Water Soluble Wax, a Case Study

By Erik Larsen

In the fall of 2003, I made some trips to install our Autoblocker and Bladder polisher. One of the goals of having the Autoblocker was to implement the use of water soluble wax.
Each visit lasted two days. It consisted of a personal survey (qualification) of each facility and integrating the new machine (and wax) into the existing process. On one of these occasions, I could sense that the staff was not having a good day. I started by covering the fundamentals of “house keeping.” That is, making sure that all of the spindles, collets and tooling were in good working order and that the lead person knew how to maintain them.

Some background: This was (is) a long standing customer who had taken on the task of up-dating their lathes and peripheral equipment in order to stay competitive. They choose a current air-bearing CNC lathe, the autoblocker, and the bladder polisher. They experienced difficulty with all of the new technology and, frankly, I was not optimistic about the likelihood of them being successful with it.

Day One: I was graciously picked up at my hotel by the branch manager. I was introduced to the lab lead man with whom I had talked with on the phone. He thanked me for taking the time to make the trip and said that he was looking forward to learning much from me. When I hear that, a red flag goes up in my mind. It either means that I have to come up with some pearls of wisdom or this guy has a lot to learn. Over the years, I have learned that the people who actually make lenses accomplish much more on a daily basis that I could ever hope to improve upon.
After I arrived and settled in, I started on my routine to check out the lathe collet and the blocking tools (arbors.) I always do this even for a new lathe. I brought some ½” (12.7 mm) straight arbors and showed him how to check the collet run-out.

Our 1/2” arbors are ground along the entire length so one can use them in a few ways to asses the condition of the collet and are useful in calibrating the blocker. (Those of you who know me, know how I preach about this.) I knew that the Lead man was familiar with a dial test indicator; my demonstration gave him ideas on how he could take control of the manufacturing process.
After we established that we had the machines calibrated and were operating properly, he wanted to start running lenses (real jobs.) I get nervous about running real jobs without an evaluation. But, we are here to sell lenses. So, the staff was familiarized with the equipment and off they went. Things actually went smoothly. By the end of the day, there was a noticeable improvement in the atmosphere in the lab.

The next day I arrived around 9:00. The staff had already been working for two hours. They seemed to be working right along and the finishing/inspection lady was not going to the lathe/polisher technician for reworks. Evidently, things were going smoothly. I stayed for the rest of the day watching the process and made calls to their other vendors and made a few comments and recommendations.

I arrived back in my office to receive a hand written report, faxed from the staff. This was a first for me. The report enumerated the benefits of the new equipment, especially relating to the use of the water soluble wax.
The Report (as received)
1. No messy wax hardening and melting on a hot plate from dripping and/or spillage.
2. Enormous time saver not only during the block-up process, but also each affected stage thereafter.
3. Wax used is now water soluble, which is cleaner and more efficient.
4. Previously, extra pitch on the outside edges of the arbors would get cut and coat the lathe’s surface. This is no longer an issue; reducing cleaning time by half.
5. The life of the lathe diamonds is extended.
There is no longer pitch build-up to dull these vital tools.
6. Polishing tools can now be used 4-5 hours rather than 1-2 due to the pitch build-up on them as well.
7. Less time is involved in cleaning arbors and lenses.
8. Fewer scratches are occurring on lenses from pitch on edges of arbors.
9. Lens fronts polish from edge to edge without extra lenticular edge polishing which saves time.
10. De-blocking requires water only. The one step process eliminates the prior need of chemicals or razor blades, making the previous chore now quick and easy.
11. No chance of lenses leaving the lab with a trace of pitch, answering a previous concern from our accounts.


1. Back polishing time now 10-12 seconds reduced from 30-60 seconds.
2. No longer necessary to polish PC’s separately. The concave surface polished all at once.Only one tool is needed regardless of how steep or flat the base curve is.
3. No need for multiple tools that can be used in error or misplaced.
4. Less “silk” is used for polishing because fewer tools are needed.
5. Polishing “silks” last 4-5 hours rather than 1-2 previously.

Conclusion over all

Better polishing on both front and back surfaces.Better surfaces also on both front and back of the lenses.Much more efficient chain of duties lead to a quicker turn around time for lenses on the manufacturing floor.Cleaner manufacturing facility.Happier employees.Happy doctors & patients.
As you might gather, I was very pleased with this report.