VCPN’s Cara Huzinec spoke with Janet Cunningham, Luxexcel’s director of business development, to answer the questions ECPs have about 3D-printed ophthalmic lenses.
Q Who is Luxexcel?
A: We are a privately held company based in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, and Turnhout, Belgium, with a U.S. corporate office in Alpharetta, GA. We are the only company in the world currently printing ophthalmic lenses for eyewear. We introduced this 3D printing technology in 2017 and are taking small steps toward our goal of printing unique and special prescription lenses. We are not affiliated with any company in the ophthalmic space.
Q What are the advantages of 3D printing eyeglass lenses?
We print lenses ready to coat and edge, skipping many steps legacy lenses must go through to get to this point, which could be viewed as wasteful because much of the blank is cut away and discarded. We can print the exact customized lens the patient and ECP needs without requiring a large stock of blanks that need to be processed. We don’t have an interest in printing core powers of lenses because there are already a lot of great companies making wonderful products quickly and inexpensively. We are more interested in printing special prescription lenses. They may include an alternative to a slab-off, in which the prism would be printed directly into the bifocal segment. We are also planning for lenses that do not exist today, such as those embedded with films or screens for use as smart eyewear or augmented reality, or lenses that quickly change tints via liquid crystal displays.
Q Can ECPs buy 3D-printed lenses now? How much do they cost?
Yes, ECPs can buy lenses now from our partner labs. We have two commercial printers placed in partner optical labs in the U.S. Our first printer was installed in IFB Solutions’ optical lab in Winston-Salem, NC, and the second at Quest Vision Specialty Lab in Largo, FL. Right now, our partner labs are printing single vision and blended bifocal prescriptions. We are slowly building our portfolio and are currently interested in accuracy more than speed. ECPs can set up an account with one of our partner labs to order lenses. All pricing and prescription ranges available are between the customer and our partner lab. If you don’t have an account, both labs will help to set up one.
Q Can any 3D printer make eyeglass lenses with the right “ink” material?
Luxexcel lenses require our proprietary process, material, instrument and lens design system. VisionPlatform refers to our whole 3D printing ecosystem; VisionEngine is the machine that prints the lenses; and VisionMaster is the design software. VisionClear is a proprietary ink that is used to create the lenses. Our printer weighs 5 tons because it needs to be very stable during the printing process. It is about 15 feet long so that robotics can be added in the future. The system requires a clean room and trained operators.
Q How are the lenses made, and what are they made of?
The lab operator enters the parameters of the prescription lenses into our VisionMaster software, which sends the data to be translated into a pattern for the printer. Tiny picoliter-sized droplets of VisionClear material are deposited onto a substrate that passes under our print heads in VisionEngine. After each pass through the printer, the droplets are cured with UV light. Then the next layer is deposited, and the process is repeated until the lenses are completed to the requested prescription. VisionClear material produces lenses with a 1.53 index and an Abbe value of 45.
Q Can ECPs get a printer for their office?
For the most part, it is best to order lenses from an optical lab with a printer due to the space and volume requirements. The right partnership is very important to us, and we want our partners to enjoy the process of developing a brand new ophthalmic lens together. If ECPs believe they have the special lens volume, space and entrepreneurial spirit to join us, we would be happy to discuss.
Q Where can ECPs see lenses being made?
VCPN has a link to a short video of a printer.