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CET Continuing education

Freeform lenses
Part 1
In the first of a three-part series looking at freeform lenses, Paul Bullock describes the evolution of progressive power lenses as a backdrop to the introduction of freeform. Module C14211, one general CET point for optometrists and dispensing opticians

here is no better example of the lack of awareness on the part of the public about modern progressive lens options than an event which occurred only a few

weeks ago. My wife and I were in Budapest celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary. We took an open-top bus tour around this beautiful city; however, my attention was not on the architectural and natural wonders surrounding me, rather than on a fellow passenger and his curious spectacle arrangement. I was determined to take a picture of this gentleman which I am delighted to share with you (Figure 1). From my subsequent discussions with him, his spectacle apparatus is thus: Pair 1 single-vision distance, CR39, clear, uncoated Pair 2 plano aviator style sunglasses, Glass, B15 tinted Pair 3 single-vision near, CR39, clear, uncoated. I explained that there were options to aid his visual experience and to improve his cosmetics and comfort. I demonstrated this by showing him the pair I was wearing at the time with the following specifications; -5.00DS, prism compensated, high index, high base, concave HMAR, flash mirror, polarising sunglasses. Even though there was a significant language barrier the advice was warmly received and we may have another convert to progressive power lenses. I am still surprised by the number of presbyopes who could benefit from the modern day technological marvels that are todays progressive power lenses (PPLs). They either decline to wear them, preferring to wear various optical apparatus with sometimes reduced success, or have not been offered the best fit solution to suit their lifestyle and visual requirements. I pondered this particular gentlemans plight as I researched this series. He, like most of our patients, would be surprised

Where these sections coincide, the resultant surface is free of astigmatism. Where the conic sections do not coincide, the front surface displays astigmatism. The intensity and orientation of the astigmatism varies with the PAL design and the corridor length. These concepts which we all take for granted today have taken much expertise, innovation and development since Benjamin Franklin first designed the bifocal lens in 1784. Early PPL design The optical principles of PPLs have long been understood. The earliest progressive lens patent was granted to British optometrist Owen Aves in 1907, co-founder of what is now known as the Institute of Optometry. The lens Aves designed used two aspheric cylindrical surfaces. On one surface there was a section of an elliptic cylinder and the other a section of an inverted cone. Each surface contributed an equal cylindrical effect with the axes mutually perpendicular to produce a sphere of power from top to bottom. This was in essence a dual-surface progressive design; unfortunately the lens structure made it unable to correct for astigmatic prescriptions and Aves design never went into production and instead was limited only to prototypes. In the following years, many other PPL lens designs followed, including ones which used a parabolic concave back surface with an increasing radius of curvature from the geometric lens centre, decreasing the back surface power and increasing the total lens power. This lens orientation resulted in the central portion for distance vision with the periphery for near. In 1914 Henry Orford Gowlland invented one of the first commercially available PPLs with the familiar umbilic design structure we recognise as a PPL today. The design was a single surface progressive using a section of a paraboloid on the rear surface. This

Figure 1 A novel approach to multi-focals

by the development, advancements and complexities of PPLs throughout history. The progressive addition lens (PAL) concept The ideal spectacle lens for presbyopia would be completely distortion free while providing a continuous progression in power for clear vision from distance to near, with wide fields of view for all distances. This has been the goal of the PAL designer since its inception. Current PALs provide the wearer with zones for distance and near vision that are wide, free of distortions and stable in power. These areas are joined by a corridor of increasing plus power. This corridor of transitional power is generated by a gradual increase in the curvature of the lens surface. A typical design PAL progressive surface can be represented by a series of conic sections stacked on one another. By joining these sections with their apices coinciding, an astigmatism-free corridor of increasing plus power is achieved. This use of non-circular, aspheric cross sections, the conic sections, reduces the surface astigmatism in the lens periphery without compromising width of the viewing field. From the distance to near zones, the conic sections vary from ellipses, to circles, to parabolas, to hyperbolas.

