Realities about Free Form Technology

Tecnología

These are a few tips on free form technology and what it means for your lenses, your patients, and your business.

When it comes to XXI century lenses, there is no phrase more in vogue than “Free Form”. The industry is adopting “free form” which really refers to the more precise process of carved lens fabrication.

Actually, new lens designs are regularly appearing, and their market share is constantly increasing.

According to lab statistics, in 2014, free form technology  possessed a 40% market share, which is far greater than 2013.

Free Form fabrication looks to design lenses, based on the limitations of traditional methods, allowing lens fabricators to create designs that can surpass many of the visual problems caused by traditional lenses (especially for progressive lenses).

WHAT IS THIS?

Free Form technology was born from the industry’s wish to create a unique lens design for each patient, since each patient requires different needs.

They work under the basic premise of aligning the optics of the lens with the patient’s visual needs better than their own sight.

But exact precision needs an exact fabrication process. The best way to understand Free Form is comparing it to the design and fabrication process of a traditional progressive lens.

TRADITIONAL: The lens designers create the basic design, which translates to a series of base curves in order to cover the complete Rx range.

A mold creates the semi-finished bases with the corresponding progressive design and addition in the front part.

To create the finished lens, the laboratory picks the correct base with the adequate curve and they adjust the posterior surface, according to the desired sphere, cylinder and thickness.

An inherent problem with this system is that it accumulates inventory with thousands of semi-finished bases per fabricator.

 MARKET SHARE

According to the market research report:
78,7% of optic stores offer Free-form lenses

Progressive sales breakdown:
In progressive lenses:
Basic ……………………………………………… 12.8 %
Intermediate ………………………………….  24 %
Premium …………………………………………..  41 %
Free-form……………………………………….. 22.2 %

Free-form technology allows for the creation of better lens designs.

The process has evolved throughout the years, with ingenious designers that diversify the lens’ designs at the base’s curve, while also adjusting them, allowing them to cover the lens’ performance for small user groups. But there are logistical limitations regarding how far they can go.

FREE-FORM: Free-form technology uses a computer assisted generator, three axis’s with diamond tips that can place whatever curved desired onto the lenses

It generates any complex designs directly with the semi-finished base between a hundredth of a diopter

Instead of using the traditional method of moving the knife around a single point, this generator is capable of roam around the surface of spinning lens, cut curves where necessary and how it was indicated by the computer software. Essentially, this advancement now allows labs to create completely individualized lenses.

Each configuration provides a diverse amount of benefits for the user.

This model allows real time production of complex lens designs or even regular designs.

CONFUSION OF TERMINOLOGY

Since the advent of this technology, there has been some confusion within the industry regarding what to call them.

The term “Free-form” refers to the technology refers to the technology used for the fabrication and surfacing of the lens.

The resulting lenses have been called Free-form, digital lenses, continuous surface lenses, wave front lenses, personalized lenses, and high definition lenses.

Various manufacturers, laboratories and even vision professionals, are in favor of different labels and orthography.

A year ago, the Technical Committee of The Vision council formed a submission in order to create standardized terminology, but they couldn’t reach a consensus.

The real problem lies with the message given to the patient.

Calling a lens “Free-form” could mean that the lens are highly personalized, as well as possessing a low grade of personalization.

 IS THIS BETTER?

Lets discuss this as follows: what is the Free-form process and how does it allow personalization and superior designs?

Free-form lenses are made by a process that can produce superior vision designs, but that does not mean that all Free-form lenses are great.

The Free-form process creates potential for greatness, but the lens is a great as its design, the software calculations and the measurments taken.

Even though it was first introduced for progressive users, Free-form lenses have demonstrated to also be useful for single vision users.

Today, various designs used for single vision lenses use Free-form technology in order to give the user the widest and clearest vision possible without peripheral distortions.

TOPICS TO DISCUSS

If you believe in the merits of Free-form progressive lenses, you should let all of your patients know, as well as any premium treatments that you belive will benefit them.

Like many other optical things, a vision care professional must take the necessary amount of time to explain the benefits of these lenses and the reason why you’re recommending them. That is when your patient will decide to by them.

