As equipment manufacturers develop and release high-tech machines to expedite and automate lens processing, the more labs need to know how to stay on top of their game.
Here, three optical machinery leaders explain the current state of lens processing and how their equipment is an investment in better business.
Fabio Verzeri, General Manager Americas Sales, MEI System, Inc.
“The main issues we usually find are of different kinds: edging quality, productivity, the need to customize products for more demanding customers and stand out from the crowd. More and more lens-processing activity has been flowing into big labs, but now we see a desire for a more tailored approach so that customers can appreciate the unique service rendered by groups of specialists such as optometrists and eyewear lens and lab specialists.
There is one important point to make here: MEI is not just an additional brand in the market. Our milling technology embraced the future of edging by disconnecting from the old grinding technology. Most of the limitations such as rework, the ability to design and edge special jobs and fast execution combined with superb quality have found a resolution with a complete series of equipment suitable for small retail up to large labs. Globally, almost all large labs have embraced the MEI way of edging, and the knowledge of our technology is expanding and reaching even the smallest entities. Our technicians are doing a great effort to help new customers enjoy the results that MEI milling technology can bring to their operations. We like to call this change “Edging 4.0” in line with the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technology. We just need people keen and motivated to the change.”
The Equipment: 4Racer TBA
This finishing unit combines TBA blocking features, lens inspection and high-speed edging in one unit with a small footprint. The 4Racer TBA can work on all organic lens materials, including polycarbonate, Trivex and CR-39, and it has the highest throughput with high size stability and high edge quality, according to the company.
Kurt Atchison, President, Schneider Optical Machines
“In the past, labs focused mostly on reducing labor when considering upgrading to new automated machinery. Today, labor remains important, of course, but you can add two other critical factors: The need for maximum output in the smallest floor space and maximum technology integration. More lenses, highest quality, fewest machines. Speed remains critical, but so too does cognitive machinery. This is Schneider’s Modulo idea, in place now for several years. Machines communicate intelligently to each other and to the lab personnel and management. This cognitive ability makes it easier to optimize the use of the machines and to understand what steps are needed for maintaining the machine condition for highest uptime. The lab’s challenge is finding staff with technical expertise. We help solve that dilemma by doing part of the thinking and decision making for them. As technology becomes more sophisticated, it is more critical than ever to make it manageable for the lab team.”
The Equipment: HSC Modulo XTS
According to Schneider, the HSC Modulo XTS is the fastest generator on the market, with a XS-motor accelerating to more than 40g. The generator combines high frequency drive technology with a new milling spindle and intelligent algorithms to produce 50 jobs per hour. A new swarf-management system ensures the process is clean.
Andy Huthoefer, Head of Marketing and Global Aftermarket Operations, Satisloh
“The lab market is highly competitive. ECPs now expect more than ever from their lab of choice. In order to maintain their success, labs need to continually increase both quality and service levels (faster delivery, consistent adherence to promised delivery times, etc.). These demands mean continuous improvement in the lab. That’s where manufacturing execution systems come in to play. These systems, like MES-360 from Satisloh, put all of the lab’s data from production processes and machines at the lab manager’s finger tips. Which machines are coming up for maintenance within the next few hours? Which ones don’t have enough jobs to keep them producing? Which machine errors are hurting productivity? What is causing surfacing room breakage to increase? Where, exactly, is Dr. Jones’ AR job right now?
All of these questions – and so many more – are answered by MES-360 in real time. It gives labs a valuable tool to increase productivity and yields – and with that provide the service and quality that allows them to thrive in a competitive market.”
The Technology: MES-360
Satisloh’s MES-360 Manufacturing Execution System provides machine monitoring, breakage tracking, conveyor routing, coat batch-tracking modules, links to automated optical inspection and manual cosmetic inspection.
Robb Kohn, President, A&R Optical Machinery, Inc.
“A&R has been developing both hardware and software designed to perform in accordance with the principles of Industry 4.0 Smart Manufacturing. The goal is to predict all aspects of ophthalmic lens manufacturing by monitoring them in real-time with A&R Statistical Process Control software and Dual LensMapper technology, which allow the laboratory to make meaningful adjustments in the manufacturing process before the lab ever even manufactures a bad lens. This is a transformational shift in the ophthalmic lens manufacturing industry and will provide vast efficiencies in the manufacturing process, saving time and a lot of money while also increasing quality.”
The Equipment: ProMapper
A&R’s ProMapper is a tabletop solution for labs of all sizes, providing total lens inspection of both optical and geometrical properties (including power, prism, addition, thickness, shape and polarization) to industry ISO and ANSI standards and free-form surface evaluation based on A&R’s Error Map technology. Surface quality features such as Global Mapping Criteria are evaluated and constitute relevant inspection data for Statistical Process Control applications, maintenance and troubleshooting. “In addition to ensuring the quality of the products shipped to customers, the A&R ProMapper is even more critical for providing data that allows the lab to take proactive action regarding their machines’ adjustments and maintenance,” said Olivier Stoquart, customer
engineering “zero defect” manager.