A Monthly Update for Optical Laboratory Owners and Managers June 2007

Made possible by an unrestricted grant from Santinelli

New Products
Tech Talk

Penetrating the Surface

Although lens surfacing has become more technologically sophisticated, it is far from a plug-and-play process. Even if your lab uses the latest surfacing equipment, you still need a thorough understanding of the many steps involved in surfacing a lens in order to insure an accurate result. Here are some helpful guidelines:

  • When applying surface tape make sure no air bubbles are trapped between the lens and the tape. This can cause waves and aberrations. To remove air bubbles, use a clean, dry cloth. Never use your bare hand, oils from your skin can cause the blocking medium not to adhere to the tape.
  • When applying fining or polish pads to lap tools make sure they are as close to the center as possible. This will allow for the lens to always stay in touch with the pads for better surface consistency.
  • Coolant is recommended when wet cut generating to help reduce frictional heat causing poor surface quality or aberrations.
  • When using alloy as a blocking medium you should maintain your melting temp within three degrees of the actual melt temp. This should also be observed in the reclaim system to prevent increased temps at the blocker. Satisloh recommends that alloy is placed back into the blocker in its solid form to control temp.
  • When dealing with super slippery hydrophobic coatings, first wipe the lens with a high quality IPA prior to blocking. This will remove any residue or debris from packaging.

Tech tips courtesy of Steve Schneider, Satisloh

The Working Lab

Want to improve operations in the lab? Trying to determine the benefits of new equipment or software? Want to know what technology would benefit your bottom line? For all practical purposes, any improvements should increase the efficiency or productivity of the laboratory operations with measurable results.

Perhaps the best way to look at technology, these days, is by first determining where improvements could be made. Where are jobs bottlenecked; where are people frustrated; which jobs are held up most often; is there a particular customer that is always complaining? Having long acknowledged that improvement equates to efficiency in the lab process, “technology,” new products or processes, and new equipment should all be evaluated based on what the implementation of this new ‘thing’ will cost and what results you expect to receive in what amount of time plus the actual purchase price.

Let’s take one example of technology that isn’t very new from a product standpoint but still not widely accepted as a process and/or cost improvement—remote order entry which has been promoted and successfully implemented. Remote order entry can affect significant cost improvements for a laboratory, or can cost the laboratory. So what makes the difference?

Successful users say you should know what problem you are solving or process you are improving prior to investing any money. Taking the time to recognize the opportunities for improvement, understanding the process flow, and planning the implementation through to the finite details makes a difference. So does taking the time to ask the employees and customers what they think about the problem/opportunity and how it could be improved. It’s also important to communicate with the lab personnel involved as well as with customers, so everyone knows what the expectations are, i.e. how this “thing” will be used to improve the process and reduce the problem. —Linda Little

Linda Little

Linda Little is an optical industry veteran and writer who specializes in laboratory and technical topics. She can be reached at (214) 215-5453, or at [email protected]

Next month look for: How remote order entry can change the way business is done.


Who Really Controls Your Lab?

The average wholesale optical laboratory owner spends years building a business based on service, commitment and branding of products. Integrated into this philosophy is the differentiation of the lab’s product line and “partnership-like” relationships with suppliers and other third parties. The assumption has been that these relationships, which are mutually beneficial, build for the lab an increasingly valuable business or going concern.

What has happened, as the competition among these and other suppliers has heated up, is an increasing tendency for restrictions on transfers and even more restrictive covenants extending well beyond the nature of the product or service being licensed.

So the question must be asked: If you do not have the right to sell your business without displacing the foundation of the product, service or customer base in which you have historically promoted, do you really control the underlying business? More to the point, have you signed a supply agreement that gives a first right of refusal to the supplier? Or equally disturbing, is your business based on the right of a third-party to either allow or disallow a transfer, assignment or replacement contract?

The chances are if you have agreements with certain suppliers of lenses, premium coating technologies, lab operating systems or third-party insurance, the answer to the question is, absolutely. Then, if not convoluted enough, many of these restrictive agreements are controlled by competing factions. Therefore, a potential sale to one supplier may be mandated either by an affirmative provision such as a “first right of refusal” or controlled through a change of control consent under the sole discretion of their direct competitor.

The measurement then becomes one of damage control. Can the wholesale optical lab overcome the loss of a service or product in the foreseeable event of the termination of a key agreement, particularly with a supplier that is in direct competition with a prospective purchaser? This concept is certainly not new to several consolidators who, as part of acquisitions, have had to face the loss of competitive product and risk the loss of supply or service agreements.