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Continuing education CET

design was produced commercially, but without success. Limitations with the machining of the necessary surfaces, the optically poor performance of these designs and the resulting unacceptable aberrations are attributed to the classification of these early PPLs as a failure. First-generation PPLs In 1959 the first commercially successful lens was introduced by Essel, one of the founding members of Essilor. The progressive design, named Varilux 1, gave a large spherical distance and near zone linked along the main meridian, or umbilical line with orthogonal circular sections of decreasing radii. This design structure resulted in strong surface astigmatism in the periphery and to the nasal and temporal sides of the umbilical. The Varilux 1 was a symmetrical design with no inset. The lens could be used for either the right or left eye; the lens would be twisted nasally into the frame to create the inset required for the reading zone. The design had no power variation in the upper half of the lens, a relatively short corridor, and a near zone of constant power approximately 22mm in width. In the next few years several other manufacturers developed and released first-generation PPLs including Silor Super No Line and American Optical AO7. Second-generation PPLs The development of commercially viable and successful PPLs represented a technological breakthrough in surface generation; the ability to control the angle of contact to produce the necessary surfaces was heralded by some as more of an innovation than

Figure 2 Hard design PPL

Figure 3 Soft design PPL

the product produced. With this new technology the lens designers had the ability to manufacture more complex designs to enhance the design performance. First-generation designs had strong surface astigmatism; the next step in PPL development was to reduce this and to produce a softer design. Mathematic surface modelling was used to research ways to reduce this; however, the limitation was still in the capabilities of the manufacturing technology rather than the imagination and expertise of the lens designers. The Varilux 2 design was introduced in 1972 with a change of design structure from orthogonal circular sections of decreasing radii to evolutive conic sections of changing eccentricities. This new design, termed horizontal optical moderation, coupled with an asymmetrical design with separate lenses for right and left eyes with inset near zones, produced a design optimised for binocular vision. The Varilux 2 design possessed an

aspheric progressive surface. The result of this was a reduction in the intensity of the surface astigmatism. Many similar designs were subsequently released using similar concepts, including: Silor New Super No Line, Rodenstock Progressiv R and Sola Graduate. As more manufacturers entered the PPL market, great care was taken to differentiate their designs from their competitors. This was done by designing the lens around optimum performance for certain criteria. Some designs were focused around reducing the severity of the surface astigmatism by spreading it wider over the surface of the lens. Some designs purposely increased the strength of the surface astigmatism, thereby increasing the size of the distance and near zones. Rodenstock in its Multigressiv design added an aspheric flatter base curve to its already aspheric progressive surface. This yielded better visual performance for higher astigmatic lenses. Carl Zeiss in its Gradal HS design focused on binocular vision utilising

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CET Continuing education

Figure 5 Shorter corridor PPLs were introduced in 1999

an asymmetrical design equalising acuities and prismatic effect across the horizontal zone. Third-generation PPLs This new generation, circa 1980, introduced the multi-design PPL. Firstgeneration PPLs displayed strong surface astigmatism, now classified hard design PPLs (Figure 2). Second-generation PPLs displayed weaker surface astigmatism, now classified softer-design PPLs (Figure 3). Both these generations utilised the same basic lens design across all base curves and addition powers; this

Figure 4 A multidesign PPL, changing from soft to hard design with increasing add

design is known as a mono-design. A multi-design PPL adjusts the lens design for each addition power. The design for an early presbyope would be a soft which became harder as the addition power increased. The multi-design PPL was aimed at vision comfort and ease of adaptation for each stage of presbyopia (Figure 4). Several lenses of this era with this design profile include: American Optical M3, BBGR Selective and Hoya Hoyalux GP. Further progressive power generations Further generations of PPLs have been made possible due to significant advancements in lens design and surface manufacture. Advanced computernumerically controlled cutting of the ceramic moulds used for forming the glass moulds for semi-finished PPLs has reduced manufacturing limitations

