Assembly in Action: Taking Advantage of All Three Dimensions

August 21, 2008
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When Ophthonix Inc. (San Diego) first set out to manufacture its custom-made iZon high-resolution eyeglasses, it anticipated having an outside laboratory do the processing. However, the company quickly realized it would have to do the work itself if it was to ensure that its lenses were of the highest quality. This, in turn, meant creating a new production facility that would not only meet initial customer demand, but future production needs as well.

The ultimate goal was a fully automated, conveyor-based, continuous-flow pull system capable of accommodating the company’s lean manufacturing philosophy. The system also had to seamlessly incorporate a number of existing workstations and processing machines Ophthonix had acquired as it was developing its new cutting-edge lenses.

To help cut costs, systems integrator Eagle Technologies (Bridgman, MI) suggested treating the company’s 10,000-square-foot finishing lab like a cube, taking advantage of the facility’s vertical, as well as horizontal, space through the use of vertical buffers and other flexible material handling systems.

Employing a pallet-based VarioFlow modular conveyor system manufactured by Bosch Rexroth (Buchanan, MI), Eagle Technologies ultimately created a system that is flexible enough to accommodate as many as six autoblockers, six lens generators, a dozen polishers and four robotic edgers if necessary.

“Eagle did a tremendous job implementing this system,” says Ophthonix vice president of operations John Lemperle. “It’s nice because Eagle is large enough to be competent, but still offered a small-company approach with regards to attentiveness, detail and response time. Plus, they were able to install the system in less than three weeks, which is a quick turnaround for a conveyor system of this magnitude.”

As part of the effort to take advantage of the lab’s vertical space, Eagle created a cooling tower that lifts the lenses off the floor to a raised area, eliminating the need for an expensive tray stacking and destacking area. After cooling, the lenses are carried to a workstation where they are given their individualized curves. Afterward, they continue on to a series of stations where they are delivered to the company’s assembly, inspection and packing personnel.

“Quality is improving daily, currently putting us at a 90 percent yield range, even though production of our lenses is more intensive. If this process was done manually, we would need more people and a facility twice as large,” Lemperle says.

For more on systems integration, call 269-465-6986 or visit

For more on conveyor systems, visit or call 800-739-7684.

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