Technology Takes the Lead - Multifunctional Edgers

By Seth J. Bookey
Even if you haven't brought your lab up to speed with the latest finishing technologies, you would really have to be hiding under a rock not to be aware of the changes automated machinery can provide.

Lab owners and managers who have purchased the latest multifunction edgers for very specific reasons, have discovered a variety of benefits from these automated finishing systems, which combine edging with beveling, grooving, and sometimes drilling capabilities all in one machine.

The machines promise faster job turnaround by combining several steps into one machine, as well as integration with other automated functions already in place in some labs. The ability to work on different lens materials on one machine has also been an attraction.

But for all the power these combined-purpose machines provide, some labs have discovered benefits from these machines even when they deliberately turn off or only use certain of these machines' functions. Some labs have even purchased different types of multifunction edgers for different types of jobs.

Keeping Quality Consistent

Lloyd Yazbek, owner of Central Optical in Youngstown, Ohio (which also has a finishing lab in Dayton, Ohio), uses more than one multifunction edger: a Satisloh ES-3 and a Briot Accura Lab. "I have had different edgers from different manufacturers," Yazbek said, "and I 'let the best man win'."

Yazbek noted that compared to five years ago, "the technology we have now allows us to be a better lab in terms of keeping the consistency and quality at a level we never experienced before. It's absolutely incredible. We are the kind of lab that really looks at all the new equipment that's out. To compete, we are going to be positioning ourselves in both the finishing room and the surfacing room to keep ahead of the competition."

At Central Optical, the Briot machine is used mostly for single-vision lens work, and some flat-tops and PALs in the -2.00 D to +2.00 D range with very little cylinder.

"The ES-3 is a workhorse. We can put anything on it," he said. "We use it for plastic and metal frames, and grooving. It's capable of doing any lens with a B measurement of 24 or higher. Lower than that, it roughs it but won't bevel. I was able to retire a few edgers--four of them--when we put in the ES-3."

Having learned how the ES-3 works best for the lab, Central Optical used the Briot Accura Lab in a complementary way. "We wanted to be able to handle the smallest B measurements since they have gained popularity; the consistency and sizing and quality was my main objective," he added.

Don Hampton, lab manager for Diversified Ophthalmics, headquartered in Cincinnati, added a Satisloh ES-3 in March and said, "We're still 'cutting our teeth' on it. The key thing that we've found has been accuracy and consistency in terms of sizing and overall end-product quality. Much better than what we've seen off of conventional edgers." He also noted that there is no swarf left in the grooves of polycarbonate lenses and that the machine allows work in all lens materials to go from edger to bench with minimal handling. "We improved our turnaround and reduced spoilage thus creating capacity to take on more work."

Hampton, too, noted that there are some restrictions for the smaller-edged lenses. "Those go to the conventional edgers. In terms of special bevels, those go to the conventional edgers, too. If we want to be creative, those are routed also. The ES-3 right now is set on a standard setting. Later on we can program it to make adjustments," he said.

But for the jobs they are finishing on the ES-3, he has found that spoilage on polycarbonate lenses has been reduced, and that it is "a consistent machine." Brian Goldstone, president of Express Lens Lab in Fountain Valley, Calif., who is using a 7E from National Optronics, has found that not all functions are created equal. "We do have our machines separated to do certain tasks. Some are set up for small frames and 'half eyes’ and others do a better job polishing edges than others. We turn off the safety bevel feature on all of our edgers. The cycle takes too much time. It's much faster to run the edges of the lens over a hand stone. We also have greater control of the appearance of the safety bevel when done by hand."

It's All Material

At Rooney Optical, with a lab in Cleveland and another in Pennsylvania, where the bulk of their jobs are in polycarbonate, Howard Reidel has found success with Gerber Coburn's Titan and Kappa machines in his Cleveland lab. "I added the machines to what we were already using. I got the Titan for polycarbonate lenses. As busy as we are, I have one person running six edgers for eight hours." Rooney Optical uses the Titan for everything but drilling. When his second Titan machine arrives, he plans to send the Kappa to the Pennsylvania lab.

