9 The progressive lens generations after Varilux Comfort

The following years saw an exponential increase of new progressive lens types. On the one hand more and more middle sized manufacturers developed their own designs, on the other hand the market leaders completed their product ranges and “updated” their leading brands. So for example Sola launched between 1997 and 2003 Percepta,Continuum, SOLAMAX and SOLAOne and Essilor developed the following Varilux generations Varilux Panamic (launch 2000) and Varilux Physio (launch 2006). Today almost all the “all-purpose” progressive lenses are of the Multi Design type varying the surface structure depending on the addition and ametropia. These new designs are based on the latest results in physiological optics research, as well as in IT and automation technology. Varilux Physio for example is characterized by correcting not only low order aberrations as astigmatism and power error but also higher order aberrations as Coma improving so visual acuity and contrast sensitivity.

In 1997 Seiko introduced the first progressive lens using free form technology. The progress in CNC grinding and polishing machines allowed the direct manufacturing of the finished progressive lens, different from the common way to grind the prescription in the back surface of a progressive semi-finished blank. After a first stage of personalization with a Multi-Design lens now for each wearer the individual lens could be conceived and produced. In 2000 the German companies Rodenstock and Zeiss launched respectively Impression ILT and Gradal Individual which provided the optimum design for the particular wearer taking into account his individual correction and the specific frame and lens centering data. For Ipseo developed by Essilor the design could be adapted to the head-and eye movement pattern of the wearer.

In the mid term this new manufacturing process is a challenge for the structure of the industry as well for the big manufacturers with regard to the traditional production technology as for certain distributors because it offers (at least in principle) the possibility to manufacture and sell their own brand.

In the long term it will be interesting if technical developments such as diffractive power lenses, gradient index lenses or even full field variable focus lenses can improve the quality and comfort of presbyopic correction with spectacle lenses. There are already research articles published and patents filed on these topics. Today these new technologies are still very complex and expensive and there is another obstacle:

Already today the correction with progressive lenses has a high level of comfort, which will not be easy to improve.