When it comes to digital technology, the future is truly present. The world has been innovating and preparing for a digital future for decades, and digital processes are now the standard, “the norm”. If you have been comfortable with traditional, manual processes, it may feel daunting to adapt to new digital advancements. But that is just it, digital processes indeed advance existing tasks, all while lending a convenience that cannot be ignored. Digital means improvement, and digital means efficiency for your lens lab.

How is digital lens processing better? And how can it be implemented? Here are some insights from our lens processing experts.

What is the difference between
traditional and digital lens processing?

Traditional Surfacing; the many steps
Traditional lens processing is the backbone of the lens processing industry, on which digital processing is built. It is a multi-step, labor-intensive process that requires time and several platforms to produce a single lens.

First, the lab technician selects a specific lens blank from a large inventory. This inventory will consist of a large array of base curves and multifocal/progressive add values that have been molded onto the lens by the manufacturer. Then, the technicians prepare the prescription to be developed into the back surface of the lens. The lens must go through layout, marking and blocking procedures before being generated. After this, the lens is generated using a diamond-encrusted cutting wheel on older generation surfacing machines, or a ball or fluted cutter for more modern traditional machines. The lens is then transferred to a finer and/or polisher, cleaned and/or coated, then finished.

Digital Surfacing; quick and efficient
Digital surfacing, “free-form” or “all-format” processing, in comparison, is highly simplified for the operator and much more precise. A computer-controlled digital generator grinds the lens surface to a prescribed x, y, and z set of numerical digitized points. In this process, the lens power is refined substantially closer to the patient’s prescription than with a traditional lens generator. The lens is then polished using a soft tool system to ensure optical quality while maintaining the integrity of the surface curve.

Why should I make the switch
to digital lens processing equipment?

Top 4 reasons to switch to digital lens processing equipment.

  1. Reduce inventory — Digital processing removes the cumbersome issue of storing many boxes of different progressive blanks in your lab. Only a small array of single vision blanks are necessary to store. The free-form lens generator can then sculpt the progressive design and prescription on the lens.
  2. Simpler and faster — Digital processing requires much less less labor for operators and ECPs can save time by working on other jobs simultaneously.
  3. Better investment and lower costs — The higher cost of a digital system will pay off long-term. Expensive progressive lens blanks from the manufacturer will no longer be necessary, as digital processing only requires an inexpensive single vision blank. With this blank, a free-form generator can produce a back-sided progressive.
  4. Increased precision and accuracy — As mentioned earlier, the digital process produces a substantially more accurate lens power, making for a higher quality lens than conventional surfacing. The lens is virtually tailor-made to the customer’s prescription.


Years ago, pre-made templates in the lens surfacing process were extremely convenient, and matched the speed and needs of labs. In today’s digital age, however, customers now expect quicker turnaround times and custom-fit products. The optical industry has met that need for lenses with digital surfacing equipment. Now, you can deliver an even more precise product quickly, efficiently, and with less burden on the valuable space in your lab.

Start your digital journey by learing more about the Cobalt NXT by Coburn; a digital/free-form lens generator that is certified by Essilor for branded lenses. Cobalt NXT offers complete automation, on board engraving of semi-visible marks, and auto calibration. Download the brochure or contact us to get more information.