Automating in a Small Space

By Julie Bos
Fans of the old “Star Trek” television series will remember that “space” was the “final frontier.”

For many lens processing facilities, space poses a different challenge: How to integrate accurate and efficient automated technology in a confined space.

Thankfully, equipment manufacturers have addressed this issue in recent years, with new systems designed to provide maximum power, with minimal footprints. Here are some of latest entries into this category of laboratory equipment:

Bringing AR In-House

AR coating is not a process typically associated with “smaller spaces,” but new technology has broken down many of the barriers to entry for the in-house coating marketplace.

Consider the latest version of Coburn’s Duality lens processing platform—the DualityAR. The machine is designed to perform fully automated de-taping and two-sided lens cleaning in one machine, and can remove progressive ink marks and residue from UV-cured surface blocking materials.

Together with the company’s Velocity automated coater, the new machine offers a complete automated solution for lens de-taping, cleaning and coating. DualityAR’s footprint is 12 square feet.

“The DualityAR expands the family of Duality, introduced a year ago,” noted Wayne Labrecque, Vice President Sales, Americas of Coburn Technologies. “It has been well adopted by some of the world’s largest and best-known Rx production facilities.”

Up to Scratch

Staying in the coating realm, Ultra Optics offers its 44R, a fully automated backside coating system that features conveyor tray handling and robotic lens loading and unloading. The machine’s advanced controls eliminate the need for pre-spin coating job sorting; operators can simply scan the barcode on the job ticket and automatically direct the 44R to coat the lenses or allow the tray to pass through without coating.

The machine also features a heated wash that is monitored for purity and separate drying for more complete drying, which in turn helps reduce breakage as well as improve long-term coating stability. And, Ultra Optics supplies its own branded scratch coating to all users.

The 44R is offered with Ultra Optics’ Ultra Care Program, which includes a simple one-price-per-lens model that allows labs track monthly expenditures for each job going through backside spin coating. Spare and repair parts are also included and a company technician will train lab staff on operation and maintenance, and conduct regularly scheduled maintenance visits. The entire package costs less than $5,000, and the 44R is just 73 inches wide and 64 inches deep.

Tackling Blocking

Because precision blocking is the cornerstone of lens production, automating this process improves both quality and throughput.

Satisloh’s second-generation, green blocking technology, ART (Alloy Replacement Technology) enables automated blocking that is both environmentally-friendly and space saving. Instead of alloy, ART-Blocker-A uses UV-curable adhesive and universal organic block pieces, which both protect the lens surface. This protection eliminates the need for taping and de-taping equipment, saving substantial space compared to automated alloy blocking systems because only two machines (ART Blocker and ART De-blocker) are needed rather than four (taper, alloy blocker, alloy de-blocker, and de-taper).

The ART adhesive takes only seconds and low temperatures to cure, eliminating cooling time (alloy-blocked lenses must generally cool 35 to 60 minutes before further processing). Cutting out the cooling step means no job tray buffering systems or slow-moving conveyors are needed.

The ART De-blocker-2 needs even less space than its predecessor: the new machine packs a significantly increased capacity into an 18 percent smaller footprint (including peripherals). The water-jet-based de-blocking system has a filtration and recirculation system that uses up to 80 percent less water.

On the Edge

Santinelli has enhanced its AES-2200 small-footprint, high-throughput robotic finishing system, with the addition of two Nidek specially manufactured SE-9090-Supra edgers, to enable it to process Rx and plano glass.

The system’s setup allows the processing of standard and high-wrap glass jobs. The AES-2200 system can produce an average of 33 to 38 plastic Rx jobs per hour and, with the easily mobile RHU-2200 dual armed robotic handling unit and two glass-configured SE-9090-Supra edgers, it’s now able to process, on average, 18 glass jobs per hour.

Also at the finishing bench level, Santinelli has introduced the new LEXCE Trend and Trend-8 series edgers. These new edgers are designed to be fast, robust and cost-effective by incorporating in-chamber five-axis-based three-dimensional drilling, with mini-bevel for thin metal eyewire frames, thick lens and high-prism capability, a wheel for edging glass, step/shelf beveling and high wrap/base curve edging.

All-in-One Surfacing

Schneider has introduced a new, fully automated all-in-one surfacing center: the Modulo Center 80.

With a footprint of only 72 square feet, the Modulo Center 80 for the first time combines individual stations for simultaneous milling and lathe turning, two double spindle polishing units, and a high-performance laser in one single machine. Featuring highly advanced process technology as well as robust and reliable components proven in hundreds of installations across the globe, Modulo Center 80 is a sound investment, especially when space and budget is limited. The jobs are processed in a fully automated environment with multiple handling systems feeding the stations without any need for operator intervention along the process chain. Potential for errors is greatly reduced.

Simply put: Blank in, surfaced lens out. With fast automation, lens design and lab management software already on board, customers get everything in one smart package from Schneider. There is no need for costly connection to third-party systems. And, a dedicated Control Center informs the lab manager at a glance about machine status, production parameters and efficiency. Once installed, the machine is ready to go, producing consistently reliable results. A very high utilization rate and a guaranteed throughput make the Modulo Center 80 the ideal choice for mid-sized to larger production labs or the perfect express line application, according to Schneider.

Surfacing in a Flash

The FLASH-A NG is the newest, fully automated member of the OptoTech Digital Surfacing-Turning Machine series. The new, “next-generation” generator is equipped with many brand new features, including:

* A Beckhoff AX-Servo controller, which drives the mass-reduced, high-dynamic “Fast-Tool” in combination with a faster lens spindle

* The C-Axis (6000rpm), which enables quick and easy exchange of the C-axis with no calibration necessary, saving a lot of time on service and avoiding problems for technicians

* Higher accuracy of the improved workpiece collet, which allows for more accurate adjustment of the applied clamping forces and better fitting of the blocking chuck due to the re-design of the axis bridge

* A hanging milling spindle, with a milling cutter with 15 PCD teeth for high removal rates and smooth surfaces and HSK32E automatic clamping of the tool

* An optimized Fast-Tool with reduced mass and consistent friction due to automatic lubrication of linear bearings, for higher acceleration and dynamics

* An integrated spindle for cribbing for lenses that are smaller than 50 mm

* Faster loading and unloading of the lenses with an optimized auto-loader featuring turn and lift function

* Vibration damping based on integrated core sand in the machine frame for highest precision

According to Opto-Tech, these features allow the FLASH-A NG to achieve “premium surface qualities, which also lead to time savings in the polishing process.”

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Labtalk-December 2019