Making contact lens moulds – how do they do it?

Optician speaks to Nigel Flowers about the process and the importance of precision and quality in contact lens moulding

Today, there are estimated to be 125 million global wearers of contact lenses in a sector that is worth nearly US$15 billion. The lens manufacturers, many of whom are based in Ireland, expect demand to continue rising.

Producing soft and disposable lenses in particular is big business. Sumitomo (SHI) Demag is a major player in supplying the injection moulding machinery that produces the moulds that make the contact lenses. UK managing director of the company Nigel Flowers explains further.

When was the first contact lens made?

It can be traced back to 1887 and German physiologist Adolf Flick. That lens was made of glass and was called a ‘scleral’ lens because it covered the scleral – the part of the eye that is white. Some years later, in 1912, optician Carl Zeiss developed another glass lens that fitted over the cornea. The first plastic lens (manufactured from plexiglass) is believed to be the work of two scientists, who created the scleral lens in 1938. The first plastic corneal lens arrived in 1948.

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