Industrial Strength Edgers: A Menu of Choices

By Karen Appold
Coffee, tea, soda or juice … the waitress asks. You answer quickly, depending on your mood for caffeine, a healthy beverage or hot drink.

When choosing an industrial strength edger, you’ll also have a good selection. But you probably won’t be able to answer in a snap. First you’ll want to peruse the menu--explore what’s new, what’s popular and check for any specials.

Today’s Offerings

Let’s take a look at the “main entrees” and their accompaniments. MEI Srl has a range of industrial strength edgers to choose from, including the MEI641, a manual loading edger with a working capacity of one lens per cycle, up to the Bisphera-XDD, an automatic loading industrial edger with a working capacity of two lenses per cycle. The MonospheraRX-DD, an automatic loading edger with a working capacity of one lens per cycle, is another option.

“MEI Srl’s unique milling technology has revolutionized its cutting processes,” said Edo Tortolato, sales engineer, MEI Srl. “It allows for the shaping of any kind of edge including high base lenses (from base zero to 16) or lenses for sport frames.” All of the MEI edgers can perform the following edge types: straight and inclined bevel (with polishing and safety bevel), rimless with holes, slots and notches (with polishing and safety bevels), groove (with polishing and safety bevels), T-bevel (for metal and wrap frames) and step back along all lens’ circumference or at a specific spot (e.g., at nose or temple).

National Optronics’ 7E is well-known for its low cost and high versatility as well as its ability to process difficult lens materials, such as polycarbonate and Trivex. The 7E uses a small tool diameter, which is advantageous for difficult jobs such as sharp corners and high base curved frames and lenses. The 7E can be configured to edge multiple bevel profiles, enabling it to process specialty jobs. As a dry-cut edger, the 7E is the most environmentally friendly edger on the market (i.e., there is no water consumption or contamination).

The Helix, also by National Optronics, uses the newest in edging technology with 5-axis processing capabilities that can process complex edging jobs for frames that were previously difficult or even impossible to process with prescription lenses, such as Oakley, Rudy Project, Adidas and many others. “With edging capabilities including incline beveling, dynamic beveling, milling and lateral drilling, the Helix has almost no edging limitations,” said Kevin Paddy, director of business development finishing, National Optronics/Satisloh.

ES-4 by Satisloh evolved from its predecessors and continues the legacy of being a durable, reliable and accurate edger. The ES-4 is ideal for high-volume edging operations. Its lathe groove and pin-bevel provides a completely swarf free lens, eliminating any need for additional hand work after processing. Its unique cutting process enables it to easily adapt to difficult lens materials while maintaining productivity and quality.

The most recent offering from Santinelli International is the SE-9090 EXPRESS Plus–PLB8 series, which is the company’s fourth generation 24/7/365 industrial edger. “Our ‘on-axis’ reputation, based on a patented dual spindle technology (i.e., wheels spin in the opposite direction, which eliminates torque) is a key feature,” said Steve Swalgen, national director of lab business, Santinelli International. “The SE-9090 EXPRESS Plus PLB8 diamond luster polish feature is renowned throughout the industry. Its, roll polish, specialty beveling and now high base curve (wraps) edging with the capability to polish the bevel in a high wrap (8 base) job, is entirely unique.” In the robotic format (AES-1500) with the SE-9090 EXPRESS Plus as the base edging element, Santinelli International accomplishes patented 3D drilling and 3D grooving. “By drilling and grooving with coordination mathematically calculated to the individual base curve of the lens, there is significant mitigation of any potential for stress relief (e.g., drill hole) over the life of the lens,” Swalgen explained.

Gerber Coburn serves up two choices: the WECO 990 and WECO 950. Both feature a spacious grinding chamber that is suitable for all lens materials, an enhanced drain for material waste and variable edging and clamping force. A universal grooving/chamfering tool, which provides both front side chamfering and rear side chamfering without needing to change the tool, is standard. Grooving can be done on a small B-sized groove; the width and depth are fully adjustable. Four wheels contain V polishing as standard and enable fast edging (approximately 1 per minute per CR39 lens). Both have the ability to drill and edge in one clamping, which can be configured to a customer’s needs. No compressor is required. Foot pedal operation of lens clamping is available on the WECO 950 only.

