Your Generator: Could it Use a Little Love?

By Judith Lee

Think of your generator as the great beating heart of your surfacing operation. Like the human heart, its importance can be overlooked in the crush of daily production—but you do so at your own peril. Fortunately, while you’ve been focusing on your optical lab performance, manufacturers have been thinking about how to support and improve your generator. Like a personal trainer for your lab, their new models and enhancements may be “just what the doctor ordered” for the future of your business.

LabTalk asked each manufacturer to answer one question: “For labs looking to improve their surfacing line by either buying a new generator or adding improvements to a current generator, what key features should they be focusing on to remain viable in the coming years?”


“There are many considerations that a lab needs to keep in mind when purchasing a new generator aside from just the cost of ownership. These are: strong support from the manufacturer, size, throughput requirements, and impact on your current processes and job flow. If you are only adding on to existing production lines sometimes a smaller footprint and lower impact on your lab are more important than throughput. If you are retooling your entire production line, throughput may be more critical and the lab layout can be designed around a larger, higher, throughput generator. Often impact on processes and work flow are greatly overlooked in the decision making process. A smaller footprint and a simple user interface will minimize the impact on work flow in your lab by not interrupting your current layout and having a minimal learning curve for your operators.” Matthew Brown, senior sales support engineer

Coburn’s latest free-form generator, the Cobalt LTE, delivers wet-cut quality results without the need for a water management system, and only requires approximately 20 sq/ft of lab space, inclusive of all ancillary equipment. The generator features Coburn’s proven mist-cut generating technology as well as air bearing, voice coil, and direct drive technology to increase cutting accuracy and lens throughput.  The Cobalt LTE lens generator is ideally suited for small and mid-sized laboratories to produce digital and traditional RX lenses, and can be integrated with either the Cobalt DP polisher, other qualified competitor soft-tool polishers, and  Coburn's LaunchPad polishing technology.


“The key generator features that will prove to be lasting technology over the next several years are: 1) cost per lens ratio, a requirement that hasn’t changed over the years, and 2) expanded curve range with better surface quality.  As all things go to digital surfacing, we see that the original curve limitations, for example of approximately 14 diopters, are greatly improved upon—up to 18 diopters and beyond. That extra 4 diopters fills in, what is in some cases, a substantial amount of work for a lab.  And surface roughness after generating is improving as well.  Reduced surface roughness equals easier polishing and fewer defects. The conclusion is that you have to combine pure speed and therefore cost per lens with better surface quality and geometry than ever before.  In this way, digital has become a technology to replace conventional surfacing, whereas before it was a supplemental technology that could not always handle the entire range of lenses.” Kurt Atchison, president

Schneider’s new HSC Modulo XT includes many new technical developments that make it one of the fastest and most reliable high-production digital generators. Ease-of-use and reliability were added, even as raw speed and lens quality were enhanced.  

A new dynamic motor philosophy raises the bar in acceleration, robustness and uptime. Together with newly designed high-frequency drives and controllers that reach extreme accelerations, the HSC Modulo XT offers very fast milling and turning processes. Schneider reports that the industry response to this machine has been overwhelming. The new speed paradigm combines with radically improved surface quality and reliability. And as part of the Modulo family, this generator can be integrated into the highly integrated Modulo production cell. Labs can either startup with an integrated Modulo cell or purchase the HSC Modulo XT as a stand-alone machine for pure speed and accuracy, which can be integrated at a future time. 


“The short answer, of course, is better, faster, cheaper. Any manufacturing enterprise should have the mindset of continuous improvement, and the optical lab is no different. Finding ways to improve quality, provide better turnaround time, and reduce manufacturing costs should be a daily activity. If capital is not available for the latest model generator, there may be ways to get more out of your current machine. At Satisloh, we have taken the most successful generator in the history of the optical industry and brought it to a whole new level with the release of two new Performance Packages for VFT-orbit. The Performance Speed package increases throughput up to 20 percent and the Performance PCD package allows digital processing using PCD tooling rather than more expensive MCD technology. This provides high-quality surfaces at a fraction of the cost.” Ian Gregg, director of sales

VFT-Orbit Performance Packages break the old limits: go beyond 80 lenses per hour and reduce cost per lens. Performance Package Speed offers improved quality on all lens materials and increased machine uptime combined with less maintenance (re-sharpening service available). The higher speed means increased yield and lower cost-per-lens.

