License agreement between U of M and Vision-Ease will help millions of bifocal wearers
Contacts: John Merritt, Office of the Vice President for Research, (612) 624-2609
Patty Mattern, University News Service, (612) 624-2801
MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (07/14/2008) —A software program designed at the University of Minnesota in partnership with Vision-Ease Lens stands to markedly improve vision for the estimated 78 million Americans who wear bifocal glasses. The university and Vision-Ease Lens have signed an agreement that is leading to a significant increase in the accuracy and flexibility of progressive no line prescriptions.
Patented by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, bifocal lens technology saw relatively few advances over the next 175 years. The invention of the progressive lens in 1959 eliminated the distracting line between the short- and long-distance portions of the lens, offering bifocal wearers a smooth transition between vision zones. Since then, annual sales of progressive lens bifocals have grown to an estimated $1.5 billion dollars -- but progressive lens design technology has not been widely explored.
When Vision-Ease first contacted us early in 2000 with some questions about lens surface modeling, we were surprised to find very few published research papers on the topic, said Fadil Santosa, a University of Minnesota mathematics professor, who serves as the director of the universitys Institute of mathematics and its Applications. There were many patent filings on lens design, but very little is revealed in them. The field was literally wide open.
Santosa, along with fellow mathematics professor Robert Gulliver and graduate student Jing Wang, began researching the mathematics of progressive lens design. Their research led to a new methodology for lens surface design using an optimization principle based on linearization and the use of special spline functions to represent the lens surface.
Using a software program developed by the researchers, this novel approach allows optical engineers to design a surface in seconds, said Derek Harris, vice president for research and development at Vision-Ease. The efficiency of the computation minimizes aberrations, and the easy-to-use software interface offers opportunities to explore the lens design space, leading to unique designs for conditions such as astigmatism.
This is a great example of the university partnering with a local company to address a technical challenge in their industry," said Eric Hockert, technology marketing manager at the universitys Office for Technology Commercialization. Both parties benefit: Santosa and his colleagues advanced knowledge in their field, and Vision-Ease found a solution for a vexing technical issue.
Privately held Vision-Ease Lens employs some 500 people at its facility in Ramsey, Minn. Its products are sold through independent opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists, as well as many retail chains and dispensing markets across the country.