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Investment Considerations of free-Form Technology

Like the introduction of anti-reflective coating technology, the adoption of free-form lens technology continues accelerate in the optical industry, transforming the product mix. This is leading many labs to consider investing in free-form surfacing equipment. How do you know if it’s the right time for you to act on the opportunity?

Dollars and Sense

The technology is exciting and presents an attractive possibility because it enables labs to produce personalized and other premium lenses on-site while taking advantage of the efficiencies of just-in-time manufacturing. But lab owners or managers who are considering whether or not to invest in free-form technology need to be wise and informed. As with any major investment, lab executives should perform their own cost-benefit analysis to determine whether to make the investment.

Consider the following:

• How much free-form are your customers demanding? If demand is high among your client base and you are outsourcing to process to other labs, it is an indication that taking the free-form process in-house will be beneficial.

• Could demand increase once free-form technology is installed on-site, decreasing turn-times and enhance the prestige of the lab? Will selling more free-form stimulate increased demand for other premium treatments or products?

• Consider the cost of the lens product from the manufacturer, including any “click-fee” associated with using the manufacturer’s technology.

• What is the initial investment cost of purchase and installation of the equipment, including the terms of financing the purchase? This represents the fixed cost (along with any minimum order requirements from lens manufacturers) associated with owning the equipment and is the basis for determining the beak-even point of the investment. Also included in fixed costs would be any special programming required by your software vendor.

• Consider the other variable costs, exclusive of which lens product is being used. What are the maintenance costs? How often is maintenance performed and who does it? If these costs are part of the purchase but add additional monthly costs, they should be included in fixed costs. If the program separates parts costs, those costs are variable. Other variable costs are utility, labor, and supply costs.

If the gain in gross margin less fixed costs is positive and greater than or equal to the margin generated from outsourcing, this is a strong indication the investment should be made. —Jason A. Meyer, Managing Director, HPC Puckett & Company. Based in San Diego, Calif., HPC Puckett & Company specializes in mergers and acquisitions of wholesale optical laboratories. You can send comments or questions about this article or any other Dollars & Sense articles to Jason A. Meyer at [email protected].

This is the first in a series of Dollars & Sense columns about investing in free-form technology.

DAC Lumina


DAC Digital System

Robert Wallner Opens Boutique Finishing Laboratory

Robert Wallner, a veteran optician, lab owner and finishing equipment sales manager, has opened a new finishing lab, Optik Wallner, in Wallkill, New York. Using skills he developed at his previous lab, The Cutting Edge, Wallner is focusing primarily on producing drilled rimless and other specialty, one of a kind eyewear.

“It’s a boutique finishing lab" said Wallner, pictured above. "We only do work that other labs can’t do or don’t want to do, jobs that require more craftsmanship,”

Wallner can be contacted by email at [email protected], or by calling (845) 549-0961.

Cherry Optical to Offer New Courses at What's New University

Cherry Optical is again hosting “What’s New University,” a popular continuing education program for eye care professionals. The event, which will take place at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Saturday, March 26, will feature 32 hours of courses. The majority of courses already have approval for ABO & COPE credits, according to Cherry Optical. The lab said it is working with the Wisconsin Paraoptometric Association (WPA), the American Optometric Association (AOA), the American Commission on Paraoptometric Certification (CPC) and National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) to receive additional CEC approval. All courses are offered free of charge and are open to all eye care professionals, regardless of whether or not they are Cherry Optical customers.

For additional information, contact Cherry Optical customer service at 800-469-4211 or email [email protected]

Lab Execs Offer Perspectives on Leadership

Toledo Optical Toledo Optical

Wholesale lab owners Jason Blue, president of Optic Blue in Lubbock, Texas (top) and Mark Becker, president and CEO of Precision Optical in San Diego, Calif. (bottom)—were among the 16 optical industry executives who offered perspectives on executive leadership in the upcoming Vision Monday cover story, “Defining Leadership.” Beginning March 18, you can read their comments in a new section on where readers can share points of view and resources for and about leadership.

DAC Kool

LabTalk Spotlight March 2011

LabTalk Spotlight

Magnify Your AR Success
Boost your profits with new lenses and processing tips
By Julie Bos

In today’s world, change is a given. New optical products are being introduced every day, and new processing strategies are continually hitting the scene. To stay competitive and profitable, you need to stay abreast of the latest updates—and find a way to put them to work for you. In Magnify Your AR Success, we list the latest offerings from Essilor, Hoya, iCoat and Seiko. Also included are various tips on how to process hydrophobic lenses including these tips from DAC Vision, Gerber Coburn, PSI, Salem Vision Group, and Satisloh.

