Dr Prof Mo Jalie, SMSA, FBDO (Hons), Hon FCGI Hon FCOptom, MCMI, is a Visiting Professor of Optometry at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, and at the post-graduate facility at Varilux University. He served for nine years as Head of Department of Applied Optics at City & Islington College, where he taught optics, ophthalmic lenses and dispensing. He is a recognised international authority on spectacle lens design and has written several books including Principles of Ophthalmic Lenses. His most recent book, Ophthalmic Lenses & Dispensing was translated into Russian. He has authored over 200 papers on ophthalmic, contact and intra-ocular lenses, and on dispensing; and is a consultant editor to The Optician (UK) and technical editor to The Indian Optician journal. He holds patents for aspheric spectacle and intra-ocular lenses. Jalie is a past-chairman of the Academic Committee of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians, and was the first Chairman of the Faculty of Dispensing Opticians. He is the ABDO representative on the BSI committees on ophthalmic lenses and spectacle frames and a past member of the Education Committee of the General Optical Council. In 1998 Jalie was thrice honoured: he was made Honorary Fellow of the British College of Optometrists, a Life Fellow of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians, and in December of that year he was granted the Max Wiseman Memorial Research Medal.
Spectacle lens manufacturing technologies
Perhaps the most important development in the ophthalmic lens field during the first two decades of the 21st Century has been the rapid rise in the use of CNC machining techniques in the ophthalmic prescription industry. Popularly known as free form, this method of working, enables almost any form of surface to be produced, provided that the laboratory has access to the software necessary to describe and produce the surface during the generation procedure. Indeed, the key to free form production is the software that calculates the curves for the individual designs and drives the machinery to manufacture the lenses. The optimal curves are calculated for every possible prescribed power at thousands of points on the lens surface resulting in a “point file” that describes, in mathematical terms, the surface of the lens. This file is ultimately used to drive the production generator and polisher used to manufacture the lens.
FIGURE 1 TWO-DIMENSIONAL PRINTING
A) PRINTING ON PAPER
B) PRINTING ON ACETATE SHEET
Another, quite different, production process has also appeared in the last 10 years and perhaps this form of additive manufacturing technology is destined to replace current free form processing. Additive manufacturing refers to 3D printing of ophthalmic lenses which is already available from a few manufacturers mainly in the USA.
The manufacturing technique is similar to that of using an ordinary printer connected to a computer (Figure 1). The common printing machine prints text and reproduces diagrams in the correct position on the page. When printing on paper, the ink is absorbed by the paper (Figure 1a).
However, one could also print on acetate sheet as teachers used to do in the days before PowerPoint and similar drawing aids.
In this case, the acetate sheet does not absorb the ink which instead sits on top of the acetate and, of course, can be overprinted several times. Each print builds up the thickness of ink on the sheet (Figure 1b).
Exactly the same process can be used for printing a spectacle lens. In the case of a plano-convex lens it would be built up as shown in Figure 2, each layer being a fraction less in length than the previous layer and is seen to build to make the profile of a convex surface.
The same process can be used to build up a concave surface, now leaving an ever-increasing gap between the centre and edges of the surface with each layer.
The “ink” which is used is a plastics monomer one such which is available is similar to MR 6 in its optical properties an HDDA (Hexanediol diacrylate) which is capable of rapid cure when exposed to Ultra Violet radiation. Each layer of ink is sprayed in the form of micro-droplets the size of which is only about 20 micrometres (microns) with a volume of just 6 picolitres. It will be appreciated that if each droplet is only 20 micrometres, a one millimetre thick layer of deposition requires 50 layers of ink! Each layer must be cured after each deposition.
FIGURE 2 THREE-DIMENSIONAL PRINTING A PLANO-CONVEX LENS IN SIDE AND TOP ELEVATIONS
A) BUILDING UP THE SURFACE LAYER BY LAYER
B) THE COMPLETE PLANO-CONVEX LENS
The reduction in the length of each layer depends upon its position in the build-up of monomer. In the case of a plus lens, each layer is about 2 micrometres smaller than the previous layer at the commencement of the deposition, the difference increasing to about 30 microns near the pole of the surface.
The first company to market a 3D Printer specifically for spectacle lens production and, of course, all the technology required to manufacture the lenses, Luxexcel, is based in the Netherlands. At present, their equipment permits 4 lenses per hour to be produced. You can see more of their current offerings on their website, www.luxexcel.com.
FIGURE 3 LUXEXCEL VISION ENGINE 3D PRINTING SYSTEM
Figure 3 shows their 3D Printing equipment, the VisionPlatform, a single machine which offers a full production run in one piece of equipment.
