Expert Advice Jan/Feb 2014

By Staff


A lot has changed since I arrived at Schneider in early 2008. At that time, the usual discussion about digital surfacing equipment involved the following questions: Should I get into it and why? How do I justify the high cost of entry? Who has the best lens designs? Isn’t it more expensive to produce than conventional surfacing? Is it possible digital will just fade away in a few years?

While it’s still important to answer all the questions, it has become very rare that anyone asks me if they should do it or if it is just a temporary technology that will pass. It is here to stay, and those that have gone digital have reaped huge benefits. You’ve already read recent articles in this magazine about success with digital, offering your own private brands and so on. What has changed the most is the tailoring of digital to the entire industry. From our small Prolab system that I call the ‘IPad of digital surfacing’ to our mid-sized Sprint line and the new high-speed automated systems, there’s a fit for every application. At the same time, lens design options are well known and well communicated. Labs I talk to today invariably have a plan about designs and how they will market for success well in advance of machinery discussions.

What’s even better and what makes digital a must have today as opposed to a bit of a mystery it was several years ago, is that it improves any operation. With the process and consumable advancements of the last 24 months, the cost per lens is even lower than conventional surfacing. It has always offered premium lens profits, reduced steps and better optics, but now it offers a lower cost per lens. Hardly imaginable in 2008!

And the last question, ‘What is the life expectancy of free form progressives,’ has been answered without question. Custom made progressives are the new standard. And the opportunities for all types of lens designs with the addition of a complex surface component are only beginning. That’s why there are only two types of labs these days: ones successfully utilizing digital surfacing and others deciding when to make the plunge. With the right fit for any lab type, digital equipment will continue to offer great growth opportunities for the entire industry. Kurt Atchison, President,   Schneider Optical Machines



In the past the task of producing a progressive lens design rested with the lens manufacturer. With the advent of digital surfacing the balance of responsibility has now shifted toward the optical lab and away from the lens manufacturer.

The requirements for measuring progressive lenses produced with a digitally surfaced free-form process must go beyond that of standard progressive lenses. The possibility for variability of near zone placement and power values with free-form as well as the possibility of errors in the manufacturing process simply make the requirement of accurately and consistently taking the measurements on digitally surfaced lenses all the more important.

Measuring the results of a digitally surfaced free-form lens can be grouped into three major areas of interest:

Checking the power measurement in the   reference zones:

a.          Prism reference point.

b.          Distance vision zone.

c.          Near vision zone.

Measuring the progressive design on the lens in comparison with the expected lens design.  Validating the absence of unwanted waves, and aberrations that may have resulted from equipment or process deficiencies.

Ensuring the faithful replication of the digital lens design without unwanted defects in the surface of the lens is not possible with a conventional lensometers alone. Accurate power measurement is a cornerstone for reliable statistical process control, and is fundamental in ensuring manufacturing tolerances, reduction of unnecessary scrap and delivering product that will be accepted by the eye care provider. It follows that in order to control a process for producing lenses by digital surfacing, a digital LensMapping system is needed to provide the lab with the proper assurance and control. John T. Fried, president, A&R Optical Machinery


As a lab owner or operator, you may ask, why digital, why now? The answer comes in many forms depending on your unique environment, but can generally be broken down to three areas: increased efficiency; better service; and of course, greater profits.

One of the greatest benefits to digital surfacing technology is doing more with less. You are no longer constrained by inventory dollars and space limitations, nor do you face the uncertainty of potentially obsolete inventory. Because the progressive design is generated, literally, on a job-to-job basis, you have access to a nearly limitless design portfolio that can change and grow as you do. The digital process itself is more efficient as well: fewer process steps; reduced consumable usage and the waste associated with them; and best of all, no more lap tools. The digital process is much more accurate than traditional surfacing methods and eliminates the “fining” step, a previously high contributor to spoilage.

With the ability to access any number of design configurations, you can tailor your offerings to a wider variety of applications, while maintaining high quality and short delivery times and no special-order lens blanks. Add to that the more efficient process and generally lower spoilage rates and the result is even better service for your customers.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, reduced inventory, lower spoilage rates, greater profits margins, and happy customers all add up to greater profits for your business. Ian Gregg, Director of Surfacing Products, Satisloh North America


Labtalk June 2020