The CCE Freestyle, Schneider Optical Machines’s first industrial edging system, which debuted in March, will offer the ability to combine the best attributes of diamond wheel and milling processes. Expect speed, excellent edge quality and the ability to create any complex lens type. The edger will include a first of its kind measuring, sizing and autocalibration system. It can be used for all lens types and can perform drilling, notching and angled specials and uses a proprietary circumference verification system.

Automation Options

The Bisphera-XDD and MonospheraRX-DD, automatic loading industrial edgers, have conveyer belts that move trays along the loading and unloading area--where an automatic arm places the lens in the block handler. The ES-4 also has an integrated conveyor belt and robotic loading device; these are also optional features on the Helix.

Santinelli International has two automated models that use robotic arm technology, which was first developed to handle small microchips and semiconductors. The AES-1000 automates the standalone SE-9090 EXPRESS Plus PLB8, and the AES-1500 accomplishes the same but also adds a separate element called the AHM-1000. This unit does the 3D drilling and 3D grooving and although part of the same robotic handling system, works independently from the 9090 edger.

Some products also have the ability to be included in an automated line. Many of MEI Srl’s clients have connected one of its edger to an existing automated line. The connection can be done in different ways, such as using a stacker and de-stacker loading system (up to 70 positions) or connecting the industrial edger directly to the conveyer belt. Another option is to connect the main conveyer belt to the internal conveyer belt in the machine.

Santinelli International offers both the conveyer systems and stacker systems in its robotic offerings. A lab can choose how the work gets fed into the conveyer system. CCE Freestyle and WECO Edge 990 can be integrated into standard conveyor automation setups as well.

With the Edge 990 blockless, the handling process--from picking raw lenses from a tray to feeding cut lenses in the tray--has been automated. A high-speed lens loader with high precision axis and vacuum suction gripper ensures the best quality in a short time period. One precise loading gripper plus a separate unloading gripper maximizes productivity.

“Any edger, whether it’s automated or not, can be part of an automated line,” Paddy stated. “When a lab thinks automation, it should not only be robotic loading equipment, but also conveyor systems to route work to necessary areas. Conveyors can bring work to non-automated operations and still provide continuous workflow advantages.”

On the Horizon

What will be the next biggest advance in edgers? Frame design and lens material development is driving more specialization requirements in edging and finishing overall, Swalgen said. These needs may very well be addressed by more specialized and industrial standalone edging technologies versus robotics, due to specifics of finish control.

Russell Gagain, product manager, Gerber Coburn, also foresees advances in this arena, most notably ease-of-use and adaptability to frame and lens requirements.

Near future advances will be Edging On Block (EOB), Paddy said. EOB will eliminate the need for conventional finish blocking. A single lens block will carry the lens through the entire operation all the way through surfacing, coating and edging.

Kurt Atchison, president, Schneider Optical Machines Inc., predicted that tracing technology to match the accuracy of a true industrial edger will be available soon. It will provide the first true, precise frame imaging.

The Bottom Line

Advances in edgers will ultimately help a lab save money. “By extending the production rate, the bottom line gets better,” Tortolato said. Paddy explained that the number one reason for breakage is scratches, because the lens is handled more during the finishing process than any other step. Finish automation can reduce scratches by as much as 30 percent, due to the reduction of human touches. Less breakage equals more profit.

Five-axis edging also gives labs an advantage over most of their competition. It allows the lab to create opportunities with new customers such as other labs who may need to send them work that cannot be processed with conventional edgers. This allows the lab to demand a premium for processing these types of jobs, Paddy explained.

EOB reduces labor, consumables and equipment. And, it significantly improves the end quality and accuracy of the product, Paddy added.

Ultimately, Atchison said, by being able to produce both high-production standard lenses and complex finishes at a competitive price, labs can do all processes in-house with a great return on investment.

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Labtalk-November/December 2017