How eyewear goes green – within the realm of the possible

How eyewear goes green – within the realm of the possible

Today every company is talking about becoming sustainable. That is the future. But it is also a demand that many consumers – especially from Europe – and many governments are now making. However, entrepreneurs consider some “green” demands to be unrealistic.
But how does a viable way of making the global frame and lens production more sustainable look like? MAFO has spoken to an expert who knows the eyewear industry like the back of her hand and who leads the way forward into a green future. By Hanna Diewald



How can the optical industry work sustainably and economically at the same time? What is the best place to start as an entrepreneur? Where do you get sustainable raw materials for glasses and how do you differentiate “greenwashing” from really meaningful campaigns? Lene Bille Hoegh knows the answers to all of these questions. She and her husband ran an international eyewear company for years before she decided to found the sustainable consulting agency GreenOpticalPlanet, out of personal conviction. Today their team consists of industry veterans who specialize in advising optical companies on how they can become more sustainable. Bille talked to MAFO about the opportunities and pitfalls of sustainable production and her appeal to the industry to find a sustainable recycling system for demo lenses.


What is your philosophy at GreenOpticalPlanet (GOP)?

Our focus is on the client´s sustainability objectives. We are here to help fill the gaps. Most companies already have their own networks but maybe they need help with more suitable, sustainable raw materials or certificates, or maybe they need the overall view of the United Nations sustainability goals relating to their own strategy. We assist where needed, whilst not staying on board longer than necessary. Our aim is to help the clients move forward and then let them move on to their own green path.

From left to right: Lene Bille Hoegh, Clark Sui Wonders and Michael Jardine.

Our personal GOP philosophy is to try to do quite impossible things within the realm of the possible. There is no 100% sustainable eyewear solution yet, however, by piecing the options together as they are introduced in the market, even helping them emerge, we believe that eventually you will reach some fully sustainable and at the same time truly scalable options.

The planet increasingly needs all of us to change the way we manufacture, transport and consume goods, and this needs to happen sooner rather than later. At the same time the eyewear industry leaders have not really hurried to find green solutions; other industries have lead this way before the eyewear industry.
We think the reason for this is less about unwillingness to change, and more about not knowing where to begin. Therefore we really need people, who actually know the eyewear industry, to band together regarding the sustainability aspect. The future needs sustainable fashion – and the consumers in Europe are asking for it loudly.


How “green” is the eyewear industry already?

Image by Comfreak auf Pixabay

I think everybody in the eyewear industry has started to think about sustainability, but not everybody has implemented it yet. We are still in the beginning of the process as an industry. There are many aspects to a fully sustainable product range. Our experience is that after companies have taken the first few steps, most come to a halt. Many start with greener packaging or sustainable measures at their retail locations. The next step for these companies would be to look at raw materials, manufacturing and freight. Or they have already implemented one type of biobased or recycled raw materials, but have not looked at their storage or retail aspects.
Often it is not unwillingness that keeps a company from taking the next green step – they are simply not confident about which crossroads to take. Should they go with recycled, recyclable, biobased or biodegradable? Each of these choices has their own host of challenges as well as the design and manufacturing processes and locations that need to be taken into account.

The European governments have already taken lots of regulatory steps and the European consumers request more sustainable products, and this forces us all to look for more sustainable solutions. If you look at the North American markets, there are still only lesser parts of the consumer segment and only partial government regulations that cater for change, while other parts of that market are trying to keep the status quo.


If you are trading into the Asian markets, then there are very specific minority groups that are requesting more environmentally sustainable products. In Asia it is actually the governments that have really started to look towards sustainability demands and regulations, as they are looking from a manufacturing point of view, first of all. For example, China issued the “Made in China 2025” report, in which they ask the manufacturers to start producing greener in China. One issue here is that parts of the manufacturing base will just move outside of China, and thus avoide change for another handful of years.
The current global drivers for green change are consumer demands and governmental regulations, and we are seeing both demands emerging more and more strongly. At GOP we urge the third driver, which is the industry leadership, to drive this change and create the sustainability demand from within as well.


What is the biggest challenge for most companies on the way to a sustainable production?

There are challenges and blockers. In our experience the greatest challenge is to have a clear long term plan that will still serve your company´s objectives in 1-2-3-5 years. Another big challenge is the protection against “greenwashing”. This includes the choices of certification, the insight into carbon offset, and the assurance that the chain of custody is not compromised. In our experience the real blockers for many are the restrictions with sustainable raw materials, design processes and manufacturing processes. Considerable compromises have to be made regarding ability, quality and cost compared to the conventional materials and manufacturing processes.

This also requires careful consideration, so that the company chooses the material that supports their type of product best. In our experience choosing the raw material is the key, and so is choosing the best suited manufacturer for that material. The manufacturers are not all alike when it comes to getting the most out of an alternative raw material. That said, there are better and better sustainable raw materials introduced to the market all the time. In particular the chemically recycled materials are promising, as they hold no quality and process restrictions compared to conventional materials, their challenge is the cost structure instead.


Could you please explain the term greenwashing?

The idea of greenwashing is that something looks good and green, but when you look deeper into it, it is not. That means, for example, that somebody simply claims that something is green and when you check the chain of custody you discover – it is just a lie. That is the worst kind of greenwashing.
Another example of greenwashing is when companies try to do good things but they are actually not sustainable, even though they were meant to be, for example ocean-plastic frames. There are wonderful campaigns for eyewear that is made of reclaimed fishnets and ropes, but the production process is often very carbon dioxide and water consuming, and most of the end material does not have the quality you need for eyewear, which creates double waste. In general you end up spending a lot of resources trying to extract and recycle the plastic and then you have to discharge maybe 50% – 70% of the recycled material, because it is not good enough. Basically you end up with a product that is a beautiful idea, but it just doesn’t work.
If you want to go that route it is just smarter to join forces with one of the organizations that work in cleaning up the oceans and simply pay them an amount for each frame sold. That will have a truly efficient impact on the environment.


Which raw material do you recommend the most?

The pros and cons depend on where you are placed in the value chain. At GOP, we currently tend to promote recycled raw materials more than anything else. Because for most companies in the eyewear value chain that is still the most manageable option. For a manufacturer or an optical company, the natural first choice is to transition to raw materials that are already recycled, and to produce recycled-content product and offer this to their consumer. This is what we consider a quick win. This way you have already taken your first step towards sustainability, without having to revolutionize your whole business.
The raw materials we recommend have a relatively low carbon footprint, and we also check whether they are ethical. That is important because you can also get recycled products that actually have a higher carbon footprint than a conventional product. That is not really green!

