Automation and Robotics Celebrates 30 Years of Innovation

By John Fried

Back in 1983, a small group of creative young men in Belgium formed a company that had at its heart a dedication to finding creative technical solutions to the unique challenges faced by its customers. The group was led by Christian Closset who had a background in the automotive industry. Closset knew that in order to stand out from the crowd he had to bring something unique to the market. He set about to create the first of its kind automation technology for industries mired in manual and labor intensive production processes.

It was 1985 when— in cooperation with Buchmann Optical—Automation & Robotics (A&R) produced its first fully-automatic control and packaging system for ophthalmic stock lenses. Other lens manufacturers quickly saw the benefits provided by the A&R system and soon these new systems became widely used in optical lens production plants around the globe.

At the time, the measurement devices used to control the lenses within the automated systems were from outside suppliers. A&R received encouragement from their cus tomers to improve the accuracy and reliability of these measuring devices. That is when Christian Laurent joined the team and headed the A&R research and development effort. Soon he developed the Focovision, which is now recognized as the benchmark for lens power measurement. First installed only in automated systems, the Focovision is now available in stand-alone configurations for lenses that are un-cut or lenses mounted in the frame.

In response to the industrial lens companies who were now beginning to operate prescription labs, A&R turned their attention to automating the inspection and finish blocking process for Rx labs. The first automated approach for the Rx lab incorporated a packaging feature at the end of a complete inspection process for uncut prescription jobs. Since then, the automation technology for inspection, finish blocking, packaging, digital lens inking, laser engraving and lens mapping has been refined to meet a wide range of production throughput requirements. From Rx labs with as few as 500 jobs-per-day to huge labs producing thousands of jobs-per-day, there are A&R automation and instrumentation equipment to meet the need.

Helmut Ahn, sales and marketing director for A&R, who joined the company in 1987, explained, “The commitment driving the company to provide our customers with new and successful technology is a key element behind our success and the main source of our challenges.” He added, “Keeping close to our customers and extending to them an offer of an ongoing partnership makes for a very busy but satisfying work ethic.”

And that work ethic seems to be paying off. A&R just completed another expansion of their manufacturing plant in Verviers, Belgium. There is now expanded office space, a new canteen, and an additional training and demo room. Also, with the addition of another manufacturing hall including a new tooling workshop, the production of the A&R machines and instruments is more efficient.

Closset, A&R president and CEO said, “We are very proud of our first thirty years and the relationships we have made with our customers. In order for us to meet the challenges of the future we need to get even closer to our customers by expanding our network of offices around the world.” A&R recently opened an office in Brazil to add to their current locations of China, Thailand and the United States. The next thirty years is sure to bring even more innovation to A&R customers.


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Labtalk-November/December 2017