At least 3 major European suppliers are launching this year new high-tech ranges of progressive ophthalmic lenses in order to keep the momentum going and to capitalize on the progress in computer measurement techniques and in other sectors.

Essilor has presented in France a few weeks ago its 5th generation of Varilux progressive lenses. Called Panamic, it's described as a new lens design, protected by 5 new patents, that improves peripheral vision and optimizes near, intermediate and far vision. The launch in France will be supported by a massive TV advertising campaign, but Essilor is planning to communicate on Panamic also in other European countries, and to introduce the new range also in the USA. Selected opticians have been invited from Germany and other countries to explain the properties of the new range.

For their part, Carl Zeiss and Rodenstock are apparently using a different approach, offering more individualized or custom-made solutions, based not only on individual prescriptions but also on other parameters related to the eyewear frame. Zeiss is expected to communicate shortly on its own system, which is called Grada Individual.

Rodenstock made a presentation to the international press last month of its own new Individual Lens Technology (ILT), which follows 3 years of investments in R&D and involves new calculation and production methods made possible by the increasing speed of computers and by the progress of surfacing techniques. Rodenstock's new technology will allow opticians to offer custom-made lenses, for a price of 15-20 percent above that of conventional progressive lenses, with an individually designed inset based on 5 personal parameters dictated also by the customer's choice of a specific frame such as interpupillary distance, vertex distance, pantascopic tilt and frame arching.

Like those of Essilor, Rodenstock's lenses feature a new design that widens the progressive zone to allow an improved peripheral vision. While Zeiss' new range keeps the progressive surface on the front of the lens, Rodenstock's new generation of lenses merges the atoric and progressive areas into a single surface that is cosmetically more appealing. These and other properties make it easier for the wearer to adapt to a new lens and widen the zones of clear vision.

Rodenstock has spent over 70 million DM (e35m) on a new robotized facility near Frankfurt's international airport to make these lenses one by one, guaranteeing rapid shipment anywhere. Deliveries within 24 hours will start in Germany around June or July, and subsequently also in other European countries. The new ILT line will represent the top tier of Rodenstock's range of progressive lenses, which already represents well over one-third of its total deliveries of lenses.