What You Need to Know About a Specialty Lens Lab

By Michael Walach
An Interview with Michael Walach, president of Quest Optical Specialty Lab, Largo, Fla.

What is the difference between a standard wholesale laboratory and a specialty lens lab?

Most full service wholesale labs have the capability to produce 99 percent of all prescriptions. Quest Optical does the remaining one percent. Our staff is highly experienced and knowledgeable in all aspects of specialty jobs because that is all they have been doing for years. We have all the necessary tools, High Definition and conventional equipment, software, “gizmos” and “whatchamacallits” necessary to produce the most unusual Rx requests in the most creative and optically effective manner.

Why would a wholesale lab need the services of a specialty lens lab?

When an unusual job comes in, the lab has a choice to make:


1. Do the job to the best of their ability.

2. Outsource it to a specialty lab.

In the first option: the job requires highly skilled personnel; special tooling; it is excessively time consuming; typically the lens or lenses have to be redone once or more times; and too often the execution of such a job falls short of its optimum solution in terms of optical performance, patient’s comfort, and aesthetics. Often such a job proves to be a financially losing proposition.

In the second option the wholesale lab outsources the job to a specialty lab. First, a customer service specialist will propose a variety of possible options and explain their various implications. The outsourcing wholesale lab can contact the ECP and discuss the various options that are available, the inherent visual performance effects on the patient and allow the ECP to select the most suitable option or the lab can make this decision itself.

What type of turn-around-time is involved when another lab orders a special lens?

The turn around time is three to five days on 85 percent of work. On the other hand, when a lab needs a pair of specialty lenses in rush, often we can turn such a job around in one or two days.

What types of specialty items are your “bread and butter”?

Our bread and butter jobs are high minus power or strong cylinders myodiscs, high plus power front or back side HD lenticulars supermodulars, high power addition on bifocals and progressives, high prisms, prism segs, Franklins, diving masks, swimming goggles, and wide variety of vocational lenses.

What are some of your more unusual requests?

Being a musician myself we do musician’s glasses with minus add power on the top of an office lens or PAL. We’ve also done triple tint pilot glasses (distance gray #3, intermediate vision down and top clear or yellow filter, near gray #1), jeweler glasses with additional 3X or 5X magnification button to the side, double-sided high plus powers lenticulars in Trivex or other high index materials, lenses for children like +18.00 with 6.00 add on 1.74 material backside supermodular on 10 base front, and +16.50 swimming goggles with mono correction— one lens for looking under the water and the other above the water correction, etc.

How do you see the future prospects for specialty labs?

I view the future for specialty optical lens labs promising. The factors that will impact this business in a positive way are automation, increased population of old people and small children, and the fact that as automation begins to dominate the lab industry there will be less and less hands-on old pros that can create the most unusual lenses using their knowledge, experience, and a lot of hand skills.

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May/June LabTalk 2017