This month, we focus on specialty lens manufacturer Art Optical Contact Lens Inc, based in Grand Rapids, MI. I recently had the pleasure to speak with President Jill Anastor.
Mrs. Anastor, please tell us about your company in terms of its history and direction.
Art Optical was founded in 1931 by my father-in-law, Charles Anastor. He immigrated to the United States from Greece in 1907 at the age of 17 and became an apprentice at an ophthalmic company in Detroit. He later entered into a partnership with a start-up ophthalmic group in Grand Rapids, MI; when the partnership dissolved, he continued running the company independently. Art Optical has remained family owned and operated since.
My husband, Tom, worked summers at his dad’s lab as a teen. Tom’s interest was sparked when Charles got involved in rigid lens manufacturing in 1958. Tom trained and mentored under Newton Wesley, one of the first contact lens pioneers, and took over the contact lens division of the company in 1967. Since 1984, Art Optical has been 100% dedicated to custom contact lens production. I have been involved since 1976, serving as vice president until 2009, when I assumed full responsibility of the daily operations.
Tell us about any new products or new developments in which Art Optical is involved.
Thankfully, we have strong working relationships with some of the best researchers and lens designers in the world, so we always have products in development. Our most recent introduction, Ampleye, is a fully vaulting 16.5mm scleral lens that has become popular despite coming to market a little later than anticipated. Although late entry isn’t always ideal, in this case, it became an advantage because we were able to apply the latest scientific research regarding scleral shape into the Ampleye fitting system. It was the first to incorporate toric haptic peripheries into the diagnostic set, which added fit predictability that effectively cut patient visits in half.
Ampleye is available in front-surface cylinder and multifocal designs as well as with quadrant-specific adjustment options. One of our development goals was to create a small, easy-to-use, and affordable diagnostic set that was less intimidating for beginning fitters, then build all of the features into the Rx platform that advanced fitters look for. Accomplishing both took some time, but it has paid off in the broad appeal and acceptance we are seeing. We are continuing to expand the options and will introduce a version engineered for normal corneas in the months ahead.
We’ve also added the new Tangible Hydra-PEG (Tangible Science) lens coating to our finished lenses made in Optimum GP (Contamac) materials, which is providing patients a more comfortable and longer lasting wearing experience.
Tell us your vision for the contact lens field in the short term (less than 5 years) and in the long term (20 years from now).
The recent realignment in the custom channel has stimulated innovation and enhanced teamwork among suppliers and laboratories, to everyone’s benefit. There is a sharper focus on specialty lens education, creating awareness and enthusiasm among more eyecare practitioners (ECPs) that is exciting to see.
In the short term, we will stay the course in terms of supporting the presbyopia, irregular cornea, and myopia management segments with superior lenses and service. The long term is harder to predict with the rapid pace of technology, but our goal is to remain dedicated to partnering with ECPs to solve their complex cases within the custom modality. We will continue to grow and change with the times by investing in opportunities and relationships that involve retaining, restoring, and rejuvenating vision. CLS