What can lab owners do? First, read the fine print in supply agreements and know what your company has agreed to contractually.  Further, know that most of these agreements have language ranging from a “change of control” termination clause to a “first right of refusal”, wherein the lab must give preferential sale treatment to the supplier. Know what you have today, so you can plan for tomorrow.

Thomas F. Puckett is managing director & CEO of the San Diego based investment banking firm HPC Puckett & Company, which specializes in mergers and acquisitions of wholesale optical laboratories. Puckett can be reached via email at [email protected]. For more information about the company, go to their Web site at


Tinting 1.67 index

Recently, we have encountered challenges tinting 1.67 index material. The chemical composition of the lens material combined with the hard coat, makes tinting this material without breaking down the front surface hard coat a very delicate and extremely time consuming process.

When tinting 1.67, we recommend turning your tint unit down to 190° F. Don't let the lenses stay in the tint longer than five minutes at a time. Let them completely cool, and repeat the process over until you have achieved the desired color. Sometimes it may take a few hours to tint to a true #3 tint of any color.—Sarah Marks, Ultra Lens, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Second Opinion
In response to your request, please note that we follow a similar procedure to the solution provided by Ultra Lens.  Initially, we cooled the tint unit to roughly 185 degrees F and let the lens sit until the desired tint was achieved.  However, after several spoilages, we started to tint the lens in 5-minute intervals to prevent the hard coat from breaking down. By the way, we regard any procedure used by Ultra Lens to be lab gospel.—Kevin Dougher, Rooney Optical, Cleveland, Ohio


Lorinda Fraboni, IS Systems Manager/Lab Systems for Walman Optical, Minneapolis, Minn.

“I feel like the conductor of an orchestra, and I love it!” Lorinda Fraboni replied when asked about her position. As a 33-year veteran at Walman Optical, Fraboni has been fortunate to be on the forefront of technological and processing changes in laboratory operations. “I feel like I am always selling, listening, researching and identifying opportunities for improvement,” she remarked.

Upon graduating from technical school, Fraboni’s first job in the lab was to harden glass lenses. After working in all the front office positions, inspection and customer service, she was offered the opportunity to learn programming. Her job involved developing an in-house software program that took the prescription and produced the calculations to grind the lenses and, most importantly, priced the job. Walman had determined that controlling the pricing justified their investment in software development.

That was just the beginning for Fraboni. Heading the drive to consistently improve Walman’s lab program, she espouses the philosophy that one doesn’t just buy a lab program and install it. “We partnered with DVI to work on how to use the program efficiently at each step of the lab operations process,” she noted.

Today, Fraboni believes that unless technology is used to make an operation more efficient, it isn’t worth considering. She also found that it wasn’t as easy to ‘sell’ these potential efficiencies. “I don’t know the lab process as much as I used to, so when I visit a lab it is easy for me to see where improvements in the process could be made,” explained Fraboni. “In the past, I’d find out about a new idea from DVI users and say ‘we’re going to do this’. Then, I had a really hard road to sell the benefits without having someone feel I was saying that they weren’t doing their job.”

Now, Fraboni sees the key to her success is working directly with Chris Bowers, Walman’s operations manager. “We work as partners, and this has been the key to Walman’s rapid success in the past 18 months. We have reduced steps, smoothed out the process and implemented these changes in multiple labs. Overall turnaround time has decreased and throughput has increased.

“I know how the software works so I can see the opportunities to make the process smoother,” she added. “Every lab operation needs a person who understands how to process lenses and knows the lab operation so well, they can see how the software benefits and work to make the changes successful. It really takes both [Fraboni and Bowers] of us to make this work.”

Fraboni believes that anytime you think you know it all and can make the decision by yourself, you will fail. As a founding board member and third president of the Optical Women’s Association, Fraboni was successful in bringing people together for a common good outside of Walman as well.
Where does she see her ‘orchestra’ leading to in the future?

“Opportunities will always exist for improvement and we’ll continue to fine tune and streamline so the front office can do what they do best—take care of the customer."
—Linda Little


Mid South Premier Promotes the 2 Clear Reader System

Over 400 million presbyopes purchased reading glasses last year from a drug store, according to Mid South Premier Ophthalmics, an independently-owned network of labs with branches in Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans and the Atlanta area. Predicting that many of those presbyopes could be their customers’ patients, they pursued the 2 Clear Reader System to offer their customers an opportunity to keep their patients’ business.

