EDGING OUT THE COMPETITION

By Julie Bos
By Julie Bos

As the old saying goes, “Time is money.” And one place where that’s certainly true is in a high-production environment like a lens laboratory. If you’re not careful, every speed bump and slip-up leads to production delays and lower productivity, ultimately affecting your bottom-line profitability.

Like all lab equipment, edging technology can be either friend or foe, depending on your edger’s age, speed, features and level of automation. As your aging edger starts to experience lessening quality for first-time fits—and can no longer keep up with today’s lens and frame challenges—it may be time for an upgrade.

MAKING THE CASE

“In most cases, newer technology equates to more features, but more importantly, faster processing speeds,” said Jason Smith, communications director at Coburn Technologies. “That means shorter processing times per job and more jobs per hour.”

A proliferation of contemporary lens styles is further driving the demand for the latest edger technologies.

“With a wide variety of fashion-oriented frames available, there are many that require multiple bevels, drill holes, slots and grooves,” said Kevin Cross, sales director at Schneider. “With 5 axis edging technology, these frames can now be edged with maximum speed and to a very tight tolerance ensuring high first-pass yields in an automated environment.”

ADVANCED FEATURES: KEY TO STAYING COMPETITIVE

As competition between labs continues to grow, labs must look for new ways to set themselves apart from others. One way to do that is through 5 axis technology.

“While 5 axis edging has been available for awhile now, the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage with this technology still remains,” said Kevin Paddy, director-finishing at Satisloh. “By adding 5 axis edging technology to your lab, not only do you keep work in-house, the lab creates a new opportunity to generate revenue in an otherwise limited profitable area. Plus the technology adds the competitiveness to entice new customers. In the down economy, if a lab is not maintaining or growing their business, it is an absolute necessity to invest in 5 axis edging.”

DOLLARS AND SENSE

There’s no doubt that upgrading to a more advanced edger can also make a dramatic impact on your lab’s bottom line.

With the introduction of new frame styles every day, it’s important for labs to be able to process the lens types needed to fit them. Complicated lens types often equate to higher profit for labs, as long as they have the equipment to run the job efficiently.

“Advanced edging technology can give labs the assurance of knowing they can take on more complex work confidently—and not have to send jobs out to other labs, thereby losing potential profitability,” said Steve Swalgen, Santinelli’s national director of lab business.

ARE YOU READY FOR AN EDGER UPGRADE? INDUSTRY EXPERTS CHIME IN

Despite the obvious benefits, investing in new equipment can be costly, and therefore, should be considered carefully. In a cost-conscious environment, labs must justify the expense—and the timing has to be right.

Yet how do you know when you’re there? To help you make the right purchase decision, we’ve gathered insights from several of today’s top edging technology experts, including Briot USA, Coburn Technologies, MEI Systems, Santinelli, Satisloh and Schneider Optical Machines. Consider these questions and answers.

Q. WHAT NEW TECHNOLOGIES   ARE AVAILABLE NOW?

A. If it’s been awhile since you’ve surveyed the market’s latest edging technologies, you’ll be delighted to discover that modern edgers are packed with innovative features, including:

  • Camera imaging for pattern and drill-mount recognition
  • Ability to address high-base curve (wrap) jobs, often with complex bevel and shelf beveling needs due to more meticulous frame designs
  • Shape editors that enable operators to produce any shape lens with a few keystrokes
  • Non-tactile measuring systems that can measure and reproduce a lens to exact specifications, ensuring an optimal fit to the frame
  • The ability to edge, drill, slot, groove, bevel and polishall in one machine

Q. WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME   FOR AN EDGER UPGRADE?

A. According to Katherine Allen at Briot USA, production trends and breakage statistics are excellent indicators that a new edger may be in order.

Jason Smith at Coburn agrees, stating that an edger upgrade is also wise if your service and repair costs are so high your ROI is taking a hit; or if the number of specialty jobs is increasing to the point where you’d have better ROI with an edger that could handle all job types (e.g., drilling, milling and beveling).

Q. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS   OF AUTOMATED EDGERS?

A. Automation has several benefits, most notably that labs can increase production without the need to add staff. This can make a lot of sense in labs that rely on insurance reimbursements or have a significant finish percentage.

