasses, we’re getting that same pair done in about one to three days. We can also do same-day service on lens replacements, while the customer waits in our office. So if people need lenses only, and they don’t want to be without their glasses for two to three weeks, we can utilize our machinery and scan their frames and collect all the information to order the lenses. When the lenses arrive, the customer can bring their glasses back and we’ll cut and fit the lenses while they wait. This is a service not many labs offer, yet it’s a service customers love. That’s one reason we’re different and why we’re growing so fast—about 30% year over year. Having the latest machinery makes all the difference.” ■


LABTALK March 2019