The whirr coming from the electric grinding machines is characteristic of their work, just in case you are lost searching for optical lens manufacturers amidst the cacophony at Broadway. This pocket has one of the major manufacturers of spectacle lens, which is supplied as per the prescription to retail shops in the city and hospitals. The sound from machines starts at 9.30 a.m. at Kamdhar Building that houses at least half-a-dozen lens manufacturers.

The optical laboratory or workshop is where different processes such as blocking the thick lens with alloy, cutting for different curvatures, smoothing and polishing are done by spectacle dispensers. These workshops look messy with the work on different abrasives.

It takes quite a lot of effort for these men at work to complete spectacles before the stylish eyewear brings a new look to faces.

Raju Pradhan, hailing from Orissa, is just five months old at work in the city but likes to work on the machine that cuts for different curvatures. “There is the prescription of the customer and the chart showing the markings to be followed on the machine for help,” says Mr. Pradhan, who previously worked as dispenser in Lucknow. Besides accuracy, knowledge of algebra and physics are required while working at these labs. But, store owners say most of them are unskilled persons and get trained after entering the job. The payscale for dispensers starts from Rs. 4,000 and increases depending on their efficiency.

While sophisticated equipment has reduced manual work on these machines to a large extent, new trends in spectacles have increased the challenge.

Dispensers say making high index glasses and rimless spectacles are tough.

N. Punithavel, working for over 10 years, says goof-ups and accidents on the job are common, but one learns with experience. “Once while fixing a progressive bi-focal lens, the frame provided by the customer broke. The cost of the lens was Rs. 3,000 but because of my fault I had to shell out Rs. 5,000,” recalls Punithavel. With customers today wanting the spectacles within a day, lens manufactures say mistakes do happen while taking down the prescription over the phone.

Competition for lens manufacture has also increased with plastic lens getting trendy. “Manufacturing cost is more in glass lens, but when it reaches the customer, it is less when compared to plastic lens,” says P. R. Prasanna Kumar, Optometrist with Sai Precision Lab. Getting raw materials is also difficult, he adds.

Many major showrooms outsource the manufacturing of lens to such labs as machinery is expensive and it is not profitable if one is not getting enough orders.

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Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012

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