For an international retail chain or for a trade organization, for example when we talk about demo-lenses and central labs, looking at producing products from conventional raw materials and concentrating your effort on creating recyclable loops post-consumer is a very necessary – but also a much longer – strategy, because it has to be done on a bigger scale, in order to be financially and carbon offset sustainable. It requires taking back infrastructures and localized recycling systems, so it is a much slower win, but also one with a much larger impact when it is finally implemented.


What do you think about biodegradable and biobased products?

This concept of biodegradable has many interpretations. Most biodegradable claims still require a particular environment in order to actually degrade. Instead, a solution would be to work with recycled materials or indeed with materials that are biobased, from simple wood to the more complex processed natural materials. But you still need to consider carefully. There are several levels of sustainability just within the term biobased. For example, you can think you are choosing sustainably when you use castor oil based raw materials, but only some of the castor oil plantations are sustainable, others have taken their acreage from rainforest, in which case it is not really sustainable.


Which are the most important aspects that should change in the optical industry in order to make eyewear more sustainable?

1. There is a truly desperate need to develop both sustainable demo lenses and spectacle lenses, with a clearness, hardness and price that can keep up with traditional products.
2. There is a need for a motivation from the heart to invest in research and develop much better alternative raw materials.
3. There is a need to develop a design ethos that constantly challenges use of material, ratio of waste and also of weight and space for transport. 4. There is a need to understand the differences between recycled and recyclable, and setting up workable loops for both. Recycled is pre-consumer, so we are talking about raw materials and manufacturing scrap programs, whereas recyclable products are on the retailer and the consumer side. For retailers there is a big task ahead in not creating the same level of unsold returns and also in learning alongside their consumers how to consolidate take-back systems that work. 5. In the end everybody has to understand that we probably won’t get eyewear for one and a half dollars anymore.


What should and shouldn´t companies do in general?

No company should work with partners who don’t comply to local and international compliance rules. This goes for clean water, filtration, energy, work ethics, quality or wages. You need to know if the people or companies you work with follow the local standards or not, and if they are committed to even going beyond local standards.
Besides that, when you talk about the manufacturing part of our industry, then the most important thing is that it is certified, because in a good certification program most or all of these things are taken into account, and companies should look to enroll and create constantly better trade standards.
If you are a volume product business and you produce and distribute fast fashion products for a very price-sensitive market, your first step probably would not be to look on the life cycle or responsible consummation. But you can still look to the United Nation´s sustainability goals number six, seven and eight. These goals are about protecting the environment. You can work with how much water you should use, how much carbon reduction you can achieve, and how you can choose different, greener raw materials.

If you are a premium product business, you can do a lot for sustainability in one go. The consumer will see those glasses/brands as an investment, and they normally keep the product for a longer time. Your initial price point is higher, and you can either absorb more cost for sustainable work, or you can even promote sustainable consumption and raise the price for the consumer.


Is it also more sustainable to produce and distribute eyewear locally instead of, for instance, producing in China and selling frames in the USA?

If you produced everything you bought next door, then you would be “hyper green”, but that is not the way things work. It is not financially sustainable. The environment is not the only aspect of sustainability, economic viability and social equity are also important.
There is no problem in making a premium product nearby because you can price up and you can sell it, but if you want to produce higher volume products, then either the consumer has to be willing to pay more or you have to do it in places that work and that also feed families. So, sometimes your best option is to do it in Asia.



What can lens manufacturers do?

For me this is one of the areas where more research and development is required. If you are one of the bigger organization within lenses, than you can definitely invest into research. There are a bunch of big companies that are really investing and trying to find solutions.
And if you have a small business, then you can still put a greener option for your customers into your portfolio. But be very transparent about any issues, for instance when the lenses scratch easier or they are less clear or cost a little bit more. Because those are some of the issues, concerning the options that are in the market right now.
The most important thing is to be ready and willing to try. Just understand that sustainability is the way it is going, and you don’t have to wait before getting on board.

The lesser issue for me is prescription lenses, because they have a longer life. The first and bigger issue is demo lenses, because labs and opticians take them out and throw them away. Demo lenses mainly end as waste in landfills, or have downcycle programs that are too complicated and costly. It is important to find an infrastructure for the central labs. To find a way to send the demo lenses back into the value chain and recycle them, either chemically or manually. Be it into new demo lenses or another product.
Creating take back programs and recycle programs requires optical companies, trade organizations, organizations like our own GOP and maybe even raw-product manufacturers, to all band together with the big retailers, and create infrastructures with pick up points for the central labs. This level of sustainability is not a commitment you onboard alone. It really requires that everybody works together.

Thank you for the interview. ◆



In early 2019 Michael Jardine, Lene Bille Hoegh and Clark Sui Wonders started the consultant service GreenOpticalPlanet. It is their belief that the best possible legacy will be to work to assist all companies in evolving to be environmentally friendly and to support the people involved to become responsible citizens of the Earth. Co-founder Michael Jardine started in the eyewear industry in 1980 as a founding partner of the Canadian TannerEye leather eyewear factory. He moved into developing and exporting high quality eyewear in Japan in the late 80´s and operated as a manufacturer´s agent in the early 90’s in Hong Kong. In 2000, he founded Mondottica, his own eyewear company, developing and distributing licensed fashion brands throughout the world. In recent years, since Michael and Bille, his life and business partner, prepared to exit Mondottica, it has been their wish to give something back to the industry that has been their home for many years. They teamed up with their business partner from the industry, Clark Sui Wonders, and founded GreenOpticalPlanet.



