REVVING UP YOUR FREE-FORM: New Products and Tips to Make the Most of this new Vehicle

By Judith Lee
Free-form generators and polishers are the electric cars of the optical laboratory business. Everyone thinks they’re a good idea, but not everyone agrees free-form is the right vehicle for their lab operation. Offering a more compact footprint, efficiency, and in some cases, eco-friendly features, free-form equipment continues to evolve in ways that are likely to drive the industry into the future.

AUGEN OPTICS

EasyForm Integrated Digital Free-form Processing System is an all-inclusive equipment package that gives laboratories a way to compete in free-form for a modest investment. The system includes the Augen EasyForm FF-V3 Digital Surfacing Generator, Augen FF-SB Speed Blocker, Augen FF-2LP Digital Free-form Polisher, and Augen LFL 2020 Laser Engraving System with adjustment mount and semi-visible imprint applicator. In addition, the package includes Augen Lens Design Software, giving laboratories the ability to produce free-form Augen HDRx Trinity Progressives and HD Single Vision lenses onsite. The EasyForm system produces both conventional and free-form lenses. In addition to the Augen Optics progressive and single vision lens designs, users can produce any lens design that can be mathematically rendered. Augen offers SV Spherical 1.0 lenses to give labs the capability of producing custom free-form products.

Tip 1: Clean, dry compressed air is essential in maintaining proper function and longevity of all equipment.

Tip 2: For optimal performance, maintain the manufacturer’s recommended humidity and air temperature environment in the area where the equipment is installed.

CHEMAT TECHNOLOGIES

Chemalux 300DL Free-form Generator uses a high-precision dual diamond turning technology. The patented electronic/mechanical force and vibration cancellation assembly eliminates more than 99 percent of machine frame vibration, resulting in a surface roughness in the nanometer range that is ready for Chemalux Planarization coating. By integrating the surface finish (~ 1µm roughness) of dry-cut free-form technology with a unique index matching scratch resistant coating, Chemat introduces the world’s first free-form technology that eliminates the need for polishing. The benefits of cut-to-coat (CTC) free-form technology include (1) better optics (even with wavefront optics) due to elimination of polishing which degrades the precision; (2) low capital and operation cost since no digital polishers and expensive polishing pads are needed; and (3) simple and fast process with minimum maintenance. In addition, integration with Chemalux AR coating system provides the smallest and lowest cost complete free-form lab.

Tip 1: Acquire the software not only for progressives, but also for bifocal and lenticular to produce all lens types in the free-form generators.

Tip 2: Use pre-marked and pre-blocked semi-finished lenses to shorten the processing time to increase throughput.

COBURN TECHNOLOGIES

Free-Form Mini-Lab—At its heart is the patent-pending LaunchPad free-form process, which allows for the polishing of free-form lenses on a traditional cylinder machine eliminating the need for larger free-form polishers. This lab configuration makes it possible to enter the world of free-form lens creation without the prohibitive start-up costs, space requirements and technical complexity. The process can be scaled to meet the specific free-form volume of your business and in many cases can be adapted to work with lab equipment you already have.

Generator CTL 85DP—this Compact Generator provides the Coburn-patented, single-point technology needed to produce a final lens surface and polish the lens without damaging the design or Rx. The CTL uses dry-cut processing to generate lenses that eliminate the need for water-reclaim filtration systems and produce dry, clean lenses with low-cost waste disposal.

Polisher LaunchPad Free-Form Technology—this free-form process is the proprietary, patent pending material configuration of the LaunchPad polishing process combined with Coburn’s patented disposable foam lap. This process allows for free-form lens polishing on a traditional cylinder machine eliminating the need for larger free-form polishers.

ALPS Lab—designed as a platform that can be easily -expanded and fully automated to grow along with your lab, the Advanced Lens Processing System (ALPS) has two main components: the Diamond Turning Lathe (DTL) dry-cut lens generator and the Multi-Axis Adaptive Technology (MAAT) sub-aperture polisher. This industrial-strength solution produces high -quality traditional (sphere and toric) and backside digital and free-form lenses in plastic, high-index and polycarbonate materials.

