User Review

MANUFACTURER: OptiCast, Inc., 2042-R Tiffin Avenue, Findlay, Ohio 45840; (419) 425-2278; (888) 893-2278; Fax: 425-2250;
DESCRIPTION: An in-office lens casting system using a UV curing chamber, with progressive, flat-top bifocal and single-vision molds in both clear and photochromic mid-index.
KEY FEATURES: UV curing time approximately five minutes; complete system, including curing chamber and mold cabinet, measures two feet wide by three feet high; lens prescription range is -4.00D to +4.00D out to a –2.00D cylinder. Initial system includes: 102 front molds, 160 toric back molds, 20 spherical back molds and 90 gaskets (gaskets hold front and back molds together for casting).
PRICE: $15,995; includes 900 grams of clear monomer, additional bags of monomer, 450 grams (approximately 12 pairs); costs $124.35 for additional clear monomer and $311.85 for additional photochromic monomer.
Over the years, in-office alternatives to surfacing—casting or wafer systems—have admittedly had mixed results. The prospect of faster turnaround-time and lower wholesale lab bills is appealing, but drawbacks of previous systems—high start-up costs, slower/lower return-on-investment and the need for near clean-room facilities—has made them unfeasible for most dispensary labs.
OptiCast is the latest edition of casting technology. L&T’s panel of reviewers find that this compact, low-volume and low-priced system lacks the drawbacks of older systems. One reviewer who had experience with other casting technologies, says the “handling was much easier with OptiCast and the price is far more reasonable.”

The system makes antiseptic conditions unnecessary—no special handling or installation of air-filtering devices is needed. The monomer comes in “blister” bags and the substance is injected into molds. The mold assembly—the back mold is glass, the front mold is metal and both are held together by a plastic gasket—is then placed in the curing chamber. Uncured monomer is never exposed to debris and molds are easily cleaned with cloths and store-bought glass cleanser. As one reviewer explains: “[All] you need is a little optical knowledge in order to follow the chart that tells you what back and front molds and gasket to select for each prescription.”

“It’s very easy to clean the molds,” adds another reviewer. “You just have to be diligent in making sure you clean them.”

Reviewers are pleased with both the lens material and design offered with the system. The material is a mid-index, (1.56), although reviewers sell and market it as an alternative to regular plastic.

“The minus lenses come out beautifully. But with some of the higher plus powers they are a little thick in the centers, especially in small frames,” one reviewer admits. The material is more scratch resistant than other uncoated lens materials, reviewers say, but they also prefer to sell it with a warranty instead of applying a scratch-resistant coating. “It’s actually less expensive to replace the lens instead of coating the lens, but we get very few returns,” explains a reviewer.
The main trick in handling lenses with OptiCast is that after curing (which takes about five minutes), lenses must be cooled by either letting them set for about 30 minutes or by submersing them in cold water for five to 10 minutes. Either way, the material remains somewhat soft or porous for a few days. When lenses are edged, chuck clamps can leave surface indentations, which are easily removed by dipping the lens in a warm solution. “We dip the lenses in the UV tint and the indentations disappear,” says a reviewer.

Not only are the lenses easily edged but, a reviewer says, “the material tints up beautifully, quicker than regular plastic.” Due to turnaround-time issues, reviewers rarely A-R coat OptiCast lenses: sending them to a coating lab takes more time than ordering other coated lenses from a lab. However, because the lenses are uncoated, retailers stress they have to be sure to order a foundation coating along with the A-R.

Reviewers rated OptiCast’s photochromic lens highly. “It performs as well as any plastic photochromic,” one reviewer says. “But it also comes in a variety of colors. We carry six or seven. This gives us something else to market.”
The lens designs available from OptiCast include aspheric single-vision, flat-top and progressive. Retailers, though, say they have sold fewer single-vision lenses, stating that the low cost of stocking single-vision lenses makes casting them not cost-effective. The flat-top design, reviewers say, compares well with the industry standard. Reviewers rate the progressive design as excellent and progressive lenses make up the bulk of OptiCast lens sales. The soft-design lens, one reviewer says, “is as good as most of the top-of-the-line designs.” Another reviewer claims that after a year of dispensing the design, “we’ve not had a single adaptation problem.”

Reviewers rate return-on-investment with the OptiCast system as excellent, even though the utilization varies significantly. One reviewer estimates that only 30 percent of his progressive sales are OptiCast, while another projects their OptiCast sales at roughly 90 percent. Likewise, reviewers—taking into account overhead costs in addition to the cost of OptiCast lease payments and supply cost—estimate that the cost-per-pair of lens ranges between $15 and $20. Reviewers say their lab bills have been reduced by, on average, 50 percent to 70 percent with the OptiCast system.

“We are on track in terms of return-on-investment,” says one reviewer. “We can compete with chains that offer cheaper progressives, afford to offer warranties and provide faster service. It gives us something new to market, so it not only saves money, but makes money.” —Timothy Herrick
Reviewers: Cindy Kibble, manager, Brevard Eye Centers, Melbourne, Fla.;
Mario Carcamo, OD, owner, Cohen’s Fashion Optical, Miami, Fla.; Jean Stone, OD, owner, Stone Vision Center, Greers Ferry, Ark.; Timothy Masden, OD, owner, Insight Eyecare, Richard Glisker, optician/owner,
World of Vision, Vero Beach, Fla.
Manufacturer’s Response
OptiCast is committed to making the lens casting process simple, fast and cost-effective in a retail-dispensing environment. OptiCast has developed our own proprietary light-curing monomers with value-added properties and we are continuing to develop other innovations in products and processes. One product progression is enhanced scratch-resistance. In the second quarter of 2003, we will introduce a monomer with built-in scratch resistance measuring 1.5 to 2 on the Bayer Abrasion Test, which is comparable to a quality tintable hard-coated product from a lens manufacturer.