Dec 22, 2010

Adlens Uses DS SolidWorks Software to Sharpen Eyesight In The Developing World

U.K. Company Designs Adjustable Eyeglasses to Solve Vision Problems without the Assistance of eye specialists.

CONCORD, Mass., USA — Easily correctable vision problems push scores of people from self-sufficiency into poverty every day in developing countries that might have only one eye care professional for every million residents. U.K.-based Adlens is trying to fill that need with affordable, adjustable eyeglasses that correct 80 percent of the refractive vision errors encountered by people in the developing world.

Using SolidWorks® software, Adlens created a layered lens that enables wearers to literally dial up custom prescription eyeglasses with no help from an optician, optometrist or ophthalmologist. Under guidance of a trained person (for instance, a community health worker) Adlens’ adaptive eyeglasses adjust with the turn of a knob to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and presbyopia (loss of focus). For people who won’t encounter an eye care professional in their whole lives, Adlens adaptive eyeglasses are a new lease on a productive life.

“There are hundreds of millions of people around the world who need only a simple pair of eyeglasses to remain self sufficient,” said Sjoerd Hannema CEO of Adlens. “We are working through the Vision for a Nation program to raise awareness of the impact impaired vision can have on a person’s education and quality of life. Our product is a way to correct many of those vision problems with the infrastructure available in the developing world.”

Adlens used SolidWorks to design a four-layer polycarbonate eyeglass lens. Two rigid lenses enclose a cavity housing a flexible third lens that contains a volume of oil. Knobs on the eyeglass frames pump the transparent oil in or out of the lens, where the middle layer flexes to provide the optical power the wearer needs. Then the wearer simply removes the levers and the adjustment knobs to lock in the prescription.

Creating a mechanism delicate enough for fine adjustments yet durable enough to survive heat, dust, and transportation over long distances was challenging, said Adlens Product Designer Alex Edginton. SolidWorks enabled the Adlens engineering team to experiment with designs that would balance precision and ruggedness.

“Structural integrity and durability are significant considerations for us. Rwanda, where we are working with the Ministry of Health to provide our spectacles, has a wide range of environmental conditions. The lenses and adjusters mechanisms are designed and tested to cope with the harsh conditions they will be subjected to,” he said. “SolidWorks enabled us to evaluate new designs quickly and easily. We used the 3D data to visualize concepts, create rapid prototypes and produce finished components, and SolidWorks was particularly helpful in understanding the interaction of each component in the product. We’re putting much more functionality than usual into a pair of spectacles with the adjustable lenses, seals and mechanisms, which are assemblies of complex, precision components. Fitting them together optimally was critical.”

Rwanda is typical of sub-Saharan African nations that might have only a handful of eye care professionals to serve the whole country. They usually work in or around the capital cities, mainly treating the wealthy, leaving low income and rural Rwandans to fend for themselves.

“The simple ability to fit a person with a pair of eyeglasses can lead to a better education for a child, a longer working life or advanced education for an adult, or just the ability to remain independent with age,” said DS SolidWorks CEO Jeff Ray. “Adlens is showing how technical innovation can improve living conditions all over the world, and SolidWorks is proud to support their efforts.”