Cutting Costs with Consumables

By Julie Bos
All too often, optical laboratories think increasing sales is the only way to boost profits. Yet cost-cutting, when done selectively and intelligently, can often be a faster and easier path to higher profits.

Whether your lab is still recovering from the economic downturn, coping with a cash-flow crisis, or just looking for ways to cut costs to improve your company’s profitability, here are a few simple ways to trim expenses in one major area of your business—consumables. Making the switch to some of the latest consumable products may help your lab witness even further gains.

To assemble the most relevant cost-cutting strategies and product recommendations, we sought input from several of today’s leading consumables manufacturers. Here’s the advice we received from DAC Vision, Gerber Coburn, Practical Systems, Inc. (PSI) and Satisloh:

Smart Strategies to Implement Today 1) Check your coolant concentration at least daily, using a simple hand-held refractometer.

Utilizing a refractometer accurately measures coolant levels—eliminating potential waste from adding unnecessary coolant. Maintaining appropriate coolant levels will keep your generators running efficiently and at peak performance. Remember, proper coolant mixture also extends the life of diamonds on generating tools, which in turn, produces optimum surface quality.

2) Save time and reworks by using pads and polishes that work together.

A well devised pad and polish system will maximize production while producing high quality lens surfaces. This enables your lab to save time and money while reducing your spoilage. Selecting new abrasive pad structures, such as PSI’s Red Revolution, can provide aggressive take-off but yield a high surface quality at reduced cycle times. By pairing those with PSI’s Maize HD polish pad that has a polish cycle time of only five minutes, your lab can match your fining times more closely to your polishing times, enabling you to maximize production and lens quality.

3) Make sure you’re using a quality coolant in your generators and edgers.

A coolant designed for the optical industry, such as PSI’s PractiCool, can be used in any lab system including digital lines. Coolants raise production efficiencies and prolong the lives of cutter wheels and blades.

4) Choose consumables based on your lab’s individual production needs.

Your lab may need low cost, high performance or a combination of both. Once you know your needs, you can develop a custom strategy based on the many consumable products on the market. Remember, products are very specific to an application, equipment and the quality result that is trying to be achieved. In many cases, the individual mix of materials will dictate the precise consumables needed to produce successful quality lenses.

5) Remember: Successful polishing isn’t just a matter of polishing pads.

Successful polishing also requires good quality polish at a low temperature. To reach this goal, your lab needs quality equipment that maintains the right baume and temperature. Partner with a solution provider that offers a complete understanding of the whole process, rather than just one component of your finishing and surfacing consumable needs.

Products That Help You Save Money

The old adage “you get what you pay for” is true with almost anything you buy—but especially true when it comes to lab consumables. Consider products that reduce spoilage while improving surface quality and throughput to be those that bring true value. Here are some products to consider:

DAC Vision

Velocity One-Step Fining Pads (for Polycarbonate), Lumina Polish Pads and Quattro Advanced Lens Polish – These new offerings can help your lab tailor products to your specific needs. Quattro allows you to reduce polish times from the standard six minutes to four minutes, which improves throughput by 33 percent, while Velocity’s reduced fining times allow work flow from the fining to polishing machine to remain constant. The unique design of Lumina reduces “pad carryout,” which optimizes polish consumption. All three work in unison to increase productivity and surface quality, while providing an excellent foundation for coatings. Additionally, the new chemistry of Quattro is equipment friendly, which improves the life of expensive machine parts.

New Stellar Finishing Blocks – These blocks offer a unique solution for today’s challenging narrow “B” lenses. The oval design extends holding power on such lenses in the “A” direction, while the star-shaped center relief of Stellar pads allows flexibility on the lens side without compromising the block’s top-side strength. When used in conjunction with DAC Vision’s matching shapes in BluEdge or HydroEdge finishing pads, these blocks offer optimum holding power, even on today’s super hydrophobic coated lenses, resulting in less spoilage in the finish room.

Gerber Coburn

A-MazeN Polishing Pad – This pad features a unique polishing material that offers something no other product on the market does. It has unique dimples that provide a superior finish by allowing the polish to stay on the lens where the work is being done. This saves you both time and money. The A-MazeN pad has a poly-cotton textile carrier coated with precision cut rayon-flocked fiber. This A-MazeN material is environmentally friendly as the textile is coated with a low-tack, natural rubber, pressure-sensitive adhesive for temporary positioning on bare lap tools with residue-free removal. The pad is also made with A-MazeN manufacturing accuracies to give you less loss of fibers and dye to prevent contamination to your polishes.

Val-U-Line Advantage Pad – Your lab may be more interested in just polishing CR-39 lenses, and you may have enough of them that you can dedicate a polishing line. In this case, a value product may process all of your CR-39 work at a fraction of the cost. The Val-U-Line Advantage pad has a poly-cotton textile carrier coated with precision-cut rayon-flocked blended fibers. Its textile is coated with a low-tack, natural rubber, pressure-sensitive adhesive for firm and temporary positioning on bare lap tools.

Top Five Quick Tips

• Purchase quality equipment and do your homework.

• Maintain your equipment and keep it calibrated. This will reduce re-work.

• If you’re not qualified, pay your vendors for a yearly maintenance visit. This may save you money in costly downtime and repairs.

• Purchase quality consumables that match the specific lenses being processed. If you’re blocking AR coated lenses, use blocking pads designed for AR lenses.

• Remember not all products are the same—even if they’re the same color! Practical Systems, Inc. (PSI) Red Revolution One-Step Pad for All Materials – This pad offers a new abrasive system that can reduce cycle times by as much as 50 percent under the right operating conditions, saving time and money. The abrasive structure is precisely graded to achieve a high surface quality on all plastic lens materials and consistent stock removal.

Maize HD Polish Pad – Featuring the newest polish pad material available, this pad also offers a reduced cycle time of five minutes on all materials. New manufacturing technologies have produced a highly durable yet thinner polish pad that provides crystal clear lenses. It’s also environmentally friendly with natural rubber. Plus, less dye and low-density fibers keep slurries cleaner and reduce polish carry out.

PractiCool Coolant – This production-proven coolant is designed specifically for the optical industry. It works excellently in all generating and edging systems, including digital lines. It’s fully synthetic and water-based, and contains a special polymeric additive to provide rapid swarf settling, thus keeping the wheels clean. PractiCool also includes a rust inhibitor for superior corrosion protection for all machine surfaces and biocides to keep lines free from foul odors. PractiCool is non-toxic, biodegradable and non-foaming.


A.C.T. (Accelerated Cycle Time) System – Ideal for customers using conventional (non-digital) processing, this system can drastically reduce fining and polishing cycle times—up to 39 percent—without requiring you to invest in new, expensive equipment or add more employees. The system is comprised of three exclusive Satisloh products:

• P800 Abrasive Fining Pad – A one-step pad for all materials

• Ultimate White Polishing Pad – For plastics, poly and hi index

• Newly developed Poly Pro Plus Polish A Satisloh Best Practices representative can analyze your lab’s needs before finalizing a customized implementation. The customized utilization of A.C.T. maximizes your lab’s output—up to 25 percent—in a standard layout (two finers, five polishers) while processing high-quality lens surfaces.

Putting It All Together

Cutting costs shouldn’t just be a viable tactic when your business or the economy is going through a downturn. It always makes sense to keep a sharp eye on your costs. Implement one or more of these consumables strategies today, and be on the lookout for some improvements in your bottom line.


Labtalk June 2020