SCENE + HEARD: Today's Read Take a Virtual Lab Tour By Andrew Karp Friday, January 11, 2019 11:13 AM As Vision Monday’s lenses and technology editor, I visit a lot of optical laboratories. Viewed from outside, most labs are unremarkable. Often located in industrial parks or on side streets, their drab exteriors give little indication of what goes on inside.Step onto the production floor, though, and you’ll see a scene humming with activity. Technicians are loading generators, edgers and coating machines, job trays are moving along conveyors, quality inspectors are checking lenses for flaws and Rx orders are being packed for shipment to customers. It’s an optical ballet in which every movement is carefully choreographed, and it requires skill, energy and careful attention to detail to execute. Labs have undergone a technological transformation in recent years, largely due to the advent of digital, or free-form lens surfacing. Nearly all labs today surface lenses digitally, thanks to the introduction of more compact, affordable surface generators that are within the reach of small and medium-sized labs. The proliferation of smart production systems and modern industrial processes has increased prescription accuracy, shortened turnaround time and enabled labs to offer new levels of lens customization. As a result, eyecare professionals receive their orders in record time, often with unprecedented accuracy.If it’s been a while since you last visited your lab, I recommend that you schedule a visit to see what’s new. If you can’t get there in person, though, try taking a virtual tour. Many labs offer them, usually through a link on their website. Virtual lab tours are typically conducted by a video in which the narrator walks the viewer through the various departments in the lab and explain the steps involved in making a prescription lens.If you’re a current customer, taking a virtual tour is a great way to get to know your lab better. It’s also a way to get introduced to a new lab that you might want to do business with.Here’s a sampling of some virtual lab tours that have impressed me. I encourage you to watch them. I bet you’ll be impressed, too.Cherry Optical Inc.Rather than present an overview of its operations, Cherry Optical Inc. breaks it down into individual segments that provide detailed explanations of each of its main departments: AR coating, including the Crizal AR coating process; Mei lens milling technology, digital freeform lens production and lens inspection and quality control. Each segment is well produced and highly educational.Digital Eye LabThis informative tour packs a lot of information into three minutes. It offers a good overview of how one of the biggest and most automated labs functions.Laramy-KMore than six months in the making, this 21-minute video shows viewers everything that Laramy-K does to process uncut lenses, both conventional and freeform, from ordering all the way to shipping. Narrated by their director of education, John Seegers, the tour also takes a look at AR coating, including spin-coated and dip-coated hard coat layers. A highlight of the tour is seeing how the lab produces a minus 21 cyl lens.Sutherlin OpticalSutherlin Optical offers a series of Essilor-produced videos on fitting and dispensing progressive lenses. These informative segments can help new opticians become familiar with the dispensing process as well as help to refresh the skills of veteran dispensers. To view the entire collection of videos, click here.Tri-SupremeInstead of a video, Tri-Supreme has created a slide show with 26 still photos with captions that explain each step involved in making a prescription lens. A simple but effective approach.Click here to view Tri-Supreme's slide showUS OpticalAlthough this lab tour dates from 2014, it’s still a good overview of Rx lens processing technology from one of the biggest and fastest labs in the industry.