Automating edging technology is also a great way for labs to reduce labor costs and improve consistency. It’s also critical when a lab wants to expand or increase operating hours. To maximize efficiency, labs can run their automated equipment the maximum number of hours per day; and many operations have incorporated automatic feed systems, allowing their equipment to continue production even beyond normal hours of operation.

Q. WHEN DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO BRING   IN A SECOND EDGER FOR A DEDICATED   (OR AUTOMATED) LINE?

A. Some jobs require extra steps or more involved processing to complete. In some cases, this can take up to twice as long as a standard job. By adding a second edger for these complex job types, you can avoid bottlenecks with the normal high-volume job flow. Complex jobs often mean higher margin, which translates into higher profits for a lab. So these are jobs you want to keep running.

Therefore, your individual run-rate of these complex jobs will help determine if the volume is high enough to warrant another machine.

In addition, if your lab is doing 100+ finish jobs per day, it makes sense to seriously evaluate automated edgers versus adding additional staff and a manual edger. Also, if your spoilage in the finish department is routinely at or above five percent, an automated edger may be a wise investment.

Q. WHAT ARE THE NEWEST ADVANCEMENTS   IN EDGING TECHNOLOGY?

Edging innovations can be seen on several exciting fronts:

Camera imaging for complex shape edging: This feature eliminates the complicated process of electronic pattern creation that requires high skill levels and experience.

  • Complex edging with true 5 axis edging technology: For years, many frames simply could not be Rx’ed or took a tremendous amount of time with a poor finish quality. Five-axis edgers have not only provided the ability to process complex jobs, they have also been automated to streamline productivity. They also enable labs to finish almost any type of job with high first-pass yields.
  • Better user interfaces: Edgers now have a more user friendly interface than ever before and training can be completed within a few hours. That means just about anyone can be trained. This can help you cross-train your staff and reduce overall staff costs.
  • Excellent tracing and communication: The investments being made in design-centric tabletop edgers, robust tabletop industrial edgers, robotic lens handling systems and 5 axis dry cut milling advancements are paramount achievements available to labs of all sizes. These advancements enable many labs to not only survive the continued corporate consolidation of the industry, but to also thrive.

Q. WHAT SHOULD LABS LOOK FOR IN   A QUALITY EDGING SYSTEM?

According to Allen, Briot USA, labs should seek practical features that help solve actual problems faced in real production environments. In addition, the right edger should be easy to learn, easy to operate and maintain, and offer good technical support capabilities.

Of course, you also want consistent performance, job-to-job finish quality and manufacturer support well beyond the warranty period (including training and updating). Labs may also benefit from a 5 axis machine with onboard shape editing capabilities and the ability to process all bevels, drills, slots and polished edges in one machine.

“Choosing the right edger all depends on your business model or where your immediate needs are,” said Paddy, Satisloh. “For labs needing to gain efficiency, automated edging is likely the best option. For labs already automated or looking to expand their business, complex edging with a 5 axis edger would be an ideal option.”

Q. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE FOR LABS   CONSIDERING AN EDGER UPGRADE?

Our experts provided several valuable tips when approaching an upgrade strategy. Consider these best practices for success:

  • Have an upgrade plan in place before facing theimmediate need for a replacement.
  • Make sure your machines have an upgrade path so you can expand your feature-set when you are ready, without having to purchase a whole new machine.
  • Shop around so you can realize the full potential of modern technologies.
  • Talk with a variety of equipment manufacturers and carefully evaluate their offerings.
  • Ask the edging manufacturer to provide references that you can call or visit to see the equipment infull production.

WHAT’S NEW IN EDGING?

Here’s a glimpse of some of the newest edging   technologies available.

 

Alta Zd Edger and Alta XLd Centering Device

Briot USA’s new Alta Zd edger offers distinct software and capabilities that ensure customized and best aesthetic fit for high wrap frames, complex patterns and customized lens shapes. This versatile, high-speed machine’s small finishing wheel allows for elaborate finishing while reducing the use of the drill/mill tool. Plus it offers a partial processing function and the ability to combine a groove together with a V-Bevel.