Born out of necessity

Born out of necessity

How a company combated the Corona Virus –

a personal report by Norm Kester

For us in the United States, everyone of certain age remembers exactly where we were and what we were doing on September 11, 2001. The memories of that day and the following weeks are forever etched into our memories. I didn’t live through many of the past events that previous generations had etched in their memories: The Great Depression, World War II, and so many others. The Corona Virus Pandemic is just such an event. I remember watching it unfold. Thinking that this was another Ebola or SARS. That this was an event in another country. Another place. When we were leaving for Italy, on our way to Mido, and the event was cancelled, it got real.
By Norm Kester

In days, it was known to be in the US. Then people started dying in Seattle. There was an epicenter near our daughter’s house just outside of Seattle. She, and her husband, came to visit us from Seattle as this was unfolding. They stayed for a couple of days and then headed home. On their way, they got sick. Then we got sick. We quarantined ourselves and got a COVID-19 test. A swab up the nose in a drive-thru testing facility and a quick negative for Flu A and B. We were told to stay put in our house until the COVID results came back. We started feeling better at day 4. Day 10 we got our results. Negative. As we watched things start to unfold around the world, and we began to watch the US shut down, I became filled with the impatience that comes from things being out of my hands and out of my control.


Spring into action

From my home, I started researching everything that was known about viruses, enveloped viruses, bacteria, fungi and a variety of other microbes. As I learned (thank you internet!) everything I could, it became quite clear that this was something that I could contribute to, that Quantum could contribute to. I quickly found the 222 nanometer light invention that could kill virus and bacteria in the air. I sent that information to everyone I knew in government, the medical community, and my friend and colleague networks.

At this time, as I was researching all of this (this was over a two day period), it occurred to me that I had not reached out to any clinics, hospitals or doctor’s offices in our local area.  That day, before I returned to work from my quarantine, I emailed the presidents of our two local hospitals, sent a LinkedIn message to the head of our Urgent Care chain of clinics, and called my general practitioner.

The next morning in my office, I received a call from Brad Converse. He explained that he too was trying to get into this fight, that he owned a company making custom golf putters and was an engineer. He wanted to create a group called “The MacGyver Group” to assemble engineers, businesses, doctors, nurses, 3D printers, and sewists to work to solve whatever issues we could. He set up a Slack channel, and I quickly joined in.


Everybody worked tirelessly

Quickly, Quantum was knee-deep in making hand sanitizer and spray disinfectant to meet the needs locally. We worked on ventilator issues at the hospitals. We worked on creating replacement HEPA filters… there was a worldwide shortage. PPE of all types were running out.

The Quantum team making hand sanitizer. Source: Quantum

We worked with friends and other businesses to create isolation gowns, and a friend quickly repurposed his company (normally making medical knee braces) to make isolation gowns and parts we needed for face shields.

People were sewing masks, and 3D printers were printing face shields. A local company, which normally made X-ray film, made the shields – 80,000 at a time. We at Quantum volunteered to operate as the central hub to sanitize and sometimes sterilize things being made in the community before they went into the hospitals.

I am so proud of everyone at Quantum. They worked tirelessly. Our whole company pivoted in just a few days to work on whatever the hospitals needed. Pallets of hand sanitizer and spray disinfectant started going out. The sense of urgency around everything we were doing was incredible. People were dying.


The ecomomy collapsed but the MacGyver group met daily

All the while, we kept everyone employed. We were burning through cash like crazy. The economy was completely closed. Our sales went to 10% of normal, and companies weren’t paying their existing payables. This wasn’t sustainable, but we committed to ride it all the way to the end together, unified as a team driven with purpose, to do everything we could until we had to close the doors.

Emotions were high. There were hugs and high fives, but there were also tears, worry and fear. We met with everyone every day. We shared what we knew as leadership. We met with the hospitals and the MacGyver group daily.

Tensions in the hospitals were high as well. The PPE shortage was a crippling problem.  Though the MacGyver group was able to solve some crazy problems and most of the PPE issues, isolation gowns and N95 masks became major problems to be solved.


A plan arose: UV-C should kill the virus

During this time, I became more and more convinced to use UV-C to kill (inactivate is the correct, scientific term) the Corona Virus. I had read every paper I could from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Health, the World Health Organization the Food and Drug Administration and any other reputable source on how to reuse N95 masks.

Several of these papers were written during the Ebola and SARS outbreaks. During these events, global pandemics became apparent and emergency preparations and studies were conducted. Vaporized hydrogen peroxide and UV-C rose to the top.

I spoke to several of our engineers about the idea and what I had in mind. Together, we hatched a plan to buy some toaster ovens or microwaves and retrofit them with UV-C bulbs and create some prototypes to test the effectivity against the Corona Virus. We discussed it on Friday, and by Monday we had our first prototype.

The toaster prototype. Source: Quantum

An early microwave prototype. Source: Quantum









The engineering team jumped in with both feet. Very quickly they discovered testing and measurement effectivity cards, dosimeters, and how much energy it took to inactivate just about every microorganism on earth. We showed the hospital our prototype and our calculations and measurements. The hospitals were already familiar with UV-C; they even had dosimeter cards that they used when working with UV-C. The main problem was still how to disinfect at the scale that was needed. Thousands per day were the projections. Our little toaster ovens wouldn’t do the trick. We would need thousands of them and fast.

The final product: FusionUV. A 254 nm light germicidal UV-C disinfection unit.

I decided to send our little toaster oven off to have it tested. I wanted to test it against the actual Corona Virus, but all of those laboratories were consumed by other efforts. We found, through some great friends and colleagues, a testing facility at the University of Tennessee. They agreed to test against other, similar viruses.

On the MacGyver Slack channel, we had ready access to emergency room doctors, infectious disease specialists, respiratory therapy doctors, frontline doctors, surgeons and a whole host of others. We discussed and brainstormed how to solve this issue quickly. I proposed a shipping container with UV-C bulbs. I found a procedure from the University of Nebraska and they were disinfecting entire rooms full of N95 masks. There was hope that we could do this in large numbers.


Desinfection in a shipping container

The next few days saw a few events that propelled this further. The hospital had been using vaporized hydrogen peroxide to disinfect masks, and that night all of the masks failed fit tests after the disinfection. This was a dramatic turn for the worse. Then, a company called Battelle was awarded emergency use authorization for their shipping container solution using vaporized hydrogen peroxide to disinfect N95 masks. Suddenly, UV-C in a shipping container was a major priority. That day we decided to buy a shipping container.

Cargo trailer disinfection unit. Source: Quantum

Over the next few days, the hospitals decided to put one at each hospital location. We then had to buy 2 more shipping containers and get to work on making them. The problems and logistics we had to overcome were too numerous to list here, but we did it! In just three weeks, we went from concept to our first shipping container. We would be able to disinfect 84,000 N95 masks per day.

