New Lenses: When They Come Knocking, Do You Let Them In?

By Paddy Kamen

featureWhen the lens sales rep comes knocking, do you flip the ‘open’ sign to ‘closed’? And if you let the rep in, do you glaze over because you find it almost impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff in new lens designs and materials?

Do eyecare professionals (ECPs) feel truly competent when it comes to understanding the fine points of new lens technologies? Dr. Ralph Chou thinks not. The associate professor at University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry notes, “One of the problems facing the industry is how to keep innovations coming and make practitioners understand that they are indeed innovations. When manufacturers come out with something they claim is new and different every six-to-12 months, many people in day-to-day practice have a hard time understanding what exactly is new and improved about any particular lens.”

Steve Levy agrees. As the owner of LF Optical, a small chain of four stores in the Toronto area that carry a wide range of lens products, Levy employs eight opticians.  He says it is ‘extremely difficult’ to understand the finer points of distinction between new lens offerings. “One has to take a leap of faith to believe that one product will actually perform significantly better than another. With frames you can touch and feel and see the differences in material, design and quality. With new lenses, you have to be convinced that the distortion levels will be significantly better when each lens itself looks pretty much the same as any other.”

Levy also believes that fitting to the proper PD and height is just as important, and perhaps even more so, than lens choice. “An expensive lens poorly fit will perform worse than an inexpensive lens that is well fit.”

Chou thinks that manufacturers should communicate more clearly the precise optical value of their lens products. “Much educational material from manufacturers falls short in explaining what the lens accomplishes optically. I recognize that there are intellectual property considerations but eyecare professionals need to know what approach the company has taken in making the product in order for them to determine what lenses are suitable for their patients. When you look at the lens designs from an informed perspective, there are some really interesting innovations offered by all companies and they are distinctive. In order to understand these innovations, both prescribers and dispensers need to be better educated in lens technology.”

Clearly, a willingness to learn and be open to new lens technologies on the part of ECPs is the other part of the equation. And here Chou points out a sad reality: “Many optical professionals use only one or two manufacturers’ lens products and are not interested in looking at alternatives no matter what. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault but if you have success with a product, it is understandable that you tend to use it time and again. You don’t have to think much, people are busy and inertia sets in. The reps can’t even get in the door in many instances.”

If you’ve read this far you are probably one of those ECPs who is truly interested in opening your mind, if not your door, to new lens products. Let’s see what’s on offer.

What’s Out There?

Riverside Opticalab is an independent lab that has been a leader in free-form lens technology for several years. Says VP of Research and Development Bruce Calhoun, “We enjoyed success beginning with our first generation Persona lens and are now into the fifth generation and still working on new creations. Our customers and their patients embrace it.”

Calhoun notes that an independent lab like Riverside can bring a product to market rapidly. They are, for example, the first lab to bring the new Transitions® Vantage™ lens to market in both single vision and in their own Persona family of lenses.Riverside also recently added a new propriety lens material known as HI-VEX. “HI-VEX is very friendly for offices that do their own edging,” explains Calhoun. “It is edged and tinted easily and is also very lightweight.”

Alain Després,Riverside’s vice-president of marketing, notes that quality control is key to Riverside’s success. “We have sophisticated quality control and audit check measures to ensure a reliable product. We take our business very seriously and our customers know that we are responsive if they need anything special or out of the norm.”

Hoya Lens Canada was thrilled with their ‘Best New Product’ award at Vision Expo East 2012 for the HOYA Distortion-Free Optics™ with the Avantek™ Mounting System. Distortion-Free Optics integrates lens materials, design, treatment and mounting system. In addition to eliminating the need for obstructive screws, wires or rims, the Avantek Mounting System offers superior durability in comparison to drill mounts. Hoya Canada Director of Marketing Maria Petruccelli says this package features a titanium-alloy frame in eight colours that beautifully showcase lenses that are absolutely distortion-free. “With the Avantek system, there’s no longer any reason to impede the wearer’s vision with screws and plugs on the lenses.”

The Avantek system uses tabs edged out from the lens, rather than screws or plugs. “Why drill holes into expensive premium frames when you don’t have to?” adds Petruccelli. “And from the ECP point of view, there is no need to tighten screws or replace plugs.”

Petruccelli notes that the Phoenix proprietary lens material is perfect for the Avantek system. “It also has an Abbe value of 43 so the visual clarity is excellent. The combination can really set a practice apart.”

Innova Medical Ophthalmics, the Canadian owned supplier of diagnostic and surgical equipment to the optical industry, took the bold step of opening a new lab facility and independent company – Occulab, in Montreal last November.