Figure 6 Conventional PPLs are only optimised for one target Rx per base curve

and mathematic surface modelling has become much more complex and efficient due to advancements in computer technology. Fourth-generation PPLs, such as Varilux Comfort and Hoyalux Wide, were designed to offer more natural vision than previous generations. The design profile was thus that the wearer could obtain the near power in a fast, effective way while adopting a natural head posture. Fifth-generation PPLs, such as Hoyalux Summit Pro, changed the orientation of the asphericity of the lens, matching the transmitted vertical and horizontal powers in a transmissionbased design. Other key design characteristics include an ergonomic inset and horizontal asymmetric design. Other fifth-generation PPLs include

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Continuing education CET

the Varilux Panamic. In 1999 American Optical released the first short-corridor PPL, the AO Compact in response to market demands. Eye sizes were becoming smaller throughout the 1990s and PPLs were not suitable for the shallow frames becoming fashionable at this time. The near zone was positioned higher and the umbilical shortened, leading to a harder design profile. The wearer experienced a faster transition from distance to near and reduced intermediate field of view. The fitting height was reduced by 4mm compared to PPLs of the same era, more than adequate for the frame requirements (Figure 5). conventional design PPLs Up to this point, all generations of PPLs could be classified as conventionally designed and manufactured. Conventional PPLs are privy to two major limitations, base curve restrictions and universal standard measurements. Optional PPLs are produced from semi-finished blanks with a moulded progressive front surface and base curve. Each base curve is used for a range of powers but the design is only optimised for one target power per base curve, usually a simple spherical prescription. The design when a strong cylindrical power is required performs very differently to the optimised target power (Figure 6). Due to the semi-finished nature of conventional PPLs with a moulded progressive surface, the progressive design was based upon assumptions regarding the target wearer. These universal standard measurements being: Pupillary distance of 63mm Back vertex distance of 15mm

MuLTiPLE-choicE quESTionS take part at

1 2 3

Which of the following is not a secondgeneration PPL? A Sola Graduate B Rodenstock Progressiv R c Silor New Super No Line D American Optical AO7 The Varilux I used a near zone of constant power of what approximate width? A 18mm B 20mm c 22mm D 24mm Which of the following is not a thirdgeneration PPL? A Zeiss Gradal HS B BBGR Selective c Hoya Hoyalux GP D AO M3

4 5 6

Which of the following best describes the Varilux Comfort? A Second-generation PPL B Third-generation PPL c Fourth-generation PPL D Fifth-generation PPL Which of the following best describes the Hoyalux Summit Pro? A Second-generation PPL B Third-generation PPL c Fourth-generation PPL D Fifth-generation PPL What front face form angle is suggested as a universal standard measurement? A 2 degrees B 4 degrees c 6 degrees D 8 degrees

Successful participation in this module counts as one credit towards the GOC CET scheme administered by Vantage and one towards the Association of Optometrists Irelands scheme. The deadline for responses is August 5 2010

Pantoscopic tilt of 8 Front face form angle of 4. Any patients Rx that lies outside of the optimised target power or frame and facial measurements that are outside of the universal standard measurements experiences a PPL considered as an acceptable compromise. The ideal PPL would incorporate frame and facial measurements unique to the patient as well as lifestyle and method of use. The design would be calculated for every individual prescription rather than optimised for one target power per base curve,

resulting in a personal design. These new types of lenses will be discussed in the next article in this series, as will the improvements in the tools to design, manufacture and compute the complex surfaces required for the new generations of progressive power lenses, including the introduction of numerically controlled cutting and polishing machinery. The changing visual requirements of the presbyope will also be discussed. Paul Bullock is professional services
manger at Hoya Lens UK