Here is some advice for confronting a complex debate about the lens.

NO SCANDAL: If Free-form lenses are confusing for the professionals, imagine what it is like for patients. Your patient’s attention is all centered towards the best vision. Explain these contemporary designs with:

WORDS ABOUT VISION: Free-form lenses provide a “clean” vision without the “distortion” that comes with the old style of lenses.

ANALOGIES: Use technological analogies. “Just as an HDTV offers a better image than old televisions, these lenses provide real and clear vision.

Or use the tailor analogy: “you can buy these glasses from the exhibitor, or we can perfectly design them to adapt to your needs”

PRICE: Don’t worry about the price. Present the lenses as they are: the best possible option for the patient is the acquisition of better vision.

Some labs have managed to reduce the price for their Free-form lenses, and some designs are even less expensive than traditional ones.

Since there are so many aspects to discuss between options, don’t prejudge a patient, offer them levels and all the benefits that come with the label price.

Progressive and single vision lenses are made using Free-form technology that provide a better visual experience for patients that previously needed to accept less than lenses with acute vision

Depending on the design, the following is done:

CONTRAST PERCEPTION: In all areas, the vision is refined.

EASY TRANSITION: The lens offers a smooth transition from far, intermediate, and near vision

NO ABERRATION: The problem with unfocusness is essentially eliminated, and the field of vision is widened.

MORE COMFORTABLE: Free-form lenses can be thinner and have less undesired astigmatism, and less power error than traditional ones.

The superficial distortion has been eliminated, and the fields of vision are significantly improved.

The new designs for progressive lenses can offer clearer and wider vision, with an easy transition zone.

HEAVY PERSCRIPTIONS: High positive and negative formulas, as well as ones with a high cylinder grade generally achieve real vision with Free-form lenses

CLEARER VISION: Glares are reduced and the oblique aberrations are eliminated

 

 BETTER EDUCATION

A huge reason why Free-form lenses are still surrounded in so much confusion is the knowledge of our vision professionals, since manufacturers haven’t done an adequate job at educating them.

We spoke with lens manufacterers and this is how they responded to the inquiry: Have you noticed that the education of vision professionals has been backtracking? “We used to say that lenses and optics weren’t a spatial science”, says a representative, “well, now with Free-form, it is a sort of spatial science”.

And we haven’t done a good job at explaining it

Ask your lens representatives if they teach their staff Free-form, adding them as information that can be used in conversation with patients.

PERSONALIZATION: Some prescriptions, may they be progressives or single vision, can be significantly involved with traditionally fabricated lenses

With Free-form, the Rx can be digitally compensated to think about things such as position of use.

Furthermore, some Free-form progressives can offer custom runners that adjust to the specific size of the frame.

PRESENT AND FUTURE

The current spectrum of Free-form technology within lenses is still open and constantly growing

Progressive lens and single vision designs can be improved with Free-form technology

These new progressive designs earase every problem associated with them: lack of adaptability, peripheral distortions and vertigo.

Today, progressive Free-form offers amplitude of clearer zones where the user needs them.

They are still available for flat top lenses so patients that feel comfortable with a bifocal segment can still enjoy a superior optical performance with Free-form.

Other Free-form lenses have been launched in search of personalization, including office lenses and ones used for portable digital devices.

Free-form lenses are perfect for people with active life styles, because they appreciate better optical performance and some designs are currently available in photosensitive sunglasses and even polarized options.

Speaking of sunglasses, the future of Free Form lenses is extremely bright.

Every lens expert that we have talked to, as well as people we interviewed, says that the growth of these lenses is increasing within the market quota.

The lens market representatives say that within a few years, free form lenses will represent the majority of the progressive lens market, with some expecting that they represent 80% or more in sales.

Laboratories continue investing in the necessary equipment in order to produce free form lenses

In other words, if you still haven’t familiarized yourself with the conviction of recommending free form lenses, add it to your “to-do” list.

Because according to every indication, it is the lens of the future.

Credits:  Revista Visión Actual

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