By William Yee
Not many people would drive a fine German automobile and never do anything to it other than fill the gas tank. No matter how good the vehicle, eventually it would break down. If no maintenance had been performed, no one would question why it eventually broke down. If you pay a lot of money for a fine automobile, you are going to have the oil changed, replace filters, change the tires and have it tuned up. This makes perfect sense to most people, yet this way of thinking doesn’t always seem to translate to our optical manufacturing machines.

Though these modern machines are designed to work for long hours and produce a lot of lenses, they were never intended to run nonstop without scheduled care and maintenance. All machines need to have a small portion of each day set aside to do some maintenance. Any machine, be it generator or polisher should have time set aside for cleaning and inspecting the chamber. Rubber parts need to be inspected for rips and tears. Virtually all rubber parts are protecting critical components. The rubber parts are cheap; the components they protect are not! Cleaning and checking prevents catastrophic failure, downtime, and the need for what can be a costly service call. These rubber parts usually have a life expectancy as well, for example quarterly replacement. Just as a car hood is made to be opened, so too are your access panels. Too often a technician will open a side panel to find a horrible mess, these areas are to be checked and maintained as well, and usually they should be inspected weekly.

Many factors play into the final quality of your lens. Not just the cutting and polishing processes that affect the back but how that lens is held on the front. If your blocker is not maintained then you will receive unwanted prism or incorrect axis. But other machines such as generators and polishers hold onto that block with a collet. No matter the machine, a collet needs to be maintained. They should be inspected, cleaned and greased on a regular basis—usually quarterly. Otherwise they can create quality, thickness and prism issues.

If you buy a Ferrari, you won’t change your tires with what might be on sale at the local shop, you would only replace them with high-quality tires recommended by the professionals. The same needs to be said for the tools inside your machines. Machine companies recommend certain tools not because they want you to buy only from them, but because their processes were specifically designed for those tools often after hundreds of man-hours of testing.

Just as a car runs better after a tune up, your machines can benefit from having a technician regularly inspect your machine and make part replacements. That is not to say that the person who maintains your machines is not skilled, but the guy at Jiffy Lube probably doesn’t know everything about your car either. While the guy at the dealership trains on that specific car regularly. Factory technicians see only their machines and know their machines, whereas your maintenance person must know a lot about every machine from every supplier you use. Typically, no one is more appreciative of the opportunity to have a factory technician in his lab than your maintenance person. They see these times as learning opportunities so that one day you may not need that technician.

Most machines run off of a coolant or slurry system and a chiller. These too need to be maintained on a regular basis. A slurry system that is oversaturated with waste will wear down your pumps as well as flush contaminated materials through your machine. A chiller that never gets flushed begins to grow mold, which clogs lines and prevents heat exchange. These accessories, though minimal in price compared to your machine, can have costly effects on your entire system.

A machine that is well cared for will run far longer and better than a machine that is run constantly without care. Even though in the short run you may think that taking a machine offline to do PM’s reduces production, the larger picture will reflect reduced major component failure, down time waiting on parts, technicians, and alignment will cost you considerably more money and loss of output than scheduled maintenance.

William Yee is a process engineer at Schneider Optical machines. He can be reached regarding questions at (972) 247-4000.


Labtalk June 2020