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CET Continuing education

Freeform lenses
Part 2
Paul Bullock describes the manufacturing process behind modern freeform lenses. Module C14387, one general CET point for optometrists and dispensing opticians

hat is freeform? This is a question I have put to many people, whether they be seasoned optical professionals in CET presentations or first-year optics students. The answers volunteered have been insightful, intriguing, derogatory and many other adjectives, but all different. It is quite apparent that the term freeform has become an industry buzz-word that has led to much confusion. It is being embraced by the optical industry, but the term is still misunderstood in some instances. Freeform surfacing is a wonder of modern technology; we now have the ability to manufacture lens designs that were inconceivable a decade ago. This technology is another milestone for the optical industry and only by having a clear understanding of the practical applications of this technology can we move forward as an industry to introduce it to the audience it deserves. Freeform simply is a manufacturing process that allows the production of complex surfaces and designs with extreme precision. The conventional method The conventional lens surfacing process cannot produce the complex surface required for a progressive power lens
4th axis angle z Optical axis Machine axis Cs

(PPL). The process was designed to create simple spherical and toric surfaces which can be polished by rigid lap tools. A progressive surface does not have a consistent curvature and requires a flexible lap tool for polishing. To overcome this restriction the complex progressive surface is cast into a semi-finished lens blank using a glass mould. A metal or ceramic dye is cut with the progressive lens design using a computer numerically controlled cutting tool. Heated glass is then slumped over the dye to reproduce the complex progressive design cut into the surface of the dye. There are two moulds for each lens blank, one for the front surface containing the progressive lens design and one for the back, a simple spherical curve. The moulds are mounted in a gasket, liquid lens monomer injected into the apparatus and the monomer heat polymerised. Once cured the resulting form takes the shape of the two moulds, a traditional semi-finished PPL blank. This is known as the open and shut production method. Importantly, the accuracy of the lens is only equal to the accuracy of the moulds. This process is a highly repeatable method of production which yields consistent quality. The only drawback is shrinkage as the lens monomer goes through heat polymerisation. This process produces a power accuracy of approximately
Figure 1 Mathematical modelling of cutting tool coordinates

0.06D. The semi-finished blanks would then have the distance prescription applied to the rear surface using traditional surfacing equipment. This equipment can only produce relatively simple surfaces because the surfacing tools they use can only produce a spherical or toric surface. For spherical surfaces, there is only one radius of curvature used in all meridians, for the cylinder surfaces (toric) there are two radii of curvature crossed at 90 degrees. These tools cannot create aspheric or complex progressive lens designs, hence the need to use pre-moulded semi-finished lens blanks. As previously discussed in Part 1 (Optician, 09.07.10), the semi-finished lens blanks are available in a set number of base curves, each base curve covering a range of prescriptions. Advent of freeform technology Freeform technology has been utilised in optical lens manufacture for approximately two decades. It first came into use manufacturing the moulds for PPLs. Freeform was introduced to help improve the mould making technology which inherently improved the accuracy of the PPL. A freeform generator was used to directly cut the surface of the glass mould with the progressive design, rather than using the glass slumping process as previously described. This direct surfacing improved the power accuracy to approximately 0.01D. This fact lends itself to a question. Because the mould is manufactured using freeform technology and the semi-finished lens blank cast from this mould, does this mean it is a freeform PPL? Does the use of a freeform generator on the mould equate to a freeform PPL? Some manufacturers refer to products made in this manner as digitally moulded, digitally cast, freeform front surfaced and many other names and market them as such. The fact is that most semi-finished lenses are made from freeform generated moulds and have been for some time.