The process, developed by Luxexcel, begins with the custom lens design and surface prescription being prepared in Luxexcel’s VisionMaster™ Software. The original monomer employed by Luxexcel was a liquid material, called VisionClear.™ It has a refractive index of 1.53 and Abbe No. 45. The software is loaded into the VisionEngine™ 3D printer, which creates lenses by jetting tiny droplets of the UV-curable resin onto the substrate and curing it with UV radiation. This method produces lenses with less material waste. It is envisaged that smaller versions of this equipment will be developed enabling ECPs to 3D-Print lenses in their own practices.
There is a growing demand to merge vision correction with other wearable technology. Combining these produces so-called smart glasses and is a huge untapped opportunity for both consumers and the wearable technology industry. Through the use of augmented reality (AR), data can be presented on displays built into spectacles or headsets. For example, one can obtain directions when out walking or driving in a similar fashion to that provided by a ‘Satnav’, or superimpose instructions for the steps necessary to replace or repair an unfamiliar machine component, provide recipes and talking points for a presentation – all without holding a device or looking down at a screen.
3D Printing technology is the easiest solution to produce lenses which combine a prescription correction with integrated embedded foils. The foil is not a lamination but is completely encapsulated inside the prescription lens material.
This method is ideal for the new generation of prescription eyewear and smart glasses. Other examples of smart spectacles include electrochromic lenses which activate at the wearers demand by tapping the sensor on the side of the frame. Switchable power lenses might also be constructed where there is a power change across the whole lens or just in the lower part of the lens in the form of a wearer activated bifocal segment when near vision is required.
Spectacles have been passive devices for decades. With the integration of technology, they would become interactive. The wearer will have one single product with multiple functionalities, potentially even replacing the need for smartphones. To create smart glasses, the two emerging trends of customising prescription lenses and integrating technology can be combined.
Many forms of smart glasses send an image to be overlaid on top of the image coming from the real world. To do this it is necessary to change the direction of light beams coming from one side of the frame so that it ends up in front of the visual axis. One way to do this is by creating an optical surface that directs the light through the interior of the lens where it encounters an embedded device, for example, a slanted diffraction grid that modifies the trajectory of light into the pupil. A unique feature of the 3D printing process of prescription lenses is that optical surfaces can be created not only on the front and the back but also on the side which allows the light source to be integrated with the front of the frame rather than in the temples.
Increased prescription accuracy
A further development to be expected is an increase in the prescription and supply of lenses, not in quarter-dioptre steps, but in one-hundreth dioptre power intervals. Free form machining methods produce a surface finish which is so smooth that the surface can be polished immediately, the smoothing operation is eliminated and only some 8 different polishing tools are necessary to finish the surface. Because ranges of smoothing and polishing tools are no longer necessary it is possible to produce lenses which are accurate to one-hundredth of a dioptre in any refractive index material which is available.
Various major manufacturers have introduced autorefractors combined with other technologies such as a wavefront aberrometer, corneal topographer and keratometer all incorporated in a single device, three of which are illustrated in Figure 4. The i.Profiler plus by Carl Zeiss Vision is a 4-in-1 compact system that combines an ocular wavefront aberrometer, autorefractometer, ATLAS corneal topographer and keratometer in a single device.
FIGURE 4 – VARIOUS AUTOREFRACTORS/ABERROMETERS CAPABLE OF MEASURING IN SMALL INCREMENTS OF POWER.
A) CARL ZEISS VISION I.PROFILER PLUS
B) RODENSTOCK DNEYE SCANNER
C) ESSILOR VISION R 800 SYSTEM SHOWING THE PHOROPTER UNIT AND CONTROL CONSOLE
The refraction data is submitted to Carl Zeiss Vision, together with the measured values of the i.Profiler plus.
The Rodenstock DNEye Scanner is a combination of wave front aberrometer, autorefractor and corneal topographer.
The scanner measures the eyes both for distance and in near vision. It also ascertains the higher order aberrations of the eye. The technology is claimed to offer the wearer razor-sharp and high-contrast vision, particularly at twilight. Lenses can be produced with an accuracy of 0.01D via the Eye Lens Technology, (EyeLT®) software.
There is a growing demand to merge vision correction with other wearable technology. Combining these produces so-called smart glasses and is a huge untapped opportunity for both consumers and the wearable technology industry
Essilor’s Vision-R 800 instrument offers subjective refraction in 0.01D steps to provide greater accuracy thanks to a patented, automated optical module powered by digitally-controlled motors. The device provides simultaneous and instantaneous changes of sphere, cylinder and axis, to reach the final prescription faster, instead of examining these components individually.
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