Results of fast milling actions include:

• Quicker milling of Polycarbonate due to adaptive milling

• 12 teeth cutter

• Customized macros

• Machine settings that speed up the machine

Throughput increases of up to 15 to 20 percent can  be expected.    

Performance Package PCD is planned to be available in May/June. This package includes new tool holder, macro settings, and a new filtering and pressure system. One new tool for CR-39 and High Index (including Free-Form) will be released first, then one new PCD tool to cut Poly and Trivex (including Free-Form). The package also includes a new tool holder with an integrated coolant nozzle that points to the edge of the cutting tip, swarf filtering to avoid obstructing the coolant nozzle, plus new and advanced macros. Benefits include direct cooling of turning tip, faster turning, avoid swarf, and increased yield. For CR-39 and High Index, there is lower tool cost. For polycarbonate, there is lower consumable cost.

OptoTech Machinery US

“OptoTech currently sees two main trends:

1. Maximum individualization in low quantities

This requires flexible machinery that is able to produce any lens design available in the market, like our FLASH store, developed for in-store production. The OptoTech store-concept has especially been developed for ecological, block-free processing of digital lenses. This machine is also capable of using older blocking technology for conventional surfacing and by adding a small combination polisher/engraver, you can also use it for digital technology.

2. Large scale production of high-end lenses

Our newest concept (introduced at MIDO 2015) allows our customers to significantly increase their output with minimum investment costs. While using existing digital or even conventional generators as pre-surfacing machines, our new FLASH Twin-A will be responsible for the fining process, producing high-end digital lenses. Our FLASH Twin-A is currently the fastest turning machine available on the market, offering an output of up to 240 digital lenses per hour.” Jeffrey D. Grumbling, COO

ASM Flash Twin A is designed for the production of free-form surfaces (elliptical and chamfer) in progressive, spherical, toric and atoric lenses with prismatic, concave or convex surfaces made of CR-39, Polycarbonate and Trivex. By utilizing two Fasttools, the FLASH Twin-A is able to simultaneously process two free-form lenses. Considerably increased speed of the tool spindles, combined with a high-class air bearing for the work piece spindles, leads to significant improvements in quality and quantity. A high-dynamic drive concept combined with an ultrafast computer controller enables the highest precision in free-form surfacing within shortest processing times. Other features include:

• Automatic loading system

• Machine base made of rigid mineral cast

• FastTool high speed linear drive

• Options: Coolant tank, barcode hand scanner, remote diagnosis, LAN connection


“The addition of a digital surfacing feature is the key for the lab to continue to be competitive.” Henry Zheng, owner

After acquiring DAC digital surfacing generators, Chemat has finely tuned the Chemat Chemalux CTC generator to be able to produce surfaced lenses that go directly to hard coating without polishing. 

The Chemat Chemalux CTC Freeform Lab System has the following features and benefits:

1. Compact - less than 200 sq. feet of space needed

2. Simple - no polishing or laser engraving

3. Clean - no waste from wet generating and polishing

4. Low Cost Ownership - as low as $200/day

5. Precision Optics -true digital surfacing process


“To remain viable for years to come, it is critically important for labs to prioritize selecting a vendor with a solid reputation for customer care and support. Labs need to work with an equipment vendor who, like Optek, sees a support call as an opportunity to strengthen a business partnership and NOT as an inconvenience or an opportunity to extract service fees.” John Johnson, marketing director

The Contour MAX generator improves upon conventional generating by adding the ability to process high-curves and other “specials.” Through advanced mechanical and software technology, Contour MAX delivers high levels of accuracy, speed, dependability, and operational simplicity. Key features include a touch screen control system, graphical display of lenses and lap tools (provides an extra level of job validation), quiet operation, while cutting all supported lens materials with the same cutter. The design of Contour Max is based on proven, efficient, and reliable three-axis mill technology. Other benefits include: high-speed, long-life spindle motor, polycrystalline diamond cutter, sealed grind chamber to minimize debris contamination of machine components, and enclosure constructed of heavy duty gauge sound-insulated sheet metal.






Labtalk June 2020