I started our team on taking the toaster oven concept and making a real device out of it.  They started to design and model it. They quickly built a prototype. We put the device out to bid. We wanted to follow our normal manufacturing method and make it in Oregon. Many things fell into place that normally would not. Many businesses were closed or had no business coming in the door. We found a great partner that could bend all the aluminum we needed. Logistics were a major issue, but we were not going to be stopped.

We received the Payroll Protection Program funds! This gave us the lifeblood we needed.  We knew we would get through all of this. Just as we approached our last two months of operating cash, the federal money hit our account.

Then our test results came back from the University of Tennessee. We had done it! We inactivated the virus. Not only that, we were successful at fully removing the virus from an N95 mask! This was quite an accomplishment.


But I still wanted more …

I wasn’t satisfied with the results. I wanted to actually inactivate the Corona Virus that was responsible for the pandemic. Through connections and relationships, we found a BSL-3 (Bio Safety Level) that was working with the actual Corona Virus.

We started talking to retailers, optometrists and manufacturers and labs about the UV-C solution. We learned a lot about what they were facing and the rules and regulations coming their way.

I wasn’t getting much sleep during this period. My recollection of how exactly we got connected to some Luxottica folks is unclear, but I do know that they were very involved in Italy and offered to test our device with the actual Corona Virus, SARs-CoV-2. We didn’t have our results back from our new test facility. We jumped at the opportunity and sent several of our UV-C devices to Italy.

We continued to meet with our people daily, we met with the hospitals daily, we met with the MacGyver group daily and we continued to disinfect and sterilize objects going into hospitals for emergency use. I met many great people during this time. I learned how to use and program a respiratory ventilator. I tested ventilator manifolds. It was a crazy time.

Our people at Quantum jumped in with both feet. We did so much as a team during this time. These people were amazing. There was never a moment where there was doubt. We just attacked each obstacle.


A new company was born out of necessity

Our team ended up making the FusionUV, a 254nm light, germicidal UV-C disinfection unit.  We have now shipped thousands of them all over the world to inactivate the Corona Virus.  We have now tested it against all sorts of microorganisms. We’ve inactivated or killed them all. We scramble the RNA or DNA of these microorganisms. They don’t have a natural defense to this wavelength of light. Our atmosphere filters it out.

We’re now making different sizes. We’re making rugged units. We continue to test with every germ we can. We continue to learn and improve. We’ve started a new company just to make and explore new ways to use UV-C. It’s called Boon. Not just because of the definition—a thing that is helpful or beneficial—but because we wouldn’t have made this device if it wasn’t needed. If we hadn’t had a Pandemic. It was born out of necessity.


Norm Kester, President of Quantum Innovations.

Norm Kester

Norm Kester, the President of Quantum Innovations, Inc. since 2002 has dedicated himself to manufacturing AR and mirror coating equipment for the ophthalmic industry. The entrepreneur steers his company according to the principle ‘attitude of servitude’ because he firmly believes that it benefits all parties involved in business together.  This year he was awarded for his contribution to the advancement of the optical industry with the 2020 Goodfellow award by the California Lab Committee.Before founding Quantum Innovations, Kester served as Vice President at Satis Vacuum of America. He studied Optical Thin Film Coating Technology at the University of Rochester and received further training in the US Navy Advanced Electronics Program.






A driving simulator as a tool for benchmarking optical lenses

A driving simulator as a tool for benchmarking optical lenses

Pixabay:ID 12019

Conception of the Aalen Mobility Perception & Exploration Lab (AMPEL)

The Aalen Mobility Perception & Exploration Lab (AMPEL) is part of the Competence Center “Vision Research” in the Innovation Centre (Inno-Z) at the University of Applied Sciences in Aalen, Germany. A virtual research environment was developed there, which allows for night driving experiments under highly standardized conditions. This also allows for benchmarking optical lenses.
By Judith Ungewiss, Michael Wörner, Ulrich Schiefer

About one third of all road traffic accidents occurs at night. This seems to correspond to the percentage of the dark period on a superficial view. However, taking into account that only approximately 25% of the yearly mileage is driven at nighttime, the risk of a traffic accident with a fatal outcome is increased by about 50 % at night in comparison to the same distance traveled during the day (data collected for the Federal Republic of Germany) [1][2]. Nighttime driving ability is therefore of specific importance in road traffic.
With regard to the effort involved in setting up a driving simulator, the question as to whether this is worthwhile in order to determine the ability for night driving arises. In this respect – even though we feel that the value of each human life is “inestimable” and thus cannot be quantified in monetary terms – it should be noted that the statistical value of a (traffic) accident death in the Federal Republic of Germany is estimated at an average of about 4.5 million Euros [3]. In comparison, the costs for driving simulator experiments, which in the best case contribute to saving human lives in the future, seem manageable and legitimate. Furthermore, such a simulator has the important advantage to display scenarios in a highly immersive way under standardized conditions (cited as in [4]).

Setup and interior of the Aalen Mobility Perception & Exploration Lab (AMPEL)

The Aalen Mobility Perception & Exploration Lab (AMPEL), operated by the Competence Center “Vision Research” in the Innovation Centre (Inno-Z) on the campus of the Aalen University of Applied Sciences, was launched in 2015 and consists of two large laboratories with associated measurement and workstations.

The nighttime driving simulator situated in the AMPEL lab contains a completely retrofitted Audi A4 (Audi AG, Ingolstadt, Germany) with a steering and pedal unit (SensoDrive GmbH, Wessling, Germany), and two fully digital displays (instrument panel and navigation monitor). Two high-performance projectors (Zeiss Velvet 1600, Zeiss AG, Jena, Germany), which are commonly used in a planetarium environment, project the driving route on a cylindrical 180° screen with a radius of 3.20 m. A monitor (KD 65 XF 9005 BAEP, Sony, Tokyo, Japan) behind the trunk of the car provides an almost realistic scenario through the rear-view mirror. A vehicle can be brought into the laboratory via a sliding window and, if necessary, be exchanged for another vehicle or another test arrangement (see Fig. 1 and Fig. 2). Driving scenarios are imported using the SILAB simulator software developed by the WIVW (Würzburg Institute for Traffic Sciences, Veitshöchheim, Germany). It is possible to visualize traffic routes using existing GPS data.

