How are contact lenses made?
Have you ever wondered what the process is behind creating contact lenses? Well, it is truly a work of art. Combining multiple disciplines of science with technology, we talked to Gelflex Laboratories – the manufacturer of ‘Sofclear Contacts’, on how they tackle the mastery of making contact lenses.
The first step - Design:
The process starts with a unique lens design. We created a lens design featuring the most important features and parameters from our 40 years of experience specialising in making contact lenses to establish the right lenses for our customers all around the world.
The edge of the lens is one of the most critical design features for comfort, so extra special attention went to our edge design. We call it Radial Edge Technology. For you it just means a comfortable lens.
Producing the lens:
We developed our own unique polymer to ensure the right water content and to ensure optimal performance on the eye. The material must be strong, comfortable, and flexible, pass a range of biological tests so we know it is safe, transfer the right amount of oxygen and light to the eye including UV protection and ultimately be easy to handle. As you would expect we only use quality raw materials.
Each unique prescription has its own set of specially made metal tools, as different prescriptions need different shaped lenses. From these tools, a pair of plastic (polypropylene) moulds are formed which when combined together to form the shape of the lens. Between these moulds the polymer is injected. It is thermally cured in a controlled oven and a lens is created! At this stage, the lens is in its dehydrated form – meaning it is rigid and dry.
This whole process is done by robots, to guarantee precision, consistency, and accuracy. The moulds are opened, and every lens is inspected to ensure there are no aberrations. Any lenses that fail our QC examination are discarded.
How do they get coloured?
If lenses are to be coloured, this is when the magic happens. Gelflex has their own in-house designer and chemist working closely together to produce the attractive patterned colour design. Gelflex mixes its own pigment using a proprietary process that creates a realistic and natural look on the eye. This design is then inscribed (engraved) to a special metal plate. The image is transferred to the surface of the dry lens, where it is bonded using a thermal curing process. This printing process encapsulates the colour pigments, so when it is applied to the lens it won't come off.
Packing the lenses:
The lenses are then hydrated,” washed" in special clean rooms and every batch is checked to ensure no damage to the lens has occurred during production. For coloured lenses, the colour is also checked to make sure it is just right. We check the lenses under 16x magnification, so any defects are clearly visible. They are then placed into the plastic holder that carries your lenses, called blisters.
Finally, the blisters are sealed tight and placed into an autoclave (a steam steriliser) to make them super clean and safe to wear.
Gelflex's meticulous creation process ensures customers peace of mind – each time you purchase a lens it is safe and sterile to put in your eye!
And remember every year our processes are thoroughly audited by external bodies to ensure we continue to comply with all official quality standards as well as our own internal quality system.