An opportunity exists for local ophthalmic lens labs to differentiate themselves from global competitors by offering quality lenses, better client services and much faster delivery times. To ensure fast delivery times – ideally within less than 24 hours – labs need to be closer to their customers. On-site express labs with small space requirements and easy-to-operate machines offer the solution.
Today’s customers increasingly demand the best possible service and the highest quality product, all combined with fast availability. Consequently, short delivery times and the highest possible product performance are essential prerequisites for any successful ophthalmic lens manufacturing business.
Over the past few years, the capacity for traditional European and US manufacturing labs to satisfy these customer demands has been put to the test by labs located in low labour cost countries.
In years gone by, traditional ophthalmic lens labs were significantly hampered by:
Ophthalmic lens manufacturing technology has been significantly advanced so that customer demands can be supplied from on-site micro-labs…
- The need for complete labs, which required too much space;
- Large, complex machines that necessitated a bigger workforce, both for operating and maintaining the machines;
- Large machines that traditionally required production of big batches, thus reducing the flexibility needed to react quickly to fulfill special customised and short-dated orders;
- Long process times.
Ophthalmic lens manufacturing technology has been significantly advanced so that customer demands can be supplied from on-site micro-labs that offer the following:
- Fast process times and ideally fewer operations;
- Processing of small batch sizes;
- Easy-to-operate machines with simplified procedures;
- Reliable processes ensuring the highest quality;
- Compact space requirements and low floor loads.
New Technologies Meeting Demands
From blocking to coating, these new technologies offer the potential to better meet customer demand every step of the way.
Blocking typically takes a long time because of alloy cooling. New alloy-replacement blocking materials minimise this time by eliminating long cool delays. Additionally, the complete blocking process can be eliminated by using mass-produced, pre-blocked blanks.
While surfacing technology is already reasonably fast and flexible, and is available for small batch sizes, there is still room to improve the way a lab in any environment operates. This can be achieved with ease-of-operation and process reliability – simplified tool changing procedures without the need for complex calibration and inherently stable working chamber designs are specific cases in point. Easy operation, low maintenance requirements and reliable processes avoid rejects and ensure that customer demands can be satisfied in any environment.
When it comes to lens coating, time can be saved by carefully choosing the fitting processes. Time-consuming hard coating procedures require long washing and curing cycles; bulky dip-coating equipment needs a lot of space. This traditional process can be replaced by UV-spin coating which is fast, offers uncompromisingly high quality and needs little floor space.
For AR-coating, sputtering technology offers the flexibility of small batch sizes in contrast to traditional box coaters. Additionally, it is much faster and easier to handle.
Table One, for example, shows the advantages (highlighted in blue), in terms of the space required, process times and batch sizes, of the Satisloh OBM Micro Lab running a non-alloy process with Nucleo pre-blocked front side AR-coated blanks.
Micro or Express Labs utilise the latest technologies for easy, compact and rapid lens production. With virtually no space and weight limitations, they offer high quality lens production for small scale labs.
Satisfying all the previously mentioned conditions, Micro Labs take lens manufacturing from a central lab to its express locations, thereby optimising on-site customer service.
Luisa Malo is the project manager for new technologies at Satisloh GmbH, engaged in the integration of these technologies with the customer’s production needs. Ms. Malo holds a degree in automation engineering and worked for five years as lab manager, responsible for the digital surfacing and coating process in Servioptica Ltda, in South America, the largest lab in Colombia.