Vision Labs can see clearly thanks to Keyence

26 Nov 2020

More than six in 10 people in the UK have some requirement for glasses, which requires an almost infinite range of lens combinations.

Significant effort goes into the cutting, polishing, and treatment of every lens. Given the importance of ensuring the correct prescription, and the proximity of the lens to the wearer’s eye, any sort of defect cannot be tolerated.

One of the UK’s leading manufacturers of bespoke lenses, and a partner of 20 years-plus to many of the leading names in the dispensing optician sector, is Vision Labs. Its specialist facility at Kidderminster in Worcestershire processes millions of lenses every year, which each one tailored to the individual requirements of the customer.

A complex technical process

Raw plastic material is cut to the required geometry by CNC milling and turning equipment, before a highspeed polishing process smooths the lens and removes any remnants from the milling and turning processes. Each lens then undergoes a visual inspection and verification against the user’s prescription, before undergoing any treatments required such as tinting, UV protection and the application of scratch-resistant coatings and the latest multi-layer anti-reflection coatings, as required.

Anthony Woodhouse, Technical Manager of Vision Labs, said: “All of our processing equipment is calibrated to very tight tolerances – as little as two microns – to ensure the best possible product quality and life cycle for consumables. However, all CNC equipment can be prone to positioning errors over time, emanating from natural wear and tear, or moving parts which are coming to the end of their lives and require replacement.

“During manufacture, each lens is subject to various levels of stress and heat. If these are not managed correctly, issues may arise which mean the lens may be rejected. In that event, we need to spend time investigating what has happened to determine the root cause then take any remedial action needed.”

The management team at Vision Labs sought another solution too, which came in the form of a Keyence VHX-7000 digital microscope.

High magnification

The system’s high magnification and 4,000-pixel count – the world’s first microscope to offer this – combined with two-dimensional edge detection software which snaps to the lines of contrast meaning the risk of differences between users is eliminated, enables calibration tolerances as low as 0.1 microns.

Meanwhile, the glare removal feature and rapid 3D depth composition, combined with the VHX’s easy-to-use of software, meant that wear on diamond cutting tools can be rapidly assessed to ensure they are replaced only when needed, creating cost savings for Vision Labs.

Perhaps the greatest benefit has come in the area of analysing coatings, where the VHX’s world-first optical shadow effect mode (OPT-SEM) enables these transparent features to be viewed more readily and so defects identified more rapidly. The multi-lighting feature ensures immediate change between ring, coaxial, polarised, and transmitted lighting. It also assists the clarity of view.

Anthony Woodhouse continues: “The Keyence microscope is easy to use and gives us incredibly accurate and detailed information. It removes the issues associated with the previous visual testing, as it enables us to calibrate our machines extremely accurately and counter any issues in our processes. It has enabled us to view defects in a way that was not possible before, equipping us with a better understanding of how they occur – and how we can minimise the risk of defects.”

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