When it Comes to AR…Good Enough is Never Good Enough

By Julie Bos

It’s true: the quest for improved laboratory efficiency and profitability never ends. Talk to any business with outstanding customer loyalty and you’ll learn that “good enough” is never good enough. Optical laboratories are no different. Reaching a healthy balance between attracting new customers, retaining existing ones and keeping a watchful eye on quality (and productivity) is a key responsibility up and down the line.

That’s one reason it pays to use the most advanced equipment you can. Machinery that not only gets the job done, but gets it done right the first time (and with near-zero spoilage) can be a real game-changer.

To explore the most recent innovations in the world of AR coating, we turned to several leading equipment providers, who shared the latest advancements shaping the marketplace. Here’s what we learned.

Boxer 900 from Buhler Leybold Optics

Last year, Buhler Leybold Optics introduced a new member of the Boxer family—the Boxer 900. The newly redesigned Boxer 900 is engineered to have 60 percent increased capacity and productivity while also helping customers enjoy a 30 percent reduction in footprint for additional space-saving benefits.

The Boxer 900 is equipped with a variety of Leybold Optics' production-proven components and the company’s latest technology, such as ion-assisted deposition, electron beam gun evaporation, a turbo pumping system and intelligent software. In addition, the Boxer 900 can apply all of the company’s well-known high-quality AR coatings, such as Optiflex, Brilliant and Eminent, as well as fashion coatings, on variouslens materials and hard coating combinations with in-chamber standard hydrophobic and super hydrophobic coatings.

Delivering a higher loading capacity, combined with a reduction in footprint and faster process cycle times, the Boxer 900 will likely set new benchmarks in terms of low production costs without compromising coating process quality. To learn more about this product, visit www.buhlergroup.com.

Quantum Innovations

In recent months, Quantum Innovations has released several solutions and system advancements designed to improve and accelerate the AR coating process.

Fusion US In-Line Ultra Sonic Cleaning System

 Released in 2016, this system processes one lens at a time, resulting in faster throughput and reduced service time. It offers a small footprint and can process up to 14 pairs per hour.

Fusion M AR Coating System

The Fusion M provides the ultimate flexibility in a small footprint, of applying a process on one lens at a time. For example, it could apply AR on both sides of the lens, then a completely different process (e.g., mirror on the front and AR on the back) for the next lens. It’s all due to the revolutionary in-line coating process. This allows labs to process any coating request without the need to wait until enough orders have accumulated to fill a large batch. The latest advancement is fixturing for AR or mirror coat edged lenses. (Previously, only fixturing for uncut lenses was available.)

 Fusion HC In-Line Hard Coating System

Continuing the momentum created by the Fusion M, the Fusion HC not only supports linear (lean) manufacturing, it introduces the ability to custom select the hard coat index to match the lens selection of each job. Released in 2014, this system currently features one thermal cure hard coat index, a small footprint, fast cycle time and throughput of up to 10 pairs per hour. Later this year, the Fusion HC will also offer a combination of Thermal and UV cure to best index match hard coating to lens index.

Linear Flow Hard Coating Degas Oven

Just released in 2016, this highly affordable system offers a small footprint and a faster cure time of just 45 minutes with throughput of 56 pair per hour (compared to two to three hours for traditional systems). It also accommodates a conveyor system and can be set up as a standard degas system for ultra-sonic cleaning.

Satisloh’s MC-280-X Coating System

The MC-280-X coating system is the newest release from Satisloh for labs seeking big technology but have limited space. Based on the company’s larger MC-380-X, the MC-280-X combines multiple process applications with small batch capabilities for the highest flexibility. The MC-280-X AR coating system delivers the highest quality AR coatings in small batches. It’s capable of producing the top “branded” products in the industry, in addition to the same sophisticated Satisloh AR and mirror coating processes as the big Satisloh box coaters. MC-280-X guarantees the best results.

Satisloh introduced the X-Series in 2010 to provide coating systems that offer unparalleled ease-of-use and productivity. The X-Series delivers 20 percent faster processing time than previous generations, resulting in 10 percent higher productivity per shift. The company’s newest release, the MC-280-X, is smaller than the MC-380-X, with a smaller footprint and lower front-end cost; but fortunately, the same great ease of operation and reliability as its big brother.

The bottom line? The MC-280-X delivers today’s complex coating processes and top tier brands in a smaller package. Ease-of-lens cleaning comes from premium top coat solutions with Oleophobic properties like Satisloh’s Satin. Adding a conductive layer gives an antistatic property to the AR, helping to keep lenses clean longer by repelling highly charged airborne particles that would otherwise stick to the surface due to static. To learn more about this product, visit www.satisloh.com.


Top Tips for Improving  AR Processing

To ensure your lab is producing the highest quality AR product, our experts offer the following tips:

•Always remember to conduct consistent preventative maintenance on all of your coating machines and supporting equipment.

• Pay close attention to cleanliness. Dirt is the enemy of the AR coating process, just like it is in other areas of the lab. Having a Clean Room is strongly recommended.

• Use a high-quality hard coating system that is specific for AR coating (instead of a general purpose Rx lab spin coater). One good choice is Satisloh’s solvent-based Magna-Spin coater, which delivers equal quality as a thermal dip coater. Or for high-volume labs, consider one of Satisloh’s best-in-class dip coaters.

• One of the easiest ways to quickly test if the lens has a Super Hydrophobic/Oleophobic (SHP) coating is to use a “Sharpie” pen and write across the lens. If it “beads up” on the lens, it has SHP properties. If it looks more like a straight line it’s probably a basic Hydrophobic coating (or the SHP wasn’t applied correctly).

• When cleaning frames with lenses that are AR coated, don’t use an ultra-sonic cleaning system or warm in a salt pan. Remove lenses before using either of these. Ultra-Sonics can lead to the breakdown of the coating.


Coating Trends at Work

Because the coating industry is ever-changing, labs seeking leadership in the industry must also continually evolve to keep up. That’s why many labs are already addressing (or preparing to address) a few of today’s top trends, such as:

• Blue Light Blocking: More and more consumers are using computers, tablets, smartphones and other hand-held devices that emit blue light, which can be harmful to their eyes. One current trend in the coating industry is to block blue light from today’s portable electronics and desktop computers. More and more equipment providers are developing protective blue light blocking coating, which will likely grow in popularity for tech-friendly consumers. 

• Reducing UV Light for Active Lifestyles: Other consumers are enjoying more active lifestyles and spend extended periods of time outdoors. So another trend in AR coating is to reduce the UV light reflecting back into people’s eyes. Today’s coating experts are creating coatings that reduce the amount of damaging UV light that gets reflected into eyes off the back surface of the lenses. 

• Faster Turnaround for Mirror Coating: Many experts also believe mirror coatings will increase in popularity going forward. In the past, mirrors scratched easily and were time-intensive to make. New advancements in mirror coatings make these solutions more scratch-resistant; and combined with inline coating systems, can be created without waiting for batch processing. Today, they can be made same-day, without delay, thus improving service to both the optician and the customer.

• More Advancements on the Horizon: Some manufacturers believe the future of AR will also include the use of more high-tech monitoring systems that will allow for more uniform application of layers, as well as new coating processes that will allow people to see better in all conditions, and new scratch-resistant coating processes that include very high Bayer ratings.


Labtalk June 2020