Interview - 2022-05-30
An Italy-based specialist serving the optical industry is benefitting from the precision and high-quality motion of NSK ball screws in its innovative lens cutting machines. The machines produced by MEI System have revolutionised optical manufacturing processes with the most advanced milling technologies, guaranteeing extremely high quality and maximum productivity.
Excellent lens quality offering a combination of attractive style and perfect vision is a prerequisite for providing eyewear to consumers. Since the 2000s, MEI System has transformed the production processes used in the optics sector, over time emerging as the dominant force in the lens cutter industry. It was indeed MEI System that introduced the milling process for lens edging to the optical arena, overturning the old concept of grinding. The new process developed and perfected by the Bergamo-based company has significantly improved the flexibility and output of lens production lines, allowing manufacturers and optical laboratories to cut with extreme precision and quality, even in the most complex shapes required by the increasingly demanding eyewear market.
Innovation drives productivity
Daniel Ponti, Global Operations Director of MEI System, says: "Our company has always aimed to be the market’s technological leader, with a strong capacity for innovation driven by constant investment in research and development. We’ve introduced many new concepts in the more than 20 years of serving the optics industry, all intended to guarantee quality by minimising waste during the lens manufacturing process and meeting the specific needs of each customer. It’s a process that continues to this day and one that’s allowed us to expand our scope of operations on a constant basis. Today, we no longer only supply machines with the optimal technology for cutting lenses, but also integrated solutions for quality control, flow analysis within customer production lines, and multiple automation and optimisation solutions. These offerings deliver concrete advantages to the different customer types we serve, from the world's biggest lens manufacturers and large independent laboratories, to local labs and individual shops that produce spectacles on-demand ready for quick delivery to the consumer.”
Making complex processes simple and being the first to find a solution to the increasingly complex demands of the optical world has been MEI System's guiding philosophy over the years. For example, among its renowned inventions is the ‘No Block’ system for locking lenses during machining, which has completely eliminated the need to use consumables (the so-called ́blocks). The end result is considerable streamlining of the manufacturing process, with significant savings in resources, time and costs.
Leading components from leading suppliers
To position itself as a technological leader in the company’s reference market, MEI System manufactures its machines in-house, using leading suppliers for all the main components, including NSK for the ball screws. An essential element to guarantee extreme precision and fluidity of movement, NSK ball screws make the machines capable of performing top-quality milling on the various materials used to make lenses today.
"Our technical department recognises the NSK brand as a reference point for linear motion components, and our long-standing relationship testifies to the absolute quality of the products offered by the Japanese multinational,” says Mr Ponti. “However, even
more important is the relationship of trust and partnership established between the two
companies, which goes far beyond technical excellence. With NSK we have framework
stock management agreements that allow us to align our requirements through monthly
rolling forecasts, so that our supply chain is not subject to delays or interruptions, but is not oversized either. The end result is excellent and mutually beneficial, giving us certainty that materials will be available on time with optimised financial commitment."
Towards new markets
The great success of the technological solutions introduced by MEI System has provided
further impetus to the internationalisation of the company and the development of new
solutions for new segments within the optics market.
MEI System, which already has subsidiaries in the United States, Hong Kong and Brazil, has extended its global presence by opening offices in the United States, India, Japan and Australia. This strategy is allowing the company to get even closer to its global clientele and take advantage of new development opportunities.
On a technological level, the focus on research and development continues, leading to the creation of a new generation of machines for the construction ophthalmic lens market. The company’s solutions promise to revolutionise this type of processing, where the milling operation is used not only to define the contour, but also the surface of the lens, thus providing the correct customised shape according to the specification required by the consumer.
"In the case of construction ophthalmic lenses,” explains Mr Ponti, “the milling quality and precision requirements are even more extreme, with very tight tolerances, as even the slightest imperfection in shape would negatively affect the quality of vision. For these projects our engineers also use NSK ball screws to transform rotary motion into rectilinear movement, ensuring maximum positioning accuracy."
It is another example of how a strong partnership between two technology leaders in their
respective fields fosters growth and the development of innovative solutions that can
break into new markets.
Picture 1): MEI’s headquarters is located in Ponte San Pietro, near Milan, where technicians, programmers, designers and machine/concept developers are among 200 employees
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