@image: Fig.1 hier

@image: Fig.2 hier

Speed-related driving noise can be generated by a loudspeaker (BeoPlay Beolit 15, Bang & Olufsen, Struer, Denmark). This noise acts as an acoustic feedback and therefore supports the patients with regard to velocity control while driving.

Calibration procedures are regularly executed prior to the start of a study (Spectroradiometer CAS 140 VIS/UV, Instrument Systems GmbH, Munich, Germany and Minolta Luminance Meter LS160, Konica Minolta Holdings K.K., Tokyo, Japan).

@subhead: Simulator vs. on-road experiments
Why are experiments not directly implemented in the form of (real) on-road driving, but instead a simulator is set up with a great deal of effort with the aim of creating a driving environment as close to reality as possible?
The main reason for this is the complexity and thus usually inadequate standardization of the on-road experiments: It is almost impossible to realize identical conditions with respect to the road surface, weather, lighting, wind conditions etc. for several experimental runs (which may additionally also be executed on different days). The personnel expenditure for on road experiments is also considerable: On the routes used, the street lighting may have to be switched off, and the routes must be locked by roadblocks or supervisory staff so that passers-by do not endanger themselves or the experiments. Additionally, for insurance reasons, such experiments are only permitted in a vehicle with a dual brake system set under the constant supervision of a driving instructor. Experiment supervisors and operators (responsible for the technical implementation of the experiments) are required.
On the other hand, only one test supervisor and one operator are required to carry out the corresponding experiments in a simulator. A driving simulator allows for highly standardized examinations without compromising the safety of test persons [4].

@subhead: Technical and experimental opportunities
The driving simulator in the AMPEL laboratory realizes the determination of visual acuity and contrast sensitivity also while driving. Individual local thresholds are assessed by eight-position Landolt Cs. The stimuli can be presented at various locations under different distances within the setup:
• at the projection screen (right road side, 4.66 m)
• at the monitor just behind the trunk via the center of the rear-view mirror (3.40 m)
• at the center of the navigation monitor (0.75 m)
• at the center of the instrument panel (distance 0.72 m) (see Figure 3).

@image: Fig. 3 hier

The appearance of the visual signal can be announced to the test participant with an audio signal. The opening of the appearing Landolt C has to be indicated (verbally) by the test person and is recorded by the test supervisor or – as an alternative – by a miniaturized microphone. In this way it is possible not only to check the correctness of the respective response but also to record its latency. Beyond Landolt Cs, obstacles (e.g. pedestrians or animals, each with various contrast levels) can be presented.

The simulator is equipped with an eye tracking system (SmartEye Pro, sampling rate 120 Hz, gaze accuracy of 0.5° under ideal conditions, SmartEye AB, Gothenburg, Sweden), which enables the contact-free recording and evaluation of head and eye movements. For this purpose, the driver is observed via (a minimum of) three infrared cameras while driving. The driving scenario is recorded by an additional scene camera. With the help of this set up, head and eye movements as well as fixations of the driver can be assigned and annotated to certain objects or regions of interest.

A realistic display of glare, for example from headlights of oncoming vehicles, is an essential factor for the representation of a close-to-reality driving environment. Simply projecting virtual headlights on the screen of the simulation environment does not achieve the necessary luminance values. Instead, a patented mobile glare device was developed for the AMPEL laboratory: With the help of cable robots, wireless LED arrays controlled via WiFi are moved in both, horizontal and vertical directions. The power supply is provided by small lithium-polymer accumulators, as used in model aircraft constructions [4].

In order to validate such a simulator, it has to be determined whether a virtual scenario actually measures what it is supposed to measure. Such validation is achieved by comparing the simulator results with those of a real on-road driving test under comparable conditions.
At the AMPEL lab, the on-road parcours of the “Burren” campus at the Aalen University, next to the driving simulator, is transferred into its virtual environment by using the Software package SILAB (Würzburg Center for Traffic Sciences, WIVW, Veitshöchheim, Germany) [4].

@subhead: Benchmarking optical lenses
Optical lenses are usually evaluated by ray tracing methods or questionnaires: Ray tracing is well suited to characterize the image quality at the retina level whereby the image processing in the subsequent visual pathway is not taken into account. Questionnaires are subjective tools with an inherent lack of standardization.

A new, patented approach was set up at the AMPEL laboratory: A psychophysical test records the individual’s visual performance or impairment in a location-specific manner within the highly standardized environment of a driving simulator. LED arrays that are either static or moving via cable robots serve as glare sources [5]. Static and dynamic optotypes, moving along so-called vectors with a constant angular velocity, are presented for this purpose. The vector origins can be placed within the center of a glare source (current setup: Visual angle: 0.3°, luminance level 60 kcd/m2, 6.2° left of and 1.1° below the fixation mark, corresponding to the left headlight of an oncoming car [GOLF VII, Volkswagen AG, Wolfsburg, Germany]). By this way the individual, location-related extent of the visual impairment due to halo or starburst can be assessed (see Figure 3). Local threshold variability and individual response time are assessed by repeated presentations and vector placements within unaffected visual field areas on meridians 0°, 45°, 90°, 135°, 180°, 225°, 270°, and 315° (in random order).
The extent of the displacement of the isopters during the glare condition, compared to the initial condition without glare represents the magnitude of impairment due to glare / halo size (see Fig. 4) [6]. Patient responses can be recorded in order to extract reaction times either from these recordings or from the keypad inputs.

The setup is being used for characterizing the visual effects of media opacities (cataract) in motorists (ContrastVal study, Identifier: NCT03169855) for benchmarking the impact of any kind of optical corrections, such as intraocular lenses (JJ-EYHANCE study, Identifier: NCT04059289), spectacle lenses, contact lenses, or other (surgical) refractive procedures.

@image: Fig.4 hier

@subhead: Conclusions
In the AMPEL lab, a virtual test environment was created which allows for night driving experiments under highly standardized conditions. By means of visual acuity or contrast vision testing under static or dynamic conditions and at various locations, benchmarking optical lenses can be achieved. In addition, static or dynamic blinding of the test subjects with simultaneous time-resolved visual function testing is possible. In comparison to real on-road experiments, simulator experiments are safe, well-standardized and require a comparatively low effort. A validation is possible if required.

