In Optical Blog

fb_img_1476990156300I’m back! Some of you might have noticed that Relf Optical was missing a blog last week.  If you didn’t notice, I’m sad and crushed! Just kidding!

I spent a week in Minneapolis, MN receiving vast amounts of knowledge stuffed into my little brain. Our Optical Lab offers a Dispensing Academy which is a comprehensive look into all things optical. It was, in a word, intense…but in the best possible way! My brain still hurts, so this week I’m sharing more photos from the tour of the lab where all your glasses lenses are made. It was fascinating! I love learning how things are made and could have spent all day there!

Walman Optical processes about 6000 orders daily and is open every day, except for an 8 hour shift on Sunday to clean all the machines. They’re a pretty well-oiled machine!

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The first thing you notice when you enter the lab are the rows and rows of lenses in stock and ready to process!

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Once your lenses are selected, they are placed in a tray to prepare for processing. The blue film protects the lenses from scratching during “blocking”.

Blocking the lenses is the next step.  A metal block is attached to the lens to hold the lens in place while it is surfaced.5lab-blocks

This machine adheres the block to the lens. Typically the block is cushioned and “glued” to the lens via an alloy so the metal does not actually adhere directly to the lens, which protects it from damage.

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These huge scary looking generators are surfacing the lenses. When a lens is surfaced, your unique prescription is ground into the lens. Walman’shas two rows of surfacing machines to increase their production and to generate those 6000 jobs daily!

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These huge scary looking generators are surfacing the lenses. When a lens is surfaced, your unique prescription is ground into the lens. Walman’shas two rows of surfacing machines to increase their production and to generate those 6000 jobs daily!

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Once completed the metal knobs are removed from the lenses, and the metal is melted down for re-use.

Reuse! Recycle!

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These lenses have been surfaced and polished and are ready for the next step!

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Every set of lenses is read and the prescription is confirmed by this machine. Again, another way to increase production and efficiency of jobs processed. The alternative is reading and verifying all 6000 jobs manually.

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Surfacing and polishing lenses creates by-product called SWARF (seriously my favorite optical term to date!!). Swarf is collected in huge bins and disposed of.  Walman’s indicated that they have not yet found a way to recycle and reuse the swarf….but it does make excellent fake snow for your Christmas and winter village landscapes!

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If the lenses do not require any further coating, they are ready to be delivered to our Duluth lab for cutting and edging into your frames. Deliveries are sent out all over the country!

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16lab-ar18lab-arIf the lens order includes an Anti-reflective (AR) coating, the lenses are then routed to the AR lab. This was the coolest part of our tour! The lenses are first dipped into a series of several baths that prepare them for the AR coating. They are then baked in ovens to remove all moisture.

 

 

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These are the machines that are used exclusively for Crizal, which is the brand Relf Optical uses.

Once the lenses are ready, they are added to these dome fixtures to prepare for the AR coating. Each opening is numbered, and the number correlates to an order. And yes…they have dropped the dome before! Yikes!!

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The crucible below holds the several different mineral compounds used to create Crizal AR. Each type of anti-reflective coating uses a different combination/equation of minerals to create their AR. This is why some AR coatings have a blue/purple tone and some are yellow/green.

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And this is the AR oven! The dome fixture is placed at the top and the crucible is placed on the round pedestal at the bottom of the oven. The oven will heat up and the crucible and dome will start to spin incredibly fast! This ionizes the compounds to create a chemical reaction to adhere to the lenses.

For anyone who has seen the movie Twister, I visualize that the part where Dorothy’s sensors are finally sucked into the tornado and they start to record data is similar to how the compounds are swirling up and adhering to the lenses.

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24lab-arovenAR splatter! The lining of the oven is made of tin and is replaced frequently, but I thought this was oh so pretty!

I came away from the tour feeling even more confident in our relationship with Walman! What a fantastic company to work with!

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