Generator DTL—Diamond Turning Lathe (DTL) Generator is the heart of the Advanced Lens Processing System. This high-speed, dry-cut, single-point lens generator offers your lab many advantages that are not possible with conventional lens generating technology. Whether you process 25, 500, 1,000 or more jobs a day, the DTL lens generator offers maximum performance at an affordable price. The user interface, diamond machining technology and swarf management systems contribute to throughput gains.

Polisher MAAT 100—Multi-Axis Adaptive Technology (MAAT) sub-aperture polisher is designed specifically to work seamlessly with the DTL generator series. Following the exact tool path files used during lens generating, the MAAT produces a more accurate lens surface and replaces conventional fining and polishing processes to produce -traditional and digital free-form lenses. Using the latest technology, the MAAT polisher produces accurate lenses, faster and more economically.

Tip 1: Carefully evaluate all of the free-form lens processing solutions available. The price for free-form lens surfacing technology has come down in 2011 through the release of lower priced generators and disposable free-form polishing pads. Some will allow you to upgrade the system you currently have.

Tip 2: Look into pre-engraved lenses from major providers like Seiko to avoid the need for the engraving step of the process. Overall, work to minimize your upfront capital equipment investment to reduce the cost of entering the free-form process as you grow your volume.

OPTOTECH

The newest additions to OptoTech’s line of generators are a smaller machine called Flash-Light with a fully -automated version called Flash-A. This equipment offers even the smallest labs an entrance to free-form technology. The simple but high-quality design of the machine allows the production of all plastic materials and designs on the market. Application area: backside progressives, atorical, individual, front progressive, standard toric, blended lenses OptoTech revamped its comprehensive line of polishers with a new combination model with two spindles, called ASP 80 Multitool-DT-A. This fully-automated machine is perfect for mixed applications with different materials in an automated lab and offers long tool life, low cost per surface, good work range and stability.

Tip 1: Since you can now produce just about anything out of just a few semi-finished products, one of the main advantages of having free-form equipment is a reduction in turn-around time, especially with a multiple shift environment. To further improve turn-around, also consider in house AR Coating.

Tip 2: Offer multiple choices of designs, house brands, name brands, special designs and so forth. You offered this when you used semifinished progressives, why limit the choices for your customers now that you produce your own lenses?

SATISLOH

VFT-compact Pro—has been a very successful machine for over five years, but recently we added auto-calibration and in-chamber -mechanical engraving (both features unique to Satisloh generators). These features make the VFT-compact Pro the most versatile, accurate machine in its class and these features were added without increasing the original price.

Tip 1: Properly maintained equipment will not only make daily production easier but will ultimately extend the life of the machine and bring more value to your investment. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance and calibration procedures to the letter.

Tip 2: When it comes to process control, pay attention to the details. Polish temperature and baume, diamond bit wear, condition of polishing tools—all play a key role in the overall quality of the finished product.

SCHNEIDER OPTICAL MACHINES

DSC Prolab—The all-in-one digital surfacing center has a compact footprint (3ft x 6ft) and is extremely user friendly. One person can run the entire machine. It’s ideal for small labs, retail locations and start-ups AMC – The Adaptive Motor Control allows for faster processing of digital and free-from designs by -being able to vary the cutting speed across the entire surface of the lens which speeds throughput while ensuring maximum accuracy.

APS – The Advanced Polishing System has automated polish tool processing with video recognition to ensure the appropriate tool selection as well as inspection of the tool for defects and changeover.

Tip 1: Preventative maintenance, preventative maintenance and preventative maintenance. Adhering to the manufacturer recommended PM schedule will help keep your equipment running at peak performance levels while consistently producing high-quality lenses. Not following the PM schedule results in unnecessary equipment down time and higher costs of ownership in the long run. The PM is simple and well defined by the manufacturer.

Tip #2: Having a well-trained operator that is alert to the differences between running a free-form line and a conventional line is critical to ensuring consistent high quality. While the free-form process should eliminate certain steps, provide greater accuracy and is easier to run, it is much more sensitive to outside influences. A properly trained operator is critical to the process.

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Labtalk-November/December 2017