Labs can further optimize time spent in the workshop with the Alta XLd centering device. It offers Scanform technology to measure frame shape in four dimensions (size, shape, curvature, thickness) to ensure precise fit. Plus it features Briot’s PROS automatic drill hole placement technology and Digiform function to modify custom rimless lens shapes.

ES-Curve Edger

Satisloh recently re-designed and re-launched the ES-curve, a 5 axis edger. The ES-curve now offers a more industrialized platform, as well as a refined software system capable of processing the simplest to the most complex Rx jobs. As part of the re-launch, labs can take advantage of the shelving quality and capabilities no other 5 axis edger can offer.

 






Exxpert Finishing System Series

Now available from Coburn Technologies, the Exxpert series provides the versatility and efficiency that today’s low-to-medium volume labs require. All the finishing processes, from tracing to edging, are fully optimized with advanced 3-Dimensional Digital Technology for optimizing productivity. Each system features customized lens edging and the graphical display guides you through easier handling from beginning to end. Beveling, polishing, grooving and safety beveling processes are completely integrated and easily performed by a simple touch of a button.

Exxpert HPE-8000 series seamlessly finishes plastic, hi-index, polycarbonate and Trivex, offering the widest range of bevel options available. With accelerated long-life milling technology, super hydrophobic axis twisting is eliminated, and with the optional drill unit, virtually any lens shape or hole pattern is possible.

Exxpert HAB-8000 is a one-stop solution, combining the functions of a tracer, lensmeter and auto blocker in one powerful, compact machine. It offers fully automated lens centering and blocking at the push of a button.

HSE Freestyle

Schneider strives to help every person get an individually corrected free form progressive, along with full freedom to combine optimal function and virtually any form of frame they like. HSE Freestyle helps today’s labs advance this goal. Designed to the same high standards as Schneider’s surfacing and coating solutions, the HSE Freestyle edger kicks off a new era of high-tech industrial processing—from standard Rx frames up to the latest complex styles—all in one machine.

 



New Offerings from Santinelli

The new Santinelli high-wrap tracing technologies (LT-980/LT-1200) have already begun to significantly affect labs’ first-time fit ratios. The fulcrum-based and low-pressure stylus mechanisms are giving tracing accuracy a new name. Even the most severe base curvature frames are easily traced by way of the tracer’s unique composite tracing feature.

The Santinelli SE-9090-Supra industrial edger, now in its fourth generation, includes in-chamber grooving, high wrap customizable shelf beveling and high wrap bevel polish. This industrial 24/7 tabletop edger is developed in an intuitive manner that makes screen navigation and monitoring simple and extremely user friendly. The adaption of 2 SE-9090-Supra units to the Santinelli AES-2200 robotic provides high-volume throughput in a small footprint accommodating any volume labs need.

In early 2014, the company will also begin selling the X-trimer SE-1—a true 5 axis dry cut milling industrial platform that matches specialization capabilities of its most design-centric tabletop edgers (ME-1200) yet performs at light-speed levels of jobs-per-hour throughput in comparison. The ability to input individual job tray customization (and permanent storage) without direct involvement of the lab management software via the proprietary iRx server and iRx editor features brings into play a level of job manipulation that would have previously required either a manual edger or more complex LMS engagement, thus slowing down production.

TBA Unit

Last year, MEI Systems launched its TBA Unit, which combines the lens inspection, orientation and loading operations into a single, internal process, eliminating the need of a finishing block. Now TBA can process single vision, progressive and bifocal lenses, with functions for gradient tinted and polarized lenses. Many labs have already implemented this new technology on their Bisphera-XDD and DoubleRX-DD, reducing consumable and manpower costs, without investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in an inspection/blocking unit. Additional advantages are the time savings and the opportunity to smooth the entire process.

 

Shape Finder Optical Scanning Device

MEI also unveiled Shape Finder, a scanning device designed to be integrated with the MEI Tecnocam programming platform and is able to reduce typical distortion errors with standard camera-based units. Using this device, labs can dramatically reduce the time needed to import a sport lens shape or detect holes in rimless demo lenses.


CURRENT ISSUE


August/September LabTalk 2017