Why You Should Buy An Edger and Do In-Office Finishing For Your Optical
The robot that grinds lenses in your in-office laboratory is a profit generating capital piece of equipment. It might seem intimidating to learn how to program a machine to cut a pair of lenses to the exact shape of a frame to the nearest 1/100 of a millimeter, but let’s be honest…a 10 year old could do it.
An edger in your office allows eye care professionals to be in control of speed, quality, and pricing.
You likely have been in that situation numerous times wondering why a pair of glasses is taking 2-4 weeks to complete? It’s just a simple plastic progressive lens with a premium anti-reflective coating going into an acetate frame, what could be so complicated? The truth is laboratories are assembly lines and things happen. Equipment breaks, people type in the wrong data, items get lost, employees don’t show up to work, lenses are mishandled, etc.
You can combat all this craziness by using a stock lens inventory or ordering less expensive uncut lenses and edging them yourself. Uncut lenses from labs generally can arrive in your office in 24-72 hours. This will create less headaches for you knowing the lenses are in your possession quickly.
Don’t be afraid about screwing up expensive progressive lenses in the edger (like not blocking correctly or a lens slipping or breaking).
The edger does not know how expensive a lens is. It treats every lens the same when it cuts it. A good laboratory will understand you have spoilage in your in-office-lab too and will replace the lens at $0 charge many times. Just don’t make it a frequent occurrence with 30% of your work and you will be okay.
Furthermore, an added benefit of edging your own lenses is you can control the cosmetics of lenses within the frame by adjusting bevel placement, safety bevels, size of lenses, shelving, etc. Stop getting pissed off when labs send back work with temples splayed out on high myopes or lenses are off-axis. You can control the quality of your finishing work by buying an edger.
Don’t think of buying an edger as a sunk expense.
You will actually generate revenue with this machine by reducing costs of raw materials needed to produce lenses. You can buy an edger new or used or even finance one. There’s no excuse not to buy one. They even make a small footprint today and the noise can be contained. Don’t worry if you are not super technical. When you purchase an edger, companies will give you a few days of hands on training and will always be available for technical phone support. Most edgers are low maintenance and just require regular cleaning and the occasional parts replacement.
Frequently asked questions opticians and optometrists ask about edging in house
What do I do? I’m not handy and don’t know how to set up a lab.
When you buy an edger from a reputable company, whether it’s a used or new piece of equipment, a representative will fly out to your location and be onsite to train 1 or multiple staff members for a couple of days. All the tools you need to edge will come with the unit. If you are buying from an individual seller, you will be more reliant on asking them for help.
How much space do I need for an edger?
The piece of equipment can fit in a closet if you have to. Today’s edgers are small and compact and generally not more than 2ft x 2ft. Some edgers are “all-in ones,” meaning it has the tracer, blocker, and edger built into one compact unit while others require you buy separate equipment and place it on counter space.
How long does it take to edge a pair of lenses?
Dry edgers are fast, wet edgers are slower, but it’s not a race! The material and the coatings determine the time frame to edge. Lenses with slippery high quality anti-reflective coatings will take longer as the machinery goes slower to prevent the lenses from slipping and getting off axis. Also, hi-index lenses are tougher lenses and take longer.
A polycarbonate lens with a hard coat will take 60 seconds. A polycarbonate lens with a premium anti-reflective will take 2-3 minutes. While the edger is running, the operating optician should be multitasking by deblocking lenses, inspecting lenses in lensometer after edging, cleaning lenses, and preparing next jobs. It’s a small assembly line and you should never just sit and watch the lens rotate. That’s a waste of time!!! It’s like watching water boil.
It’s easier to send glasses to the lab for lenses, should I really edge?
It’s also easier to stay at home on unemployment and eat popcorn. Yes, when you make glasses in-house, you save time. Imagine how much you spend on shipping and labor costs always trying to track down orders with the labs. It’s nice to know where in the production cycle every job is. You can choose if you want to expedite a job for a patient as a rush glasses order.
