Adding or increasing coating operations may prove to add value to your lab’s business. Here, OLP features four machines and spoke to labs that recently purchased the equipment to find out why and how they chose it and how it’s given them a boost.
The Manufacturer: Schneider Optical Machines
The Machine: EBC 600
The Lab: Pacific Artisan Labs
Ideal for small to mid-size labs, the EBC 600 is a compact, vacuum-coating system. Its EBG system has a high number of pockets for maximum process flexibility, according to Schneider, an expanded ion-source power for argon and oxygen use plus a water-cooled process chamber for high process stability. An easy-to-use interface features touch screen operation with remote maintenance functions along with data-logging and fault analysis. By utilizing Schneider’s visAR process technology, the EBC 600 produces high-end coating including in-chamber hydrophobic and oleophobic coatings for smaller labs and is upgradeable for higher productivity.
When looking for coating equipment, Brandon Butler of Pacific Artisan Labs wanted “capacity, quality, consistency and functionality.”
“We wanted a coater that we knew could handle our growth and be one of the industry’s elite units,” said Butler, who is president of lab operations of the Portland, OR-based lab. “We have not been let down.”
Installed last April, the EBC 600 has proven to be a user-friendly machine capable of quickly churning out jobs.
“The touch screen is easy to navigate and simplified for even the novice user,” Butler added. “Being able to manually adjust the E-beam arc significantly cuts down calibration time.”
Another reason the lab chose the EBC 600? Butler said it’s the company itself.
“They have proven time and time again to be the industry leader not only in coating, but also in digital surfacing, not to mention the team at Schneider is of the highest-caliber talent across the board,” he said.
The Manufacturer: Satisloh
The Machine: MC 280 X
The Lab: Avante Optics
Satisloh calls its MC 280 X a “complete coating lab solution.” This mid-volume box coater for mid-size to larger labs combines an ultrasonic cleaning system, flow-box and degassing oven with fully automated lens cleaning for efficiency. The MC 280 X has a three-sector dome or flip system for double-sided processing and an easy and fast swap from dome to flip-over lens holder. The MC 280 X incorporates user-friendly HMI software and is compatible with Satisloh’s MES-360 manufacturing execution system.
After installing the MC 280 X last August, the AR business at Avante Optics in Phoenix doubled in three months.
“We were quoting our customers 10 days for Rx’s with AR coating,” said Danny Valenzuela, general manager. “Now with AR in-house, we quote two to three days.”
Valenzuela said the machine’s small footprint allowed the lab to lay out equipment efficiently to maximize both work space and work flow. Its size, he said, “has plenty of capacity for our volume, and we can add another unit with minimal impact on floor space.”
Ahmad Basiri, process technician in the AR Department at Avante Optics, said in addition to the service and support they received from Satisloh, the MC 280 X’s simple process allows most lab technicians to operate it with minimal challenges.
“It’s self-explanatory and is equipped with a visual feature that provides help and explanation with the press of a button,” he said. “The process is straightforward and requires precise execution of each stage. Once all the steps are followed, there is no room for errors and successful coating of lenses is guaranteed.”
The Manufacturer: Ultra Optics
The Machine: 44R Automated Backside Coater
The Lab: Pech Optical
This fully-automated, robotically-fed backside coating system functions in conjunction with a lab management system to tell the coater what to do (coat, wash, dry or pass through) to eliminate sorting prior to entering the machine. The 44R can coat 130 lenses per hour and can operate either on or off the block to suit any lab’s setup. The coater also includes separate heated wash and dry modules for more thoroughly washed lenses, less breakage and automated conveyor tray handling. Advanced PLC controls scan barcodes and instruct the machine on how to process the job.
Seeking to reduce labor and handling as well as costs due to breakage, Pech Optical in Sioux City, IA, installed two 44R coaters last September.
“The installation process was outstanding,” said Gerald Koolstra, general manager of Pech Optical, which does about 1,150 to 1,200 AR jobs and 950 to 1,000 backside coatings per day. “We had two people here for almost a week, and they helped train each operator on each shift as well as our maintenance team on all shifts. They also came back a month later and did a refresher training with our employees and maintenance team to make sure we fully understood and were comfortable running the machine.”
As for reducing handling and labor, Koolstra said there’s no longer a need to have a coating machine operator at the machine for an entire shift.
“With coating being applied while the lens is still on the block, we have basically eliminated all issues with ‘popped centers,’” he explained. “By having the wash cycle and dry cycles in separate chambers, the issues with coating pits have also been greatly reduced.”
The Manufacturer: Buhler Leybold
The Machine: CHS 60 Umbra Photochromic and Hard Coating System
The Lab: FEA Industries, Inc.
With a compact design, Leybold’s CHS 60 Umbra includes a fully integrated cleaning and hardcoating process, an optional integrated inspection booth and a conveyor for loading and unloading. The machine’s tank storage offers a full range of tint colors and can easily swap between multiple photochromic colors, with an average time to swap over a coating batch at no more than five minutes. Maintenance and cleaning can be performed outside the machine to not affect production.
After first seeing the Umbra at Vision Expo West last September, Bill Heffner, director of IT, marketing and sales at FEA Industries in Morton, PA, decided to purchase it to add to the lab’s already robust coating operations: the lab produces about 300 to 400 AR jobs per day. The Umbra is scheduled to be delivered and installed at FEA right after Vision Expo East next month.
“It’s a dip coater that applies photochromic coatings so you can take an untreated clear lens, run it through, and make it a photochromic,” said Heffner, who also has several Leybold coating machines: the CHC 150 dip coater, the CCS Pro AR and the 1350 AR.
“The Umbra gives us the ability to offer more cost-competitive products,” he said. “When you look at higher index photochromics — 1.67 and 1.74 — they’re still very expensive, so now we can offer something much more competitively priced as our own brand of photochromics.”
And because this machine operates similarly to the lab’s existing dip coating systems, Heffner doesn’t anticipate the need to add more manpower.
“It really is just a couple of extra steps and is mostly automated,” he said.
Buhler Leybold Optics
919.657.7100 • BuhlerGroup.com
Satisloh North America, Inc.
800.866.5640 • Satisloh.com
Schneider Optical Machines
972.247.4000 • Schneider-om.com
800.365.9993 • UltraOptics.com