Vertical axis

Horizontal axis

x 0.000 35.000 0.000

y 0.000 0.000 -35.000

z 0.000 6.201 6.201

0.000 24.835 0.000

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using a CNC dynamic, flexible lap tool. (Figure 3). Freeform PPLs Applying this technology to PPLs allows the lens manufacturer to overcome the restrictions of conventionally surfaced and cast PPLs. The original design of the lens is still paramount. If a poorly designed lens is freeform manufactured, it remains a poor design; however, a well designed lens can be improved by utilising this technology. Best form theory dictates a unique base curve for each specific prescription to reduce optical aberrations, but this is not economically viable due to the economics of mass production. So a best available fit is used. Conventional PPL designs are constrained by surfacing technology and parameters specific to the individual wearer. Frame and facial characteristics cannot be accounted for because the PPL has to be designed conforming to universal standard measurements. These constraints mean that the basic PPL design can only be varied slightly for each base curve and add power. Freeform technology allows exciting possibilities for lens designers as it removes the constraints of traditional semi-finished lens manufacture and allows the direct surfacing of the extremely complex progressive lens surface directly onto the lens blank. This allows the opportunity to design a lens for every order, freeing us from the constraints of universal standard measurement and base curve restrictions. The lenses can now incorporate an infinite number of parameters specific to the individual prescription and frame fitting. It allows a unique PPL to be custom designed for each individual order and manufactured with the highest of precision. Different types of freeform PPLs There are many different freeform PPLs on the optical market, from many different manufacturers, each with their own interpretation of what the term means and what constitutes a freeform lens. Some lens manufacturers now have multiple freeform PPLs in their portfolios, and even within their own portfolio different manufacturing processes are employed, but all under the banner of freeform. Some examples of these different types of freeform manufacture include: A semi-finished lens blank with a moulded progressive surface, cast from a freeform mould, and then utilising traditional surfacing for power (rear) surface A semi-finished lens blank with a moulded progressive surface, cast from a freeform mould, and then utilising freeform surfacing for the power (rear) surface Using a spherical lens blank, and then directly surfacing the progressive and power surface onto the rear surface using freeform surfacing Using a complete blank and then directly surfacing both lens surfaces with different elements of the progressive design and power surface using freeform manufacture. As can be seen by this very generic and non-exhaustive list, the term freeform is used extensively to cover a wide range of manufacturing techniques, some with more credence to the term freeform and yielding superior optical performance than others. Freeform allows the lens designer to directly surface the progressive design onto the lens surface. However, a large proportion of freeform PPLs are still manufactured from moulded semi-finished blanks with the progressive element moulded in casting. The true benefits of freeform progressives can only be fully reached once the starting point of the lens is a true blank with no restrictions and the lens is designed for freeform manufacture. There are factors which make this method of manufacture difficult, which is why the majority of manufacturers do not produce PPLs using this method, but to use freeform technology to its full potential and to strive for the best optical performance, this method of manufacture must be adopted. To manufacture a PPL from scratch, freeforming both sides of the lens, incorporating different elements of the progressive design onto both surfaces and integrating them together to achieve the best characteristics of both front surface PPLs with a fast, dynamic progression corridor and the wide fields of view enjoyed by the wearers
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Figure 2 The three-stage freeform cutting cycle

The freeform generator Freeform generators are multi-axis, computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines which rapidly translate the individual progressive design in the form of a point file to three-dimensional diamond cutting tools which remove material to create the surface. The combination of the point file, software control and pinpoint CNC surfacing accuracy means the freeform generator can precisely cut away material down to microns, thereby producing virtually any complex multi-curve surface. Freeform surfacing begins by mathematically modelling the individual lens surface. The design is then translated into point file, a series of co-ordinates for the cutting tools along the x, y and z axis (Figure 1). The lens blank then undergoes a three-stage cutting process (Figure 2): A multi-blade rough cutting tool A polycrystalline diamond smooth cutting tool A natural diamond high speed finish cutting tool. After surface generation, the lens is then polished in a freeform polisher

