It Takes a Village...Tricks of the Trade

By Julie Bos
In a 1996 speech, Hilary Clinton made famous the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The basic meaning? That raising a child is a communal effort—and that no man, woman or family is an island.

Perhaps the same holds true for the lens laboratory community. Despite differences in size, location or niche focus, labs can find huge strength in their commonality. In this article, we’ve called on our “village” to share its accumulated knowledge—and assembled some innovative solutions to common (and maybe not-so-common) lens processing challenges. Feel free to put them to use in your own lab.

PROBLEM

When surfacing extreme curve combinations with large blanks going into smaller eye sizes, the blank has a tendency to separate from the block when generating. Separation of the blank from the lens is caused by vibration between the cutting wheel and the blank while being cribbed down.

SOLUTION

We trim down larger blanks for extreme curve combination in the edger first, and then generate them. This eliminates vibration on the lens since it doesn’t have to be cribbed down, and eliminates separation from the block. It also reduces pad marks since there’s less lens area to fine and polish.

—Submitted by iCoat Company, Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

PROBLEM

Flat-top bifocals have a tendency to slip while edging, since water can get in between the raised lip of the seg and the adhesive pad. Wider segs and higher adds compound the problem.

SOLUTION

We put a second half-eye adhesive pad on top of the seg line prior to blocking, so there’s no space in between the seg and the adhesive pad.

—Submitted by iCoat Company, Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

PROBLEM

Labs often run into situations where frame/RX combinations are so badly mismatched that it can affect all aspects of processing the job, including lens pulling/ordering, surfacing and finishing. Often, doing the job “as is” can result in a poor exchange between lab and ECP and leave a patient disappointed in the final result.

SOLUTION

Identifying problematic RXs and communicating concerns to the customer before starting a potentially problematic job is the key. Usually, problems with frame/RX combinations start with RXs that are more unusual. 8mm decentration mounts, for instance, may be okay for a job with a minimal RX. A job with a -10.00 RX, however, will gain edge thickness at an alarming rate with decentration compounding the issue.

We try to make a strong push for frame changes, knowing that a -10.00 with 4mm decentration is a completely different animal than a -10.00 with 8mm decentration. ECPs may try to combat potential cosmetic concerns by ordering these jobs in higher index materials while ignoring the idea of making subtle changes to the frame selection. A 2-3mm change in frame size/decentration can have as much as two to three times the benefit of using high index materials. Be prepared to make calls to your ECPs with actual data on hand. They’ll want to know the exact benefit and you should be able to tell them.

If you’ve done a good job convincing them of the benefit, they’ll notice your attention to detail and be grateful for the call. Not to mention, you’ll also make it easier on all the departments in your lab who were trying to process a difficult job “as is.” Remember, the RX is not negotiable but the frame and lenses are.

— Submitted by EPIC Labs, Waite Park, Minn.

PROBLEM

It’s a frequent lab occurrence that a lens doesn’t pass surfacing inspection because of defective surface, wave, or the lens is out of power. Whatever the case, if the center thickness can be reduced by .1mm to .3 mm, there’s a reasonable chance that the lens can be re-blocked and resurfaced—particularly worth the try on high-cost blanks or rush jobs. The problem is particularly evident when re-blocking the lens on alloy, which is again becoming more common, because it appears to be the method of choice for high definition/free form processing of organic lenses. Many labs have given up resurfacing minus plastic lenses because too often, even though the scratch or surface issue has been resolved, the re-surfaced minus lenses comes out of power and labs consider it an exercise in futility.

SOLUTION

The reason for the loss of power is that when blocking lenses, the hot alloy fills the cavity of the block or other blocking cavity and encapsulates the front curve of the lens. The hot alloy (around 120° F or more), has larger volume when in liquid state than in solid state. The hot alloy starts cooling off and solidifying first around the edges of the block because that’s the area of the most heat transfer to the block coolant body.

When the alloy solidifies around the edges it contracts and grips to the lens (tape) first around the outside of the block diameter. However, in the center of the block around the lens MRP, the alloy is still hot in liquid form. When it starts cooling and solidifying, it begins to contract and pull the center of the lens with it inside the block. Most of the time on minus lenses, the MRP is right in the center of the block at it happens to be the thinnest area of the lens. Consequently, we resurface the lens and (let’s assume) produce perfect curves on the back of the lens. Because organic lenses are thermo set materials, when the lens is de-blocked it returns molecularly to its pre-blocking state and the center of the lens “pops back.” As a result, the curves at the MRP will became flatter, causing the lens power to be weaker.

Please note, the lens power will not be constant all through the surface of the lens and will get stronger away from the center. We’ve found that putting three or four layers of surface-saver tape will absorb most of the alloy suction that causes the pulling of the lens center inside the block. That eliminates the “pop-up” effect and flattening of the inside curve at the MRP after de-blocking. It appears not to have any negative effect on the surfacing process, including single-point HD surfacing. We do it often and it has saved us a lot of service delays and costly blank re-dos.

—Submitted by Quest Optical Specialty Lab, Tampa Bay, Fla.

PROBLEM

Spreading the word about your lab’s services can be difficult and expensive.

SOLUTION

Seriously consider doing some kind of advertising targeting a national base. We find that ECPs are more intrigued by a lab they’re not accustomed to hearing and seeing a lot of information on. Most advertising is done on a local basis (e.g., state trade shows, newsletters). Our company ran a banner ad with Vision Web and got a tremendous response. Of course, some were deadbeats, but we were able to process and open several good accounts that more than paid for the cost of the ad.

—Submitted by Superior Optical Labs, Ocean Springs, Miss.

PROBLEM

Every lab is concerned about overall efficiency, employee productivity and safety.

SOLUTION

Invest in a surveillance system for your lab, regardless of your size. Our original reason and justification for doing this was to protect our company against potential workman’s compensation and sexual harassment claims. However, after installing the system, we’ve found that the system does more than document and reveal actual events. It also provides a snapshot of daily activity and employee performance.

For example, we have to give our smokers two smoking breaks during the day—one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Since we are a “smoke-free” environment, our employees need to go outside to a covered break area. Because of the surveillance system, we’ve discovered many employees were taking more than their allotted break time. In addition, the cameras provide information on human traffic after hours and on weekends. Since we have a “late pick-up” by our courier company, an outside camera allows us to monitor the exact time the courier picks up our jobs. This surveillance system has been extremely helpful in validating or refuting numerous employee “situations.” This is an investment that will fall under your insurance costs and will be well worth the cost.

—Submitted by Superior Optical Labs, Ocean Springs, Miss.

PROBLEM

Many labs are so focused on the “offense” of the business, they completely forget the “defense” of protecting their companies and their assets.

SOLUTION

This should be a “no-brainer.” Make sure your company has an employee handbook. All our existing and incoming employees are presented one and are required to read and sign a document that testifies that they’ve read and understand its contents. This handbook is another form of insurance, not to mention the basis for problem employees that have to be written up and potentially put on probation. All reprimands are based on violations of the company handbook. Our company has an incident report that is used when someone is written up for a violation. There are four headings for violations: (1) Reprimand, (2) Warning, (3) Notice to Correct, and (4) Termination. Filling out these reports out and keeping them in employees’ individual files will especially aid you in the event of a termination that results in an unemployment claim. In addition, there is also the unfortunate possibility of an EEOC investigation, and having proper documentation (plus the added historical data from a surveillance tape) could possibly save you from the costly expense of litigation.

—Submitted by Superior Optical Labs, Ocean Springs, Miss.


CURRENT ISSUE


Lab Talk-February/March 2018