Designed by Dr. Stuart Tasman, OD to meet his own patients’ needs for different custom readers that wouldn’t break the bank, the 2 Clear Reader System includes three frame styles in up to six colors. These upscale monel metal frames have stainless steel hinges and are made to compete with drugstore reading frames. The system also includes a complete set of pre-cut and pre-edged lenses with powers that range from +.75D to +3.00D in 0.25D steps. Opticians can customize the readers by selecting the correct power for each eye. Patients can have a customized pair of readers for the same prices they would pay in drugstores.

Mid South Premier took on this special promotion to offer their customers an opportunity to increase their revenue stream with a product that fills a niche for patients. They are quick to explain this promotion does not eliminate or reduce those patients who want high-end frames with prescription reading lenses. “The 2 Clear Reader System adds to the doctor’s practice,” explained Jay Biggs, sales manager of Peachtree Optical Products, which developed the 2 Clear Reader System with Dr. Tasman.

“Dr. Tasman continues to add to the lens range to offer doctors’ the range of products they need,” Biggs said, adding that the program will be expanded to offer a true Plano lens up to a +4.00D.

The 2 Clear Reader System is marketed through distributors such as Mid South Premier. “This unique 2 Clear Reader System provides a cost effective and inexpensive back up pair of fashionable readers for presbyopic patients,” added Monty Arnold, one of the owners of Mid South and manager of the Memphis branch. “We are offering our customers a complete line of products that will increase their revenue stream without sacrificing other product sales.”


Lead coating technician, Derwin Childs, inspects a lens at Visionetic’s Orlando, Fla. facility.

New Coating Lab Opens in Florida—Thin-film engineer Tam Le and has teamed up with industry veteran Calvin Howell to form Visionetic, an AR and mirror coating laboratory in Orlando, Fla. Le, who holds an MS degree in thin film coating from the University of Central Florida’s Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers,  is drawing upon his background in precision optics to create advanced thin film applications for ophthalmic use.

Visionetic currently offer two major products. LuminAR features a standard AR stack with hydrophobic overcoat, while LuminEX features a premium AR stack with “superior hydrophobic/oleophobic overcoat.” This summer, the company plans to release EZ-Mirror, a semi-finished, polarized mirror-coated product. Designed to speed the delivery of polarized mirror product in standard-index plastic and polycarbonate, EZ Mirror is initially available in semi-finished single-vision form, with progressives to follow. According to Visionetics, turnaround time for AR jobs is one day; turnaround time for Rx mirrors is three days.

Silhouette Shifts Lab Services to Pech Optical—Silhouette Optical is restructuring its laboratory services through a new partnership with Pech Optical, the independent wholesale lab in Sioux City, Iowa. Effective June 1, Pech Optical incorporated key personnel, proprietary technologies and equipment from Silhouette Optical Laboratories in Mukilteo, Wash., which will effectively close July 1. The new partnership will allow Silhouette to offer significantly increased Rx parameters, surfacing and finishing capabilities to its customers and continue its commitment to Silhouette-friendly laboratories, according to a statement from Silhouette.

In a related development, Michael Osborn, former technical director of the Silhouette Optical Laboratories, has been promoted to technical professional liaison for Silhouette Optical. His primary responsibilities will be to communicate information to both Pech Optical and the Silhouette-friendly lab system about new products and glazing methods.

PSI, FlexLink to Market Conveyor Systems for Labs—Practical Systems (PSI) and FlexLink’s health care business unit, headed by Ken Lento, have signed an agreement to work together in an effort to bring better efficiency to optical labs with the use of conveyor systems. PSI’s sales force will act as the sales arm for FlexLink by identifying labs that are interested in conveyor systems to improve their productivity. FlexLink will provide follow up and free system layouts to all interested labs. Optical lab customer’s will continue to purchase systems direct from FlexLink and will be handled by the FlexLink optical team for project design and implementation.

See Worthy Adds Luzerne as WaterOptics Distributor—See Worthy, the exclusive North American distributor of Sable WaterOptics, has added Luzerne Optical to its roster of wholesale distributors. Thirty-four-year-old Luzerne Optical, based in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., serves more than 6,000 eyecare practitioners nationwide and is the largest independently owned single-location wholesale laboratory in the U.S.