For Wholesale Optical Supply in Robertsdale, Ala., the main benefit of adding a Topcon ALE-5000 SGII two years ago was that "we can cut glass on it," said lab manager Kenny Stephens, but the lab also appreciates that it does polishing, grooving, and beveling. "We have three other edgers, and we balance out how many jobs we do on them." Rodney Ramsey, director of operations for Classic Optical in Youngstown, Ohio, added a Maxima Speede from AIT Industries in 2003, and has found that it has greatly reduced bevel inconsistency. Ramsey says they used the Maxima mostly for work on polycarbonate lenses. "We can map lenses after they've been roughed in. With older edgers, lenses would be mapped first. Flexing the machine didn't always give consistent bevel."

Learning the Drill

Express Lens Lab's Goldstone, bought the National Optronics 7E "strictly for the drilling capability," he said. "It has improved efficiency, and we have been able to increase the number of drill-mount frame orders each day."

Like many other labs that have purchased a multifunction edger, Goldstone has discovered that the new addition is just that, an addition, not an automatic replacement.

He noted, "Our lab is so busy that the addition of the 7E could not replace what we had before. We are still using our Santanelli Less Stress Drill; although it still requires a more skilled technician, we use it to put out as much as we can in addition to what our 7E can produce. We have every intention of purchasing additional multi-function edgers. It will be great when the database of frame criteria is increased to include all manufacturers and models and sizes." Jim Kirchner, OD, is president of Hi-Tech Optical, Lincoln, Neb., and has been using the Santinelli AES-1500 for about a year. "You never know when you buy a new piece of equipment, but we've been very pleased," he said.

Hi-Tech is all about the drilling. "We are a COLTS certified rimless lab," says Kirchner. "We are using the drilling mechanism heavily, even though we still use our SmartDrill. The AES-1500's autoloader function is so regular and precise that it's been amazing how it's smoothed out our workflow for the whole department."

Kirchner's lab has seen higher job output since adding the Santinelli machine, and he noted that the sizes of the lenses are "right on the button. We hardly hand edge anything anymore. We use remote tracers, and electronic data is fed in."

Reallocating Resources

Just as adding a multifunction edger has not led to the automatic replacement of older machines, it has not led to an automatic loss of personnel, either. At Hi-Tech, adding the Santinelli AES-1500 helped consolidate three or four processes. "One person can use the Verifier Pro, put the pads on, stack the trays, load the edger, and handle that as well. It really made a difference," Kirchner said. The person who used to do edging moved to front-office work. Lloyd Yazbek noted that with the current demand for rimless work, Central Optical has seen more jobs and no one was let go. "We cross-trained them in different areas and took people who worked on the edgers and got them doing blocking. Our workload expanded but not our labor force."

Brian Gamble, manager of quality operations of Eye Care Centers of America's central lab in San Antonio, has been using a Santinelli AES-1500 for a year and a half, and it has helped juggle the lab's jobs. "We added the edger so we can use fewer people. We reallocated people to drilling. This machine does drilling and grooving. I have one of these and six of the AEH-1000, which just does edging." The addition of the AES-1500 did help replace some older edgers, and job volume increased.

For more information about multifunction edgers for wholesale labs, visit the Web sites of their manufacturers.

AIT Industries

Makers of the Maxima Speede

and the new Maxima Evolution.

Briot Weco

Makers of the Accura CL, Accura CX, Accura Lab, and Accura Pro.

Gerber Coburn

Makers of the Titan and the Kappa.

National Optronics

Makers of the 7E and the 7EA

Santinelli International

Makers of the AES-1500



Makers of the ES-3 and the Edge Server.


Makers of the ALE-5000 series.


Labtalk June 2020