laboratory technicians -- also known as manufacturing opticians, optical
mechanics, or optical goods workers -- make prescription eyeglass or
contact lenses. Prescription lenses are curved in such a way that light
is correctly focused onto the retina of the patient's eye, improving his
or her vision. Some ophthalmic laboratory technicians manufacture lenses
for other optical instruments, such as telescopes and binoculars.
Ophthalmic laboratory technicians cut, grind, edge, and finish lenses
according to specifications provided by dispensing opticians,
optometrists, or ophthalmologists and may insert lenses into frames to
produce finished glasses. Although some lenses still are produced by
hand, technicians are increasingly using automated equipment to make
Ophthalmic laboratory technicians should not be confused with workers in
other vision care occupations.
optometrists are "eye doctors" who examine eyes, diagnose and treat
vision problems, and prescribe corrective lenses. Ophthalmologists are
physicians who also perform eye surgery. Dispensing opticians, who also
may do the work of ophthalmic laboratory technicians, help patients
select frames and lenses, and adjust finished eyeglasses.
laboratory technicians read prescription specifications, select standard
glass or plastic lens blanks, and then mark them to indicate where the
curves specified on the prescription should be ground. They place the
lens in the lens grinder, set the dials for the prescribed curvature,
and start the machine. After a minute or so, the lens is ready to be
"finished" by a machine that rotates it against a fine abrasive, to
grind it and smooth out rough edges. The lens is then placed in a
polishing machine with an even finer abrasive, to polish it to a smooth,
Next, the technician
examines the lens through a lensometer, an instrument similar in shape
to a microscope, to make sure that the degree and placement of the curve
are correct. The technician then cuts the lenses and bevels the edges to
fit the frame, dips each lens into dye if the prescription calls for
tinted or coated lenses, polishes the edges, and assembles the lenses
and frame parts into a finished pair of glasses.
In small laboratories,
technicians usually handle every phase of the operation. In large ones,
in which virtually every phase of the operation is automated,
technicians may be responsible for operating computerized equipment.
Technicians also inspect the final product for quality and accuracy.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.