[1] Kraftfahrtbundesamt. Erneut mehr Gesamtkilometer bei geringerer Jahresfahrleistung je Fahrzeug. Updated April 18, 2020. Accessed April 18, 2020
[2] Statistisches Bundesamt (Destatis). Verkehrsunfälle Zeitreihen 2017. 2018
[3] Spengler H. Kompensatorische Lohndifferenziale und der Wert eines statistischen Lebens in Deutschland. Zeitschrift Arbeitsmarktforschung 3:269–305. 2004
[4] Ungewiß J, Schiefer U, Wörner M. Untersuchung der Nachtfahrtauglichkeit im Simulator – Vorstellung des Aalen Mobility Perception & Exploration Lab (AMPEL). Der Augenspiegel 06/2019:38-41. 2019
[5] Eichinger P, Sauter T, Schiefer U, Schmitt U, Ungewiss J, Hirche M, Schuster M. Fahrsimulator und Verfahren zur Durchführung einer Fahrsimulation. German Patent and Trademark Office: Patent 10 2017 126 741, IPC G09B 9/02
[6] Schiefer U, Ungewiss J, Wörner M. Ortsbezogene Quantifizierung von Halo- und Streulichtbeeinträchtigung. German Patent and Trademark Office: Patent 10 2019 121 602 A1, WO 2020/089284 A1

The authors would like to thank Prof. Dr. Peter Eichinger, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schmitt and their whole ContrastVal study team (Mechatronics, Aalen University, Germany) for the design and implementation of the glare sources and Prof. Dr. Jürgen Nolting and Prof. Dr. Günter Dittmar (AWFE Steinbeis Transfer Centre, Aalen, Germany) for their comprehensive support in light measurement tasks.

Disclosure of financial and proprietary interests:
Ulrich Schiefer is consultant of the Haag-Streit AG, Köniz, Switzerland.
Michael Wörner is Managing Director of Blickshift GmbH, Stuttgart, Germany.


Corresponding author:
Judith Ungewiss –
Judith Ungewiss holds a M.Sc. in Ophthalmic Optics & Psychophysics. She works as scientific assistant in the Competence Center “Vision Research” in the study course ophthalmic optics & audiology at Aalen University.
@image: Judith_Ungewiss

Dr.-Ing. Michael Wörner is a software engineer who works as scientific assistant in the Competence Center “Vision Research” in the study course ophthalmic optics & audiology at Aalen University. In addition, he is Managing Director of Blickshift GmbH in Stuttgart, Germany.
@image: Michael_Wörner

Prof. Dr. med. Ulrich Schiefer is head of the Competence Center “Vision Research” (study course Ophthalmic Optics at Aalen University), which addresses the visual system and its possible dysfunctions, especially regarding the development and validation of examination and therapy procedures. After his medical studies and service in the Dept. of Ophthalmology at Military Hospital Ulm, he joined the University Eye Hospital Tübingen in 1989 where he has filled various positions in a full-time appointment until 2012 and in a part-time scientific appointment up to now. Ulrich Schiefer holds several patents on perimetric examination technique and other mainly sensory physiological examination methods.

Infrared protection for sun protection lenses

Infrared protection for sun protection lenses

The sun

Any reduction of the light spectrum using filter lenses triggers a lot of discussion. Even with UV420 lenses, there are many arguments for and against in the market and some even ask the question whether the lens industry will soon recommend protecting the eyes by not letting in any more light at all. The simple background to this discussion is the continuously rising life expectancy of the population in developed countries and the understanding that for the foreseeable future it won’t be as easy to replace the “worn out part of the eye” as it is, for example, to replace a hip.

By Florian Gisch

While incidences of cataracts and AMD were characteristic of the later years of life in the 1950s, patients affected today are typically in the middle of their lives, possibly in a job and needing their eyesight more than ever to use digital media, smartphones, etc.

Thus all these efforts are simply aimed at keeping the harmful effects as low as possible over the entire lifetime, in order to delay the inevitable onset of signs of wear and tear to as old an age as possible.

Development of sun protection products

After initial suspicions that UV light could be harmful in the middle of the 19th century, Crookes sun protection lenses appeared in 1913, guaranteeing 100% UV light protection. In 1908 the Swiss ophthalmologist Alfred Vogt succeeded in proving its harmfulness. In 1926 he published his conclusions that ultraviolet light has a damaging effect on the eye, pointing out at the same time that infrared radiation was likely to have a similarly damaging effect.

In 1930, the first sunglasses were produced in series, with the main focus still on glare protection. In addition to the fashion aspect of sunglasses, protective standards such as the recently developed EN183 were introduced which speak of complete UV protection as soon as there is absorption of 95% in the range up to 380 nm. The more popular standard – which every end user knows – in the meantime is the UV400 quality seal, which also takes into account visible light and the amount of harmful high-frequency blue light blocked.

Infrared protection has received little attention so far up to now.

Interestingly, the same was true for infrared protection in the field of dermatology until the topic was rediscovered a few years ago. Far from a purely “marketing gimmick”, but from the field of environment-related molecular aging research, the development of sunscreen creams was initiated, which in addition to pure UV protection also offer infrared protection. In this connection, premium manufacturers now often make the claim: “Without infrared protection, you are only half protected against the sun”.

If one compares the proportion of UV light striking the earth with the amount of infrared in the sun’s radiation, the question inevitably arises as to why this topic was not addressed much earlier. There seems to be no point in unnecessarily exposing one’s eyes to heat radiation.

UV-light diagram

Amounts of UV light and infrared light striking the earth due to solar radiation.

According to the findings of the Association for Radiation Protection, wavelengths of light between 780 and 10,000 nm can cause significant thermal damage to the eye. It is important here to make a distinction between work safety protection and sun protection, because the spectrum of sunlight hitting the earth is completely different from that e.g. when working in front of a blast furnace. Thus the relevant area of ​​consideration in this context is the frequency range up to 2,500 nm.

Radiation intensity diagram.

Radiation intensity diagram.

Depth of penetration: What impinges where on the eye?

A significant proportion of the dominant infrared (IR)-A component in sunlight in the range up to 1,400 nm penetrates to the retina. This follows the general rule: the shorter the wavelength of the IR radiation, the greater the depth of penetration. This particularly affects the choroid which can be damaged by IR-A, leading to localized defects in the retina tissue. Only a small proportion of radiation with wavelengths longer than 2,000 nm gets through the cornea. The anterior chamber of the eye absorbs all radiation above 2,000 nm. All wavelengths greater than 1400 nm are filtered out by the lens and vitreous part of the eye.