Figure 3 The CNC controlled flexiable lap tool

Continuing education CET

of rear surface PPLs is not an easy undertaking. It requires a very complex mathematical modelling to generate the lens surfaces,2 for each lens integrated together for best performance to create a dual surface PPL. In order to manufacture a dual surface PPL, the lens must go through two freeform cycles, one for the concave side and one for the convex side. This increases the machining costs and requires specialist equipment for concave and convex freeform generation and polishing. Another difficulty is in offering a photochromatic plastic lens. The preferred type of photochromatic product by patients and optical professionals is an imbibed offering. Here the semi-finished lens blank, whether it be a semi-finished PPL to be freeformed on the rear surface, or a semi-finished spherical lens blank to be freeformed on the rear surface with the power and progression to become a PPL, has absorbed a layer of photosensitive dye into the plastic substrate. This becomes permanently embedded into the semi-finished lens surface at a uniform depth of between 150 and 200 microns. Because this process requires the lens to start from a semi-finished spherical or progressive blank, it is not possible to create a dual surface freeformed PPL with this imbibing technology as a fully freeformed, dual surface PPL does not start from a semi-finished lens blank of any type, rather a large puck of lens material. The imbibition photochromic technology described is a proprietary, patented process developed and commercially introduced by Transitions Optical. To overcome this issue a different type of photochromatic technology must be used. A spin-coating process can be used after the lens has been manufactured to apply a photochromatic layer. The photochromic technology is a proprietary, patented process developed and commercially introduced by Hoya. Freeform lenses in practice Freeform PPLs from some manuf acturers often require additional fitting parameters, back vertex distance, face form angle, near working distance, pantoscopic tilt for example. Others use an average value for these measurements. By individually designing the lenses before manufacture we now have the ability to optimise the lens performance, compensating for the effects that these parameters have on the performance of the lens. This technology not only
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Sph Ordered power Reference power Including wear parameters, lens thickness, design and material properties Measuring power The actual lens power that you may measure yourself ISO tolerance compliant Reference power minus calculated power +2.75 +2.60 Cyl 0.00 +0.12 Axis 0 89 Add +2.50 +2.45









allows us the facility to optimise for the prescription and facial parameters but also for lifestyle and previous lens experience of the wearer. The ability to tailor make the lenses to the patients requirements offers the dispenser the option the deliver the highest level of patient care with an individual solution to the wearers visual requirements. The personalised or individualised freeform lenses will often arrive in practice with a compensated prescription, usually described as a measured prescription (Table 1). This generally will differ slightly from the prescribed prescription. The compensated prescription is what you would read using a traditional manual or digital focimeter. The lens will have

the correct power in position of wear for the patient, taking into account how the patient would wear it, with compensation for back vertex distance, pantoscopic tilt, frame form angle etc. As the measured position on the focimeter is the unnatural wearing position, you would not measure the prescribed power. A digital focimeter conforming to the infinity on axis principle will accurately read the very latest generations of freeform manufactured lenses. The latest individualised lenses along with the design base theory will be discussed in the next article of this series. Paul Bullock is professional services
manager for Hoya Lens UK

MuLTiPLe-choice quesTions take part at

1 2 3
A1 B2 c3 D4

What is the power accuracy of the open and shut production method? A 0.01D B 0.03D c 0.06D D 0.6D What is the power accuracy of direct surfacing? A 0.01D B 0.03D c 0.06D D 0.6D In freeform surfacing, how many cutting stages are there?

4 5

The final cutting stage relies on a tool made of which of the following? A Quartz B Diamond c Multicrystal D Iron For an ordered power of sphere of +2.50DS for a freeform lens, which of the following best represents the measuring power from a traditional focimeter? A +2.44DS B -2.64DS c +2.64DS D +2.60DS What is the thickness of embedded photochromic material resulting from the imbibation photochromic technology process? A 100-150 microns B 150-200 microns c 250-500 microns D 150-200mm

Successful participation in this module counts as one credit towards the GOC CET scheme administered by Vantage and one towards the Association of Optometrists Irelands scheme. The deadline for responses is September 9 2010