Tray Accumulation and Storage in Optical Labs has evolved!

By Ken Lento

If you have ever watched the television show Tiny House, Big Living, a show about people building and living luxuriously in very tiny houses—then you know that with some creativity much more can be accomplished in small spaces. This is not much different with optical tray storage, buffering and sorting throughout optical labs. Several companies offer systems that can store bulk trays in an automated way using unused vertical space.

FlexLink’s new solution, called the Tray Hotel, can buffer trays while saving space and executing efficiency.

What these modern and automated tray buffering systems offer for lab customers include:

1. Ability to accumulate trays in a more dense space, while taking advantage of the vertical unused lab space.

2. Flexibility of sorting trays—offering different cool down times for various jobs.

3. Smart routing capabilities: know what is in storage and where it is located.

4. Flexible tray outfeed options: first in, first out; or totally random.

5. Visual quantity of trays in storage.

The Tray Hotel from FlexLink is much like its name. An elevator takes a tray to a level of the hotel (call it a floor) and each floor (conveyor) has a purpose.  For example, there Lab A would like different cool down times for digital versus conventional work.  Floors can be dedicated and configured to achieve these various times.  Lab A would also like to have a priority floor where the trays get a special treatment, or get to leave the hotel first. These trays, when ready, can leave ahead of another tray that has completed the cool down cycle at the same time.

In many cool down systems that have been designed on straight conveyor, the system takes up valuable floor space, blocks the flow of people and costs more to implement. These space saving solutions that are now available open flow and create a more flexible environment. Systems are enclosed that allow for lower noise and increased safety. Enclosed systems also discourage lab operators from picking up trays that are not ready. As it has been said before, let the system handle the trays and not the people.


Trays are transported up on a standard optical elevator and onto a floor (level of conveyor); when ready, they then elevate down to move to another area of the lab.

Incorporating our “smart routing”, which is connected to the Lab Management Software (LMS), trays can have different stay durations inside. The distance between the elevators can be extended to accommodate the desired quantity of trays and extra vertical lanes, providing for more functionality. An enclosure on the side allows for secure access and safety for operators in the lab.

Surely, many lab managers will come up with additional uses and needs as history has indicated with previous and current optical tray solutions. Maybe it will be for customer service holds or shipping sortation for stores or locations, or maybe it will allow sortation of trays to different mounting stations.  Regardless of what need will need to be filled next, we only know that floor space in any lab is at a premium…and has always been a premium and will always be a premium.

The Tray Hotel shown above stores 50 trays in 12 square feet of floor space (about the size of a walk-in closet). The FlexLink Tray Hotel will be available to see at the Vision Expo West Show this year in Las Vegas at the FlexLink Booth #LP8108.

For more information; please contact Ken Lento at [email protected]


Labtalk June 2020