Spectral transmittance

Spectral transmittance.

Significant radiation in the wavelength range of 400 to 1400 nm can fall on the retina. The infrared radiation energy that the eye absorbs causes it to warm up (Vos and Norren 2004, Brose et al. 2005). The exact mechanism by which long-term exposure to IR radiation leads to clouding of the eye lens (cataract) is still not fully understood (Brose et al. 2005). It is also difficult to distinguish between the fundamentally multifactorial-related development of cataracts and numerous other biochemical changes – in particular changes in the composition of lens proteins with increasing aggregation of insoluble high-molecular proteins – and cellular changes that are genetically modified and are affected and exacerbated by environmental factors (Truscott and Zhu, Michael and Bron 2012).

Not for nothing are certain kinds of cataract referred to as fire cataracts or glassblowers’ cataracts. The effect of infrared radiation on such a condition is difficult to prove due to its development over a very long period and thus it is difficult to setup a test, but it is considered very likely.


A general distinction must be made between the front and rear parts of the eye. Where protection of the lens with regard to sun protection is concerned, the infrared spectrum from 780 to 2,500 nm is of interest​​, whereby the anterior chamber of the eye already offers fairly good protection between 1,300 and 1,500 and above 2000 nm.

Thus the main stress on the lens is in the ranges 780 to 1,400 nm and 1,500 to 2,000 nm. Up to 1,400 nm, IR radiation penetrates to the retina, causing it to warm up.

The well-known reasoning that a reduction in the transmission of visible light (e.g. through standard sun protection of 85%) leads the eye to adapt to the light conditions, thus in the case of lenses without UV protection letting in more UV radiation than untinted lenses, can be transferred 1: 1 to the infrared problem. In other words: wearers of sunglasses without infrared protection expose their eyes to more IR radiation than if they were not wearing sunglasses at all.

As a consequence of increased life expectancy, no opportunity should be missed to limit potentially harmful external influences – particularly on the retina – to an absolute minimum. Ultimately, this is exactly what we have been doing in our industry with regard to UV protection for decades.

Transmission change simulation

Simulation of the effect on the transmission change on the respective medium – black without the coating / red with IR coating.

An IR protection coating on sun protection products reducing the transmission between 780 and 2.000nm to a minimum for providing optimal protection to the lens and the retina is a useful step to differentiate professional sunglass protection products from discounter products by providing additional benefits

It is an added value that can be easily explained to the end user. Ideally, in time it should be recognized with a similar stamp of approval to UV400. Moreover, this additional protection would highlight the distinction between our products and those of the fashion sunglasses industry.





Historical grinding machine for spectacle lenses

Historical grinding machine for spectacle lenses

Image section from Diderot Lunetier 1

Mineral glass is difficult to work, especially the rock crystal beryl initially used to make spectacle lenses, because of its hardness. So anyone who wanted to turn a piece of glass into a visually effective lens needed a lot of patience and perseverance. Whether a lens could ultimately deliver a distortion-free image depended entirely on the precision with which it was worked. Thus it is not surprising that, in the late Middle Ages, methods were sought based on wind and water power to produce spectacle lenses with the required finish, if possible without the need for human labor. The advent of the industrial revolution two centuries ago with its motor-driven machines finally made it possible to manufacture spectacle lenses on a routine basis.

By Dr. Hans-Walter Roth

In the beginning grinding of spectacle lenses was done entirely by hand. Thus chroniclers report dozens of unqualified workers spending days giving the blanks supplied by the glassworks their desired shape. On grinding machines, whose antecedent was the potter’s wheel, one side of the lens was ground to a shape corresponding to a spherical surface. The other side was initially flat, as with lenses for reading placed on the page. Only later did lenses become biconvex. Provided the diameter and refractive index of the material were known, the strength of the spectacle lens could be calculated from the difference between the central thickness and the edge thickness. Prior to the introduction of the metric system two centuries ago when the diopter was introduced as a measure of spectacle lens strength, previously only the focal length was specified. It was easy to determine: you just had to hold the lens up to the sun and, by focusing the rays of light for example on a piece of paper, you could find the focal point. The oldest surviving pair of glasses was found in 1953 under the choir stalls in the nunnery at Wienhausen, founded in the 13th century. Like most glasses at that time, the strength of the lenses was +3.4 diopters, showing that they served as a reading aid to compensate for presbyopia.

The beginnings of automation

 With the invention of printing, the demand for reading glasses increased dramatically as more and more people learnt to read. The lengthy process of grinding by hand, however, prevented mass production of reading aids. Thus it became imperative to automate the lens-grinding process. As early as the 16th century, there had already been some quirky constructions to grind several lenses in series simultaneously.

Diderot’s encyclopedia, published in France from 1751, includes illustrations of various devices and tools used to make lenses for a variety of optical instruments, including spectacles. The grinding machine has a solid wooden frame similar in principle to that of a potter’s wheel. A large flywheel is driven by a hand-operated crank, with a leather drive belt transmitting the rotation to a small wheel, thus multiplying the speed of rotation by a factor of 1: 5. The precast biconvex glass lens is mounted in a concave support cup on a vertically mounted rotating rod. This in turn is connected via a wooden bevel gear to the small wheel in such a way that one turn of the hand crank makes the lens rotate five times about its own axis.

Above the lens holder there is a metal bar fixed with two wing nuts, to which various grinding and polishing heads can be attached. These are shown in the subsequent figures with different radii of curvature, showing that different lens thicknesses can be ground on the same machine. The concave polishing heads and the holders for the lenses are made of metal – usually brass – prefabricated on a lathe. A thin piece of leather between the lens and the holder prevents the surface of the lens from being scratched while it is being worked and held securely.

The illustrations shown here are from one of the numerous editions of the Diderot encyclopedia. They were purchased individually from one of the many booksellers on the banks of the Seine in Paris. Unfortunately, today there are hardly any complete editions of the famous encyclopedia from the 18th century on the market; savvy dealers preferring rather to separate them and sell the pages individually, in order to make more money.

Diderot Lunetier 1, Lenses from different sources.