VSP Labs and Hoya Sponsor “High Definition Dispensing”—VSP Lab and Hoya Vision Care sponsored the “High Definition Dispensing” training seminar, May 17 at the Santa Clara Hilton. Speaker Mike DiSanto, Master Certified Optician, presented the ABO-approved program to over 170 optical industry professionals who came together for three hours of free continuing education on Basic Optical Principles, Dispensing and Product Placement.  The VSP Labs will be sponsoring additional “High Definition Dispensing” seminars nationally during the summer and fall of 2007.

Pictured from left to right are ribbon cutters Larry Patton, sales manager; Jack Howard, vice president; Scotty Scott, vice president; Gordon Scott, vice president; and Kelly Bowling, vice president.
Robertson Optical Labs Opens AR Coating Center—Robertson Optical Laboratories of Columbia, S.C. celebrated the grand opening of its new 12,500 square-foot, state-of-the-art building on May 11. About 300 ECPs and their guests attended the event, which featured a Cinco de Mayo Mexican fiesta, featuring a Mexican-style ribbon cutting and pinata bursting, a live mariachi band, a grand prize drawing for a Mexican vacation donated by Carl Zeiss Vision and a drawing for several other valuable prizes. The new building houses a full-service, in-house AR coating lab, allowing the lab to produce Teflon Clear Coat lenses in-house.

Manufacturer/Distributor: DAC International
Description: Soft lap polisher
Features/Functions: Offers the latest in computer controlled soft lap polishing. The X axis controls the motion of the dual heads, following a pre-programmed path for optimum polishing efficiency.
The NSLP utilizes one soft air tool to polish all curves generated by the DAC RxD Lathe. In addition, the soft air tool features computer controlled, adjustable motion, pressure and time cycles to assure consistent, but adjustable removal rates. This insures a high degree of optical surface accuracy in a variety of materials, surface configurations and lens designs, according to DAC.
(888) 373-3027


Manufacturer/Distributor: iCoat
Description: High-performance, easy to clean AR coating
Features: Newly formulated version of iCoat’s Fusion XTO AR combined with ultra-slick super oleophoibic topcoat. Compatible with all optical hardcoats. Can be applied to any lens style or material, including all glass lenses, as well as to any lens style or substrate, including glass. All jobs requesting Topit AR coating must be edged and drilled (if required) prior to sending in for coating, since coating is too slippery to even attempt to edge or block them. Can be used with any lab in-house backside hard coating. One-year warranty against cracking, peeling or crazing.
(800) 832-2628



Intermediary Film Pad (IFP)
Manufacturer/Distributor: OptiSource International
Description: Clear film mask
Features: Proprietary adhesive sticks to hydrophobic/oleophobic AR coatings while the top side of the pad is designed to grip onto blocking pads. Provides optimal adhesion to hydrophobic surfaces and blocking pads to minimize lens slipping or turning during edging.
Availability: Rolls of 1,000 pads; free samples available.
(800) OptiSource (678-4768) [refer to marketing code: PRC06]


Screw Grinder
Manufacturer/Distributor: Santinelli International
Description: Easy-to-use tool for finishing rimless screws
Functions: Provides an alternative solution to hand filing for professional-looking results. Eliminates potential risk of damaging lens during mounting process. The Screw Grinder’s versatility allows it to be used on any type of screw or frame. Compact tool’s grinding depth can be adjusted so the operator can achieve the desired look for rimless eyewear.
(800) 644-EDGE


In this edition...
Who Really Controls Your Lab?
Tinting 1.67 Index
Lorinda Fraboni, Walman Optical
Mid South Premier Promotes the 2 Clear System
New Coating Lab Opens in Florida

Silhouette Shifts Labs Services to Pech Optical

PSI, FlexLink to Market Conveyor Systems for Labs

See Worthy Adds Luzerne as WaterOptics Distributor

VSP Labs and Hoya Sponsor "High Definition Dispensing"

Robertson Optical Labs Opens AR Coating Center
Penetrating the Surface

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New Judging Strategy for LabTalk's Optical Laboratory Web Site of the Year Award

For the first time, eyecare professionals will be nominating their favorite lab Web site for LabTalk's Optical Laboratory Web Site of the Year award. New this year, eyecare professionals will use an online nomination form, available in mid-July through Vision Monday's Web site, The Top Ten Web Sites and Web Site of the Year will be selected from the pool of nominated labs by a panel of ECPs. The new judging format will highlight which lab Web sites have the most value to the eyecare professional.