Cast Away

By Andrew Karp

Although the idea of in-office lens casting appeals to many eyecare practitioners, relatively few have actually tried casting lenses. Despite the benefits touted by the makers of casting systems—reduced production and inventory costs, the ability to deliver high-quality lenses and better service to patients—most practitioners still rely exclusively on wholesale labs and stock houses for their total supply of lenses. Some are simply reluctant to change established buying habits. Others shy away from casting due to its checkered history marked by failed technologies, strategic missteps by manufacturers and retailers and wavering corporate support.

Yet those problems are largely characteristic of an older generation of technology. In the past few years, manufacturers such as Optical Dynamics, Opticast and NexGen have stepped forward with a new generation of lens casting systems that are more reliable, easier to use and less expansive than anything that has come before.

A growing number of dispensers, doctors and retailers are using these systems and are reporting good results.Optician Wanda Landry and her colleagues at the Quint Eye Clinic in Ocean Springs, Miss., have been casting lenses for several years. They first used the Innotech system (formerly marketed by Johnson & Johnson, but now out of production), but have since switched to the Optical Dynamics’ Q-2100 R system, which she says is easier to use and makes better lenses, and is cost-effective.
“As far as the progressives, we have haven’t had any problems with patient adaptation,” says Landry, adding that the lenses are much thinner than those made with the Innotech system.
QDC’s Q-2100 R can produce high-index lenses in a variety of designs, including sperical and asperic/atoric single-vision, flat-top
bifocal and general purpose and short-corridor progressive.
The clinic makes about 60 to 65 percent of the lenses dispensed there, notes Landry, including progressives, flat-tops, single-vision, high-index and photochromics. “We would do more, but we can only get up to a certain power,” she says. “We’re considering a cylinder upgrade that would give us more range. We use our system as much as possible. Our technician will pull anything she can possibly make on that machine.”

Mario Carcamo, an optometrist at Cohen’s Fashion Optical in Hialeah, Fla., is also an experienced lens caster and former Innotech user. He became one of OptiCast’s first customers about three years ago.

“I work in a mall where we do a lot of one hour jobs, Most of the prescriptions that come out of a lab, ranging from +4.00 to -4.00D can be met with OptiCast,” he relates. “The problem with casting is dust in the lens, which can result in blemishes and distortion. The beauty of this system is I can go back and redo the lens in three minutes, if necessary.”

Dr. Carcamo’s staff casts about 90 percent of the store’s progressives and about 90 percent of its photochromics, including single vision. However, he still uses a surfacing lab for certain jobs, such as putting high-plus lenses in small frames. “I also use a lab if I need a specialty progressive such as AO Compact,” he says.
Minimal counter space is needed for the OptiCast II system, which comes with mold storage cabinets.

All-Star Cast
Optical Dynamics Corp. (ODC) and OptiCast, Inc. both market in-office casting systems designed for low volume lens production. (ODC also offers a high-volume system for labs, as does NexGen).

Optical Dynamics Corp. (ODC) offers the Q-2100 R, which it describes the Q-2100-R as a “cost-effective system for the low-volume producer.” Compact and ergonomically designed, the system has minimal inventory requirements and needs minimal cleanup and maintenance, according to ODC. Microprocessor-based prompts guide the user through the entire process, including automatically selecting molds and gaskets. The Q-2100 R is self-diagnostic, has report capabilities and requires minimal training time. A control package allows the user to electronically generate work tickets after job entry.
The Q-2100 R system uses ODC’s proprietary high-index, UV-cured monomers to cast photochromic or clear aspheric single-vision, flat-top or aspheric progressive lenses in under an hour. ODC’s lens designs have been received the COLTS Laboratories seal of approval. The lenses are scratch resistant and A-R compatible.

ODC leases the Q-2100 R for an average of $1,200 a month including a licensing fee and a 60-lens supply of monomer. The latest offering from Opticast, Inc. is the Opticast II Professional Series Lens Molding System. According to OptiCast, the lens casting system is easy to operate. It needs only a two-foot by two-foot by three-foot space and a 110-volt outlet. It takes an average of 15 to 20 minutes from start to finish to put a pair of progressive lenses in a frame; the power range is +4.00 to a -4.00D to a -2 cylinder, which covers approximately 92 percent of all prescriptions. OptiCast offers photochromic monomer in brown, gray and a variety of fashion colors.
The system costs $15,995 and can be leased or purchased for less than $500 a month (based upon a three-year lease with 10 percent payout at end).