GOOD NEWS FOR THE UNDERDOG, Small Equipment that Gives You Big Teeth

By Judith Lee
Have you ever felt like a little dog in a big dog’s fight? Now there’s a way to add bite to your bark. Equipment makers are offering turnkey equipment systems that enable smaller labs and retailers to chomp a chunk of the growing market for digital free-form lenses.

In general, these systems include a surfacing generator, blocker, polisher, laser engraver – and the software to run it all. If you find the sticker price of $250,000 to $350,000 to be steep, remember that purchasing equipment as a package usually will save you 20 to 30 percent over the price of the individual components.
“The logical target market for these systems are those lens processing labs and retail stores which are short on space, have smaller volumes to produce, and/or on a tighter budget,” noted Curt Brey, vice president of marketing for Coburn Technologies.

While the smaller turnkey systems are not necessarily digital, there’s no question the industry is headed that way.
“Conventional processing is still abundant, but it’s apparent that few-to-no new investments will be made in anything other than digital. New systems will be capable of producing any conventional lens or complex free-form design,” observed Schneider president Kurt Atchison.

What’s driving the digital trend? When you get down to it, the end-user, industry leaders say.
“As our industry matures, the trend in general seems to be moving production closer to the end user. This is why manufactures are putting a greater emphasis on digital technology scaled down for lighter production demands,” noted Ian Gregg, director, surfacing products for Satisloh North America.
Industry leaders also predict that as patients become familiar with digitally-surfaced lenses, they will demand the product.
“From a business standpoint, we can name many advantages to digital lenses; significant potential for good ROI, reduced steps resulting in reduced overhead, inventory reductions. But the greatest advantage to digital lenses is providing better vision to the patient. Precision lens surfaces and the ability to achieve power accuracy to 0.01 diopters, allows the patient to see more clearly and vibrantly,” said Augen Optics vice president Patricia Machado.
 
The turnkey systems are attractive because they simplify the lab manager’s life.
“We compare our all-in-one system to the iPad: a simple, easy-to-use, push button system with an intelligent control system. The DSC Prolab minimizes expertise needed and reduces steps. Additional sophistication is okay for a larger lab, but the micro or retail lab needs simplicity and user-friendliness,” Atchison said.

Equipment makers tick off several other advantages to the turnkey systems:
• If there’s a problem, you only have to make one call to one equipment supplier to get it resolved.
• You know the equipment components in the system are compatible to work together.
• The whole system was designed to work together

Established lab owners might think, “We have most of this equipment already, why should we purchase it again?”
Coburn’s Brey said there are some very good reasons: “An established lab may have a successful conventional RX lab already in place but they want to add digital. The cost of smaller, lower volume digital systems will always be less than larger scale systems capable of running all of the work the lab produces. Also, there is less disruption to the existing business during installation of the new line.”

Reducing turnaround time while maintaining quality are compelling reasons, noted Gregg: “The ability to provide the consumer with high-quality digital lens designs and AR coatings in less than an hour will allow a company to maximize profits while maintaining a high service level.”
For those labs who have not committed to digital surfacing, this is not only the latest but also the greatest opportunity to dive in.
“Technology is changing right before our eyes and without offering in-house digital, laboratories are at a high risk of losing their customer base to competitors,” said Machado.
 
In the end, look at your production requirements and then compare it with what the systems offer.
“How many jobs per hour/shift/day do you need to produce?” asks Atchison. “If the integrated system fulfills the requirement, then it makes sense to put all the processes into one pretty package.”

THE EQUIPMENT
DSC PROLAB: SCHNEIDER
DSC Prolab combines generating, polishing, laser marking and measuring, in one compact unit. Each process is based on Schneider digital surfacing technology. The full integration of the lab management system and the lens-design software make the DSC Prolab a self-sufficient surfacing center – all in less than 50 sq. ft. of floor space.
The digital surfacing center automatically coordinates several complex processing steps. The controller of the DSC Prolab organizes all these interactions and decides on needed tools and macros. The operator follows a few easy instructions, all graphically displayed on a single touch screen.
Highlights -
• Fully integrated digital surfacing cell
• Pre-installed LMS
• Compact industrial design
• Using as few as three types of polishing pads to manufacture the whole range of free-form and RX products.
• Integrated washing station cleans lenses right after polishing so coating is easier
• Onboard lens measurement and laser unit

