Is An AR System in Your Future

By Dave Cuffe
Many factors go into choosing the right AR system to fit your lab’s current and future needs. You’ll need to consider what type of system will work best for the number of jobs you expect to run now and in the future. You’ll review the available space needed and the layout of your lab, taking into consideration that AR requires a much cleaner environment than will be found in the rest of the lab. You’ll want to review the efficiency of the workflow, surface quality and types of employees available to run the AR system. These are just some areas that need to be addressed BEFORE purchasing and installing a new system.

Determining the type of AR system is a top priority. Make sure both the manufacturer and size of the AR coater work for your company. Also, it is important to be sure you have the capacity to grow, while ensuring you select a unit that is not too large or costly. While AR systems are expensive if you do not run enough units through them, you’ll also want to leave room for growth.

Next, be sure to consider your current lab layout in making a purchasing decision. Are you utilizing your current space wisely? As your lab volume has grown, have you designed the equipment layout to fit the growth or have you added equipment where space was available? Something to consider is the more space your surfacing and finishing equipment take up, the more your people become tray movers. Many labs can find the needed space for a new AR system by redesigning the current equipment prior to the installation of an AR clean room and coater. A well thought out layout will create a more efficient workflow and open up additional space.

Most labs feel they produce a quality product, but periodically a review of equipment and process are needed. Is your surfacing equipment getting old? Is your preventive maintenance as good as it needs to be? This is important because an AR coating will emphasize, not hide, any surfacing issues. Work with your suppliers to come up with the best process and products to deliver the highest quality lens surface with the least amount of spoilage or redos before the AR coating is applied.

Along with requiring ample space, an AR system must be strategically placed within the lab. An AR system too far from the surfacing clean-up area will reduce the flow of the lab. In a bad setup, lab employees will have to spend too much time moving trays, therefore losing important production time.

When hiring folks for your coating center, optical knowledge is not the essential consideration; in fact, it may be a detriment! You need people who are meticulous, follow directions completely and have good technical skills. Fortunately, each employee you hire for the AR coating center does not have to have all three skill sets because you need more than one person to run a center. The AR process is much less forgiving than a normal lab process; when the process is muddled, it can lead to field failures of your AR, essentially hurting your sales.

Being successful with in-house AR not only means selecting the right equipment, but considering a myriad of factors. AR should not be considered an add-on but rather a key component of the entire process to make beautiful and functional eyewear. Don’t make this decision alone! Seek help from lens vendors, equipment manufacturers, and consumable suppliers. Ask other lab owners with production numbers similar to your own what they chose and why. Ask them about any issues they ran into and how they solved those issues. Your lab association is a great place to find other lab owners willing to talk about what has worked or not worked for them. Once you have the system in place, letting your customers know about your new capabilities is the next step, but that’s another article for next time.

Written by Dave Cuffe, Chairman of VCA AR Committee.


Labtalk June 2020