Aston University successfully completes second project with Optimec Systems, focusing on improving the calibration processes used by the unique is830, created during the first KTP, sales of which are projected to top £1 million as a direct result of the partnership.

The Company

Optimec Systems Ltd (formerly trading as Optimec Ltd) is a leading developer and manufacturer of precise geometric measurement instrumentation used in the manufacture of contact lenses. These instruments are a critical part of the manufacturing process and quality control procedures to ensure that contact lens products comