Trends in Lenses & Materials:
Them Your Way
durable ImpactX� lens.
Warning � To all the pessimistic,
end-of-the-optical-world folks out there, this article will
just make you feel worse.
I was born in the early sixties, and grew up in New Jersey,
just across the river from New York City, the center of
fresh ingredients of outstanding quality, fantastic cooking,
and amazing baking. I like baked goods. If I stumble upon a
good bakery, I can, quite literally, eat my way around one.
I tell the server behind the counter to grab a big box. I
start at one corner and start filling it: brownies, cream
horns, elephant ears, cupcakes, doughnuts and cookies.
The base ingredient for all these baked goods is really the
same: flour. Just a pinch of something more or something
less, and a brownie becomes a cookie, and a muffin becomes a
popover. These days, lenses are becoming a little like that,
too. A little pinch of something more or less, and you have
a hybrid lens that takes the base material and gives it
something a little extra. One example is what Rudy Project
does with Trivex�. Their ImpactX� Photochromic and Polarized
and Photochromic Polarized lenses are all Trivex based
hybrids offering superior strength and optical quality. The
trend is towards tweaking an established base material to
meet different needs.
In-house lens production using molding is making a comeback.
These processing units produce lenses of a proprietary
mid-index. Q-Spex offers their own 1.547 lens. Note that
this is not an index that we are used to seeing, and not one
we were forced to memorize in school. It is not 1.53, or
1.586, but 1.547. Instead of paying the royalty fees to
produce a brand name material, they simply created their
We are entering an age of desktop lens production unhindered
by material restrictions. Here, the trend is a DIY approach,
where you create your own material to suit your needs.
Combining the DIY and in-house combination, Fastgrind 2200
by Super Systems brings desktop lens surfacing to a whole
new level. Fast, simple, affordable and mechanically basic
the Fast Grind 2200 can produce high quality surfaced lenses
in under twelve minutes. The unit requires only a water
supply and an ordinary electrical outlet. The Fastgrind 2200
can work in most popular lens types (SV, FT, progressive)
and lens materials (CR-39, polycarbonate, 1.57) with AR and
changeable tint versions available. Taking up as little
space as dorm-room fridge the unit has a footprint smaller
than some edgers and smaller than the blocking unit alone of
a complete wholesale lab surfacing system. Taking this trend
over time will we not see even the smallest independent shop
doing all or at least some of their own lens surfacing?
Heck, if the Fastgrind 2200 requires, �No previous surfacing
experience to operate�, then there is nothing to stop a
large family from buying one and doing their own surfacing
Things are headed in a similar direction in lens design.
Every day, you see articles and forum posts with titles
like, �In House Free-Form Lens Production � Is It for Your
Office?� Any medium-sized chain can buy into in-house lens
production, purchase the rights to produce a known lens
design, and brand it their own.
Given time and experience, this software will trickle down
and trickle out to where a company can buy the hardware
alone and produce a lens of its own design. I have been
chastised in the past for saying this, but will say it
again: �Glasses really are just a couple of curved pieces of
plastic held in place with a couple of bent wires.�
Stop and think about those two paragraphs above. The
industry is shifting slightly, and we are seeing the
introduction of independent material design and independent
lens design. This will not turn the industry upside-down
tomorrow, or perhaps even in my lifetime.
However, it should also not be ignored. If �trends� means,
�where the future is headed,� then we may see a departure
from the current production processes that have ruled the
industry for the last one hundred years. The time may come,
soon, when a mid-sized store will produce its own lens
materials, create their own lenses of every style, and then
edge them all in-house without the need for a wholesale lab
or outside lens manufacturer at all.
What, Me Worry?
If I put on my tin-foil hat and stare in to my crystal ball,
I see the future. No, really I do, I swear. In fifteen to
twenty years I see this: You will go online and order your
complete DIY glasses kit. Twenty-five minutes later, the
drone will drop it at your doorstep. You�ll grab it, head
inside, and open the box, which will hold ten different
colored blocks of an acetate-like material, twenty molds,
one large bottle of clear monomer, and five smaller vials of
various liquids simply marked A, B, C, D and E.
Next, you will go back online and design your own frame,
using a user-friendly interactive program supplied by the
DIY glasses kit provider. You will upload an image of your
face, and, using drag-and-drop tools, create the frames of
your dreams. Change the color, change the shape, change the
size, symmetrical or asymmetrical, it will not matter.
You�ll play to your heart�s content until you have what you
want. Then, you�ll download the completed design from the
Cloud to your 3D printer, load the indicated colored blocks
from your kit, and hit �print.� In half an hour, you�ll have
your finished frame.
In the meantime, while you wait for your frame to print,
you�ll choose two molds and the large bottle of clear
monomer. You�ll decide what properties you want your lens to
have: AR, changeable tint, polarization, sun tint, impact
resistance, all your choice! You�ll fill two molds with the
monomer, add a few drops from the appropriate properties
bottles, and allow the lens mold to cure to 3D printer
Let�s say you want this frame to have a great set of clear
lenses with changeable tint and AR. You�ll use bottle A and
bottle C, and add three drops of each to the mold. As easily
as that, the finished product will have a lens-inherent
changeable tint and AR too!
Then, you�ll smile for your tablet, and wait for it to read
your prescription and instantly load it in the design
program. You�ll place the monomer molds in the 3D printer
and hit print. Your lenses will be ready in an hour. They
will print in the correct prescription, already properly
sized for the frame you just designed. You�ll pop in the
lenses, and head on out the door. You will never need to
step outside your home or office for an Rx and a great
looking pair of glasses.
Think this fantasy is on the same level as a flying car? I,
for one, sure doubt it!