Technological advances typically occur because someone tries to improve upon an existing product or process. But building a better mousetrap can have unanticipated side effects that create a new set of problems.

Take the new generation of anti-reflective lenses, for example. Due to improvements in the chemistry of the AR coating stack, the new lenses repel water, oil and dust, making them easy to clean and less prone to scratching than previous AR lenses. Yet these same hydrophobic and oleophobic coatings also create problems for optical laboratories. The slick surface they produce not only causes water and oil to slide off the lenses, it also makes it difficult for edging pads to stick to them. As a result, labs are experiencing high rates of spoilage. This is especially problematic, since super hydrophobic/oleophobic AR lenses tend to be expensive.

The problem is so widespread it is impeding the growth of the premium AR lens category.

Manufacturers of AR lenses, together with coating equipment and consumables suppliers are working one-on-one with their lab customers to develop new techniques for edging super hydrophobic/oleophobic lenses. A growing number of wholesale labs have figured out, though trial and error, how to do it, although spoilage rates are reportedly still high. Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive source of information about how to edge the new AR lenses. Although the Vision Council of America’s AR Committee has been formed a new sub-committee to address the problem, it faces a difficult task because most suppliers are unwilling to share their proprietary technologies with competitors. That means retailers who edge these lenses in-office will have to rely on their wholesale labs to help them learn the proper edging techniques, at least for now. According to experts I’ve spoken with, the techniques involve such factors as adjusting the pressure of your edger chuck and matching the lens with the right type of pad. Ask your lab for a checklist of the technical issues to troubleshoot.

Sooner or later this slippery problem will be solved. As soon as it is, another generation of AR products will probably hit the market and the process will start all over again. But that’s progress, isn’t it?

Andrew Karp,