MICRO-LAB: SATISLOH
Satisloh’s Micro-Lab offers a modular concept that can grow as a lab’s business grows. The system boasts full compatibility with leading lab management (LMS) software packages, as well as lens design software modules (LDS). Whether for conventional free-form lens production with alloy blocking or for On-Block Manufacturing (OBM) using pre-blocked lenses, the Satisloh Micro-Lab provides complete digital and AR lens production. The three modular options are:
VFT-Surfacing only - the smallest footprint and half the weight of other lines for modern digital and conventional Rx production, the VFT-micro-line is easy to use and has a low investment entry point.
Micro-Lab (Alloy)-Pair the VFT-micro-line with Satisloh’s UV cure spin coater (Magna-Spin) and the SP-200 back-side AR system to offer AR-coated digital Rx lenses.
Micro Lab (OBM) On-Block Manufacturing -Using OBM licensed pre-blocked lenses as a “process integration platform” allows a lab to process an Rx completely on one block, and combines three departments (surfacing, coating, and finishing) into one integrated production line.
Highlights-
• Both VFT and Micro-Lab works with any LDS and requires digital capable LMS
• Both VFT and Micro-Lab offered with comprehensive consumables and service total support package
VFT-Surfacing only
• Includes integrated mechanical engraving
Micro-Lab (Alloy)-Complete Lab
• Requires OBM licensed front-side AR coated lens blanks
Includes VFT-Micro-line with integrated mechanical engraving, Magna-Spin, SP-200 AR-coating
Micro-Lab (OBM) On-Block Manufacturing
• Completed Rx in less than 1 hour
• All-inclusive: equipment, LMS, LDS, service, and consumables
• Eliminates need for blocking (requires OBM pre-blocked lenses)
• Offered via “pay per use” technology enablement program through partnership with OBM licensed lens vendors

PREMIER LAB: COBURN TECHNOLOGIES
The Premier Lab combines an open architecture design with advanced lens processing equipment. Everything is modular, including the software that automates lens processing, which allows you to tailor the lab to suit your business, whether you have one location or several different offices. Coburn also offers FreeForm Mini Lab, at the heart of which 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. The process can be scaled to meet the specific free-form volume and in many cases can be adapted to work with lab equipment you already have. 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.
Highlights -
• Dry-cut lens generating, no water-reclaiming filtration system needed
• Process all lens materials
• Open architecture design with modular equipment
Premier Lab
• Complete lens processing in only 250 square feet of space
• Process up to 60 lenses an hour with FreeBond thermal plastic blocking material.
FreeForm Mini Lab
• Designed for free-form/digital, cut-to-polish, and traditional Rx lens processing
• Eco-friendly lens blocking
• Free-form surface blocking system
• LaunchPad free-form process allows for free-form polishing on a traditional cylinder machine eliminating the need for expensive free-form polishers
• Scalable free-form process
ALPS
• Designed for free-form/digital, cut-to-polish, and traditional Rx lens processing
• Combines cut-to-polish or digital surfacing with subaperture polishing
• Eco-friendly lens blocking
• Optional 3-Dimensional drill makes it possible to create virtually any lens hole you need
• Scalable to meet the specific volume of your business

EASYFORM INTEGRATED SYSTEM: AUGEN OPTICS
The patented EasyForm Integrated Digital Free-Form Processing System includes the Augen EasyForm FF-V3 Digital Surfacing Generator, Augen FF SB Speed Blocker, Augen FF-2LP Digital Free Form Polisher and the 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. Our system will produce both conventional and free-form lenses. Users can produce any lens design that can be mathematically rendered on the Augen EasyForm system.
Highlights -
• Includes Auge n Lens Design Software, enabling production of free-form Augen HDRx Trinity Progressives and HD Single Vision lenses.
• Produces both conventional and free-form lenses.
• Users can produce any lens design that can be mathematically rendered on the Augen EasyForm system.

CURRENT ISSUE


May/June LabTalk 2017