But not all labs struggle with edging super-hydrophobic lenses. In fact, Walman Optical in Minneapolis is one that seems to have the process all dialed in. According to Matt Cummins, regional manager, it took about a year for the lab to settle on a workable solution to edging super hydrophobic lenses—and the system is working great.

“We use a combination of three different products in conjunction to yield the best results,” he said. “We found no edging pads that would adhere well enough on their own. Currently we run less than 0.03 percent for slippage reasons and slightly over half of all our work has AR.”

Matt goes on to say that in a perfect world, the industry would offer one pad that would adhere to the slippery coating, as well as the block—and preferably one that you could edge off so that only one size edging pad is needed.

For labs still having difficulty with edging slippery lenses, he offers one final piece of advice: “Find the right combination of products that works in your lab and get everyone on board with why proper procedures are critical to sustained success. Diagnose each twist or slipped breakage until you have both your system and procedures down pat.”

DAC Edging
Make What You Say Pay

Find the ‘B’ Spot

People always ask for ways to get a group involved in discussion during a stand-up presentation. Here is one little known, but powerful, tech tip to engage any group.

In Small Groups

Hit the “B’ button on your keyboard. It makes your computer screen go blank. In small group situations, at that moment, you can:

1. Elaborate on the point you were making on the screen

2. Throw out a question to the group or ask for their thoughts about that poin

3. Then, as soon as someone starts speaking, sit down preferably off to the side. Sitting down gives control to the group and allows a freer exchange among the meeting members.

4. When the discussion has died down, or you deem it time to return to the presentation, casually stand and transition back to the presentation and hit the “B” button again. Your computer will automatically return to the screen you left and you can proceed from there.

In Large Groups

Vary the exercise. Throw out a question to the crowd and ask them to discuss their answers with their neighbor. When you want to resume, hit the “B” button to bring up the screen shot again. People will return their attention to you. At that point, you can take one or two responses from the audience or simply bridge to the next slide. Try it. Let me know how it works for you.—Anne Miller

©2011, Anne Miller, author, “Metaphorically Selling”




Manufacturer: Coburn Technologies
Description: Patent-pending, disposable free-form lens processing technology
Features: As the focal point of Coburn’s new Free-Form Minilab, LaunchPad access to an affordable, complete system that can produce advanced free-Form lenses. The system gives both wholesale and retail labs the ability to produce free-form lenses from design through surfacing, finishing and AR coating, with significantly reduced capital investment, limited required space and minimal processing change.

Innovations Free-form Module

ASTA Handling System

Manufacturer: Ocuco
Description: Ocuco’s new free-Form module for its Innovations Lab Management Software interfaces with virtually all free-Form LDSs and surfacing machines, enabling labs to transition into FreeForm lens manufacturing at an affordable price.
Features: Innovations automates prescription lens calculation, optimizes blank choice and manages the lens manufacturing process. Being non-proprietary, Innovations interfaces with virtually all equipment from the major suppliers, allowing equipment from different vendors to be used in the same production line.

PSI Clear

#3009F Budgetool

Manufacturer: PSI (Practical Systems Inc.)
Description: New-generation lens polish designed to optimize the performance of conventional polishers.
Features: Mild formula reduces chance of dermatitis and contains an ingredient that prevents hands from drying out. Unique stabilized suspension chemistry and alumina crystal structure make polish long lasting and cost-effective. Combines traditional density and solids with low Baumé and viscosity, which reduces carry-out while improving pad and lens coverage. Can be mixed quickly at the start of the day and be cleaned easily from lenses and equipment. Formulated for all plastic lens materials including polycarbonate and Trivex.
Availability: Available in gallon jugs and five-gallon pails. PSI part #3301G and 3301P.

Push-in Pad Inserting Plier (#3031S)

Kodak Digital Progressive Lenses

Manufacturer: Western Optical Supply (WOS)
Features: Handy tool that prevents fingernails from being chipped and allows for quick adjustments. By using the Pad Inserting Plier, lab techs won’t have to force a push-in style nose pad in the pad box and bending the pad arm. The Nose Pad Inserting Plier gently pops the pad into place without changing the nose pad position. Made of surgical stainless steel in WOS’s factory under strict quality control standards.


Send us news about your lab's new products, services, special events, tech advances or personnel changes.

Andy Karp

Andrew Karp
Editor, Lab Advisor
[email protected]


Christie Walker

Christie Walker
Editor, LabTalk
[email protected]

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