Why are edgers so expensive?
They are not. Why are OCTs and Optomaps so expensive? Every piece of capital equipment when used properly and consistently will help you deliver faster service and better products to your patients quicker than your competitors. Today, people want all their products they buy speedy, including eyewear.
What maintenance does an edger need?
The best way to avoid any repairs is clean the machine daily after use. You are shredding up lenses so the main form of cleaning is using a shopvac to free up any loose debris left behind. Otherwise, there is really no maintenance to be done. Just like any piece of equipment, it has screws, springs, moving parts, and electronics that can occasionally need updating. Expect this but also know you are saving so much money on lenses these costs are nominal compared to your $300 lab bills for progressive lenses you are used to.
I see mostly insurance and vision plan patients, can I edge those jobs too?
Yes, you can edge single vision jobs with any coatings and lens features, including photochromics. You buy the lenses and submit the in-office finishing claim on the same websites. You will have to sign an IOF agreement with the vision plans that explains your new reimbursement schedule, which should be higher, and other legal information you have to follow. To get started edging in office with vision plans, reach out to a rep or find the info on the websites. For progressive lenses and all other lenses that need surfacing, you will still have to order these through the contracted labs.
You will make a ton more money edging single vision jobs in office on vision plans so it’s worth buying an edger still. Also, having an edger makes increasing the cash portion of your office easier since you control where and what prices you buy products at.
I’m worried the edger smells or makes too much noise, is this a concern?
No, when you hear the sound of an edger that means you are making money. Edgers today produce noise like any piece of industrial equipment; however, with a closed door on the room where the edger is housed, 80% or more of the noise is blanketed. The noise will not be a disturbance to the patient ambiance in your office. The smell of the edger only becomes a concern when you are edging high-index lenses, which tend to smell like onions. Yummy smell, right? It’s best to have an exhaust fan installed in the edging room to circulate the air in the room and not inhale or distribute the smell throughout the office.
Are there any limitations to what type of lenses I can edge?
No, you can edge anything from plano to +/- 10.00 and beyond. Although, we hope you don’t have to edge too many super high prescriptions. All coatings and lens treatments can safely be processed in the edger. All you have to do is select the right settings for each job.The pressure the edger puts on each lens and speed it rotates the lenses is different for every lens material. Don’t worry though, the edger has all these settings pre-set. You just hit the material you are using on the screen and it adjusts the machine internal settings so you get a perfect lens everytime.
How does the edger know what shape to cut to match the frame?
The piece of machinery that’s used to create the shape for the edger to cut is called the tracer. It digitally or robotically traces the inside of the bevel to create a 100% shape the lenses into metal, acetate, semi-rimless or drill-mount frames. The accuracy is dead on, it’s amazing. The tracer sends the file of the shape to the edger so it knows what shape to cut. Once the edger is done grinding away, it’s important you place the lens into the frame to make sure the fit is good. Don’t expect the lenses to fit every single time perfectly, sometimes the eyewire will have a little gap in it or the lens is a little big for the acetate frame. You will notice it’s hard to force into the frame even with heat. This is normal. Lots of factors affect sizing such as calibration of equipment or even humidity levels. To make the lens a hair smaller, you simply go into recut mode and edge down the lens 0.1mm to 0.3mm smaller to make it fit. It’s such a small amount, but this makes it fit perfectly. Take your time edging down lenses to fit, it’s not a race. However, most times things fit perfectly.
After edging both lenses, do I need to do any final inspection?
Yes, the same final inspection you would do with lenses from an outsourced lab you do with in-office labs. Make sure to check the pupillary distance, ocular centers, segment heights, axis, prescriptions, and anything else. Your lensometer is your friend for final inspection. Make sure to hold the lens into the light after cleaning to make sure there is no crazing, scratches or any other weird defects. Your lens spoilage in your in-office lab will be very low since you are taking your time and paying attention.
For more advice on in-office edging or questions