Diderot Lunetier 1, Lenses from different sources.

Diderot Lunetier 2, Tools.

Diderot Lunetier 2, Tools.

Diderot Lunetier 3, Tools.

Diderot Lunetier 3, Tools.

Diderot Lunetier 4, Cutting and polishing machines.

Diderot Lunetier 4, Cutting and polishing machines.

All pictures in this article are courtesy of the Institute for Scientific Contact Optics Ulm.




The Craftsmanship of Ophthalmic Coatings

The Craftsmanship of Ophthalmic Coatings

Principal knowledge on procedures and best practise

The objectives of this article are to provide general principal knowledge on ophthalmic coating manufacture procedures and best practises based on a hands-on lifetime experience in coating manufacturing. Moreover, it is meant to draw attention to pitfalls and possible risks, to show shop-floor level staff how to apply themselves, to take ownership of the work and to enable suitable candidates to be an efficient coach in the lab. At the end of the day the quality level achieved in a coating department is determined by the quality of workmanship of the least trained staff. By Georg Mayer

The text is an extract of a tutorial held first at the Annual Society of Vacuum Coaters (SVC) Techcon 2019 in Long Beach and to be presented again in an updated version at this year’s SVC Techcon April 22nd in Chicago. I will focus on the next few pages on some highlights of the full day course tutorial.  In nearly 20 years of sole responsibility of the coating division of a then market leader, I gained some valuable lessons. Having had the privilege and pleasure to work with staff from 5 European and African Countries was an enriching and exciting experience.

Some ground rules for every case

Here are a few conclusions after working nearly 40 years in coating

  • Be a professional pessimist, expect the worst to happen and plan accordingly.
  • Don´t assume, ask! There are no stupid questions, only stupid mistakes.
  • Be a stickler to the rules of the process owner, don´t change anything, it is always better to ask again.
  • Consistency is the name of the game, more of that later …

You might ask yourself how can this experience still be of any interest today, in our increasingly automated Rx factories, gearing up for Industry 4.0?

Rx lens making is mostly automated – a computerised digital production with the ability to check and verify every lens to all standards applicable in situ. Rx surfacing runs in a continuous flow, job by job and can be driven by only a few staff with the help of advanced fully integrated lab management software.

By Elisabeth Mayer

However, when the Rx jobs arrive at the coating department´s door we seem to go back in time.

We interrupt the job flow for batching, not only once but often twice with related waiting times and sorting action per material/index and per coating type. Due to the unique shape and form of Rx lenses we still have too many hands on those lenses, all the way through the coating department. First they go from batching into carriers to cleaning to hardcoating and curing. And then again they go from batching and handling into different carriers for preparation and vacuum coating, typically twice with manual flipping and prep-steps in between.

In summary, we have multiple manual manipulations on lenses and machines, meaning a lot of staff are in direct control of the coating quality. And if those manual manipulations on lenses, machines or processes are performed in a country by operators with language barriers, training needs particular attention as those staff form a crucial part of a consistently good quality.


On top of all of this we don´t have the ability to check the full and final quality of each of our coatings produced without destroying it, we can only test samples or “witness” substrates which have taken part in the same process and batch.

Test yourself: what do you think is depicted in these pictures? You can find the solutions at the end of this article.







Keep an eye on sampling method, process and FPY

This leads directly to a first major subject, – the sampling method as a basis for coating quality metrics.

  • Sampling only works if all lenses are processed consistently to the rules of the process owner
  • Only then such witness samples will have the same properties as all other “real” Rx lenses

In conclusion, if processes and staff are not consistent the sampling approach is misleading.

A second important subject is the previously mentioned process and the lab taking ownership and responsibility. The following list gives an overview of the most important points that should be considered regarding the process:

  • Apply stable robust processes, manageable by the local infrastructure, machines and team.
  • The process must be well documented and the documentation has to be easily understandable and available to staff at their workplace.
  • Part and parcel of a stable process is strict maintenance of machines and use of the correct consumables since you can´t separate machine from process.
  • Well trained staff is essential, each of them could be the weak link in an otherwise strong team.
  • Create a work atmosphere that is open to continuous questions, learning and improvement, all the time.

Such stable and robust processes are the basis for a third most critical topic, the first pass yield (FPY) and its primary impact on an Rx lab’s ability to deliver consistently on time which leads to customer satisfaction.

A simplified example/case for this is based on the Markov Chain:

Of 100 lenses to enter a coating department, how many will come out “first round / first try” with its typical successive process steps? Let´s assume each main coating production steps FPY being

Hard coat                          96%

First side AR                      99%

Second side AR                 99%

Handling/washing            99%.

Looks pretty good, doesn´t it, but the key is that in combination the final score is a multiplication of 0,95×0,99×0,99×0,99=0,92 or 92%, meaning 8 of our 100 lenses didn´t make it first time round.

To make matters worse, in Rx where jobs are 2 lenses it could be double the number as a single bad lens in a job will hold back the other good lens too. So, this coating department could have a FPY as low as 84%, or in other words 16% of all work is not out first round in the expected time.

Once the whole Rx lab’s various factors have been modelled the results can be used for the prediction of the customer’s perception of this lab, i.e. if customers’ expectations will be met.

The main delivery quality indicators are delivery speed, reliability and consistency.

Such a lab might be competitive fast with the jobs making it on first attempt (84% FPY), but with a significant 16% of work not on time the lab will be seen as unreliable, and worse, of those 16% another 2% will not make it through even the second time and will need a third round. And because of this noticeable tail of very late work the lab is also regarded as not consistent.

Conclusion and brief outlook

Rx labs coating management must focus all efforts to achieve and maintain the highest possible yield rate for each type of product made by the lab, based on stable processes and well-trained staff, because of its primary impact on delivery quality and customer satisfaction.

Once this goal is achieved the focus can shift to removing the remaining major system shortfalls in most coating departments, i.e. to the improvement of the degree of automation and the reduction of the process times while still maintaining expected market quality standards for Rx lenses.

We can foresee some exciting new developments and projects in that direction, partly already in use or still to come, which will change the landscape of Rx lens coating to bring it closer to the level of automation seen already in Rx surfacing.

Solution for pictures a) to d):

a) Hardcoating failure
b) AR stack thermal cracking
c) Hardcoating striae
d) Droplet spitmark residue under AR