WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—IFB Solutions made optical history last month when the first-ever 3D ophthalmic lens manufacturing system, developed by the Dutch tech company Luxexcel, began production at its prescription laboratory here. Executives from IFB and Luxexcel unveiled the new technology and showcased it during a tour of IFB’s facilities in November.

IFB is the largest employer of people who are blind or visually impaired in the U.S. In addition to manufacturing lenses, it makes notebooks, staplers, mattresses and apparel and operates community low vision centers, optical dispensaries in veteran’s centers and military base supply center stores.

Luxexcel chose to partner with the non-profit organization because its lens making system, known as the Vision Engine, can produce a wide range of prescriptions, notably the specialty lenses worn by many of the U.S. military veterans that IFB serves. The system is also relatively easy for IFB’s employees to operate, and expands the range of jobs available to its work force.

“We making sure we provide choices, as well as jobs for everyone. We’re eliminating barriers to employment,” said Dan Kelly, chief operating office for IFB Solutions.

The Luxexcel Vision Engine is integrated into the IFB lab, which produces about 1,200 Rx jobs a day using conventional equipment. The Vision Engine forms the lenses by using printer heads to deposit multiple layers of a mid-index acrylic material called Vision Clear onto a substrate sheet. The process can produce four lenses an hour; the lenses then cure for 24 hours before being edged. It can be scaled up to produce more lenses, and can be integrated into any lab, according to Luxexcel.

“We’re concentrating on low volume production with high value products,” explained Luxexcel CEO Hans Streng. In line with that objective, Luxexcel recently announced that it will install the second Vision Platform at Quest Vision Care Specialty Lab in Largo, Fla. in January.

“Quest Vision Care Specialty Lab, is known as the lab in the industry for specialty lenses,” remarked Michael Walach, president and founder of Quest Vision Care Specialty Lab. “The flexibility the Luxexcel Vision Platform offers, empowers us to provide completely customized ophthalmic specialty lenses made to the measure.

“The Luxexcel equipment can simply address patient needs for vocational, lifestyle or special prescription requirements which cannot be produced with existing production technologies like corrective lenses for meridional aniseikonia, channel prisms, prism segs, quatrofocals and many other special vocational and corrective Rx lenses with unusual or extreme requirements,” Walach said.

“Our go-to-market strategy is to initially focus on complex lenses, and then expand our installed based,” Streng noted. “Next, we’ll enable the production of unique ophthalmic products.”

Streng said opticians can create customized lenses using Vision Master, Luxexcel’s proprietary lens design software. He noted that Luxexcel’s technology allows for electronics to easily be embedded into a lens, enabling the company to produce smart glasses, augmented reality and virtual reality eyewear.

Although Luxexcel is gearing up for expansion, Streng stressed that making a profit is just part of its mission. “We’re driven by social responsibility. We want to make products that improve the lives of people and the planet,” he said.

—Andrew Karp