Why take this bold step in an era when the number of independent labs is dwindling? Wayne Stobie, director of marketing, explains: “We were hearing from ECPs that they want more choice. We decided to invest in the very best state-of-the-art technology available in North America. Our fully automated lab generates free-form lenses including a complete high-end coating facility. We offer edging, remote tracing and web ordering, so it is simple for people to do business with us. Our first priority is unrivalled quality and we’ve gone through a long quality control process with our new lens material known as Quatrex, which offers the benefits of Trivex® but none of the limitations. Many types of free-form lenses designs are available, including progressives geared to lifestyle, computer and sports, as well as special customized lenses upon request.”

Signet Armorlite’s Canadian Sales Manager Roberto DiFelice notes that their best seller by far on the digital front is the Kodak Unique, a full backside progressive with six corridors, starting from 13 mm fitting height. Why is it so successful? “The Unique is a design that works for most patients and it doesn’t require any extra dispensing measurements or equipment,” explains DiFelice. “The technology selects the corridor length for each patient’s Rx based on the frame size, monocular PD and fitting heights. This ensures the best overall visual performance for nearly any B measurement, large or very small.”

DiFelice adds, “The visual quality is often compared to single vision, while being a progressive. There is easy adaptation and a smooth gradation of the power across the surface, giving sharp, clear vision near, far and in-between.”

The Kodak Unique is available in many lens material options and multiple indices in clear, photochromic and polarized.

Rodenstock has a new interactive lens design technology — the Impression FreeSign®. “The dispenser designs the lens interactively with the client present,” explains Martin Bell, sales and marketing manager for Rodenstock Canada. The FreeSign program makes a complex calculation based on the wearer’s current prescription, her lifestyle needs and of course the prescription, and then comes up with a design that the practitioner and patient can view on the screen and discuss. It shows the visual field, which can be adjusted as new factors are brought into consideration.

The optics can also be adjusted for the base curve of the frame. “No matter what base curve you choose, the client will have the same excellent visual experience,” explains Bell.

The value of the Impression FreeSign is seen in the example of one patient, a truck driver, whose peripheral vision needs include both outward and downwards movements for a clear view of side mirrors while driving. “With the FreeSign program I can take that into consideration and customize the design so that his unique needs are met,” explains Bell.

There is no cost to have the program installed and Rodenstock supplies training. “But it’s not for everyone,” notes Bell. “We only want it in stores where a premium is placed on developing a relationship with the customer.”

Seiko has a new computer lens, the PCWide, available from Plastic Plus. “This is the perfect solution for anyone spending a number of hours a day at a desk,” says Plastic Plus President Paul Faibish.

The PCWide provides the benefits of a single-vision and no-line variable focus lens by using reverse power accommodation technology to control lens power in a precise manner. Sharp, clear vision at computer monitor distances allows wearers to adjust instantly to the smooth power transitions in the extra-wide intermediate portion of the lens. “This is a relatively inexpensive purchase that maximizes vision during the day,” notes Faibish. “And it gives the dispenser an opportunity to sell an extra pair of glasses that will provide immediate benefit to the customer.”

Look also for the Seiko Wrap Tech Thin lens, a free-form panoramic, aspheric and asymmetric design that corrects power error and astigmatism across the lens surface. “For high-base lenses there is nothing like this technology, which achieves the most aberration-free vision in a lightweight, thin, high-index material,” explains Faibish. “Fashionable curved frames require this lens, which is available in clear, polarized and Transitions.”

Nikon Optical’s Technical Consultant Chantal Gravel is understandably proud of the Nikon Optical Design Engine (NODE), which optimizes lens design. “All of Nikon’s research and development for every kind of lens, including cameras and telescopes, is automatically accessed by the optical division through the NODE system. Every time we receive a request to make a pair of lenses, all the order information – measurements, PD, frame dimensions and so on goes through the system and each lens is individually optimized and sometimes personalized, depending on the patient’s needs and ECP instructions.”

With SeeMax POWER AP, a personalized progressive lens, the combination of NODE optimization, advanced personalization and fitting parameters improves the field of vision by up to 20 per cent compared to the original SeeMax Power. “This is the ideal progressive lens for patients seeking the highest visual quality,” says Gravel. “We offer a good quality product for everybody but our major strength is sophisticated bi-aspheric technology. We produce the most sophisticated lenses so that ECPs have access to the latest technology for their patients.”

The name Oakley is synonymous with sports and three new sport-specific progressive lenses enhance Oakley’s reputation as the go-to company in this arena. Oakley True Digital Cycling, Golf and Fishing lenses are tailored specifically for each sport so that presbyopic athletes and enthusiasts enjoy their activities even more.

