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  • Writer's pictureianhandricks

Hirstlens awarded grant to develop bifocal lens

NZ Optics Magazine, 1995

Hirstlens have been awarded a grant worth $109,000 by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology to develop a bifocal contact lens.

The total project is worth $218,000 with Hirstlens contributing funds to enable the venture to get off the ground. It is expected that the project will take eighteen months to complete with trial lenses being produced in about a year.

Messrs Ian Handricks and John Shennan have been working on the submission for several months with the initial inquiries beginning mid 1990. Both Directors feel the opportunity is there in the market for a New Zealand developed and produced lens and are very confident of its success.

“Above: The prototype bifocal lens being examined. From left - John Shennan, Ian Handricks and Denis Malone from the DSIR.”

"In terms of bifocal contact lenses, most designs that are presently on the market really are a compromise. In our opinion, there is not a bifocal available that is 100 per cent effective. The companies that are presently in this market have made great inroads into the development of bifocals … everyone is striving to produce a better and better product all the time and this will be our effort to produce the best bifocal lens at the time," said Mr Shennan.

"Over the years we have been involved in contact lens manufacture, we have formed a lot of ideas on the subject of bifocals. This venture is giving us the opportunity to test these ideas," he said. DSIFI are contracting to Hirstlens to develop the mechanical and control systems necessary to manufacture bifocals.

"Basically, it will be a high-tech add-on to the Polytech lathes that currently produce contact lenses. The project is divided into two stages. The first will take it through to the completion of clinical trials with those lenses being produced on a prototype tooling system which we will be developing. I approve the concept and the lens and the fact that it works and approve the mechanical and electronic concepts that we have in mind. The second stage is to produce a production version of the system and lenses," said Mr Denis Malone head of Manufacturing Technology, DSIR.

Mr Malone was involved in the original development of the Polytech lathes and helped the company with its production techniques several years ago.

"The project we are embarking on promises to offer significant advances in bifocal lens design and production methods," said Mr Malone.

"We will be working closely with the DSIR because they have the ability to help us extend the technology we now have in the laboratory and to introduce new mechanical and electronic methods into the system so that we can produce an economic, low-cost, translating bifocal," said Mr Handricks.

The project has been designed to achieve international market penetration. Both directors are travelling overseas in October to set-up the mechanism by which they can distribute their products internationally.

A very important part of the project involves the close association of optometry in achieving clinical trials. We have already approached some optometrists who will be involved in on going clinical work," said Mr Handricks.

Ownership of technology at the end of the project that is lens related will belong to Hirstlens and any technology that is developed that has an application in other fields, DSIR will take ownership of that.

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