Well Equipped

By Andrew Karp

When it’s time to upgrade an in-office lab or replace a worn-out piece of lab machinery, many eyecare professionals go shopping for used equipment. Buying “pre-owned” processing equipment can be a smart move, particularly for those on a tight budget. Like the used car market, there are some good deals to be found if you look hard enough, but there are lemons, too. Buyers should be cautious, especially if they are considering the purchase of a sophisticated piece of equipment such as a patternless edger that might cost as much as a used car, or even a new one.

Searching the classified ads in 20/20 or other optical trade publications or visiting various web sites catering to the used optical equipment market may net you the machine you’re looking for. But that’s a hit or miss approach. Many ECPs simply call a dealer of pre-owned equipment.

One of the newer companies specializing in refurbishing and selling optical equipment is Vision Systems in Tarpon Springs, Fla. Though Vision Systems is just two-and-a-half years old, the company’s founder and president, 47-year-old Jeff Wheaton, has been in and around the optical business for most of his life.

“My father, Clarence Wheaton and my uncle, Solon Stone, worked together for Shuron-Continental,” recalls Wheaton, referring to one of the leading lens processing equipment makers of its day. “When I was a kid I’d ride my mini bike around the Shuron factory.”

Beginning as a teenager, Wheaton worked in a succession of optical labs, where he mastered the surfacing and finishing processes.

“I’ve had the background training when the lab work was a lot more manual,” says Wheaton. “A lot of our customers are the same way, especially the ones who are around my age. When they’re doing finishing work, they’re a lot more concerned with the quality of the optics. A lot of new equipment is automatic. The OC placement, the decentration and everything else is taken for granted.”

When customers call Vision Systems to order refurbished machines, Wheaton goes through a checklist of questions to help them find the make and model that best suits their needs.

“I ask them who’s going to be running the machine? Is it a small, mom and pop operation, where the doctor does their own edging or a bigger operation? What type of lens materials are you doing? If you’re running a lot of polycarbonate, is edge polishing what you really need? What about the new machines that do everything? It try to narrow it down to what they need, not just base it on price.”