Each sport requires a different type of straight and peripheral vision and Oakley’s innovative technology optimizes for the vision needs critical to each sport. Light-filtering technology further enhances the sporting experience: reducing glare for cyclists, enhancing the image of the ball against both sky and greens for golfers, and reducing reflected glare for fishers. Even deep-sea fishers have a lens that deals with the intense midday sun when on the water.

Back surface reflections are addressed via Oakley Stealth™ AR, which improves overall lens clarity, in addition to front-side mirror coatings that reduce glare and balance light transmission. These lenses also look very cool – and that can’t hurt!

Younger Optics knows that NuPolar Trilogy provides unprecedented comfort and visual acuity in a lightweight lens product that meets the needs of virtually every customer. “In today’s competitive market you cannot afford to have a customer who is dissatisfied,” notes Marketing Manager Robert Lee. “On the other hand, satisfied patients are returning patients.”

Now that Younger can combine polarization with Trilogy, the sales opportunities are much expanded. “The last thing you want to see is a customer walking through your door with a pair of delaminated polarized sunglasses in their hands,” explains Lee. “This problem is now solved with Trilogy Polarized lenses.”

Trilogy lens material also provides excellent optical quality while being chemical- and impact-resistant, and providing UVA/UVB blocking. “Nor will it crack and break around stress points like some inferior materials,” adds Lee.

Anyone with edging on their minds needs to know about the WECO Edge 680, the newest patternless edger from the German brand WECO. Released in spring 2012, the Edge 680 gives the gift of high productivity combined with perfect edging results. Operators love the total control afforded by this machine, with a large, tiltable, intuitive touch-screen, which allows for easy use of the step-down beveling feature. High curve applications are accomplished with great ease, as is high-definition angled drilling and grooving. Speed and agility marry quality in this device, which is compatible with an extensive range of centering and tracing devices.

Another edging innovation comes from Briot USA. The Emotion, launched at Vision Expo East 2012, is an all-in-one technological wonder with features that include shape modification, customized grooves and angled drilling. With a simple touch screen interface, the Emotion represents the best in easy-to-use technology. You’ll no doubt be smiling as you meet difficult edging challenges with this advanced device.

Essilor is leading the sun protection field with the development of an Eye-Sun Protection factor (E-SPF) rating system. The impetus for the development of this system was the fact that a recent consumer survey in Europe showed that more than two-thirds of consumers are not aware that clear lenses offer UV protection. At the same time, more than 90 percent of respondents believed that such a system would be helpful.

Essilor’s E-SPF provides an objective, science-based index for eyewear, certifying the UV protection of a lens. Values vary from 2 to a maximum of 25 for clear lenses and 50+ for tinted as well as polarized sun lenses. With an E-SPF of 25, Crizal UV lenses reach the best level of protection in the clear lens category and outperform other lenses on the market. The E-SPF system is propriety to Essilor.

Also look for the Optifog™ lens from Essilor, which addresses the problem of lenses fogging up when the wearer moves from cold to hot temperatures in humid environments. Optifog lenses will be helpful for drivers as well as in professional (e.g. surgical) and industrial settings where foggy lenses can be problematic.

Vision-Ease Lens works for the working person with Continua FSV Safety Plus lenses, now available in both plus and minus powers. These are high-impact, 2.0 mm lenses aimed at industrial accounts where protective eyewear is both necessary and effective in reducing personal injury. The product excels because the thinnest point on any part of the lens is 2.0 mm, giving maximum protection and reducing the chance that a frame would become dislodged upon impact.

Continua FSV Safety Plus lenses are now available in +3.00 to -6.00 sphere to -2.00 cylinder. Safety Plus lenses in the range of +2.00 to +3.00 sphere and 0.00 to -2.00 cylinder have slightly flatter front curves than those previously produced.

Transitions Optical continues to break exciting new ground in lens technology with the development of Transitions® Vantage lenses with variable polarization. Leave it to Transitions to create a lens that polarizes gradually in response to light conditions. The Vantage is an everyday photochromic lens that starts out virtually clear and non-polarized indoors. When the wearer is outdoors, the lens responds by darkening and polarizing, optimizing the angle at which light reaches the eyes to help control glare and light scatter.

The molecules in conventional photochromic lenses darken in a random pattern, creating an even tint. The photochromic molecules in Transitions Vantage lenses not only darken, but also align to create polarization. This means Transitions Vantage lenses have a level of polarization that depends on the amount of UV exposure – the darker the lens, the more polarization there is.

Variable polarization provides added glare protection over and above traditional photochromic lenses. With AR added, Transitions Vantage lenses help to manage glare in all its many guises.

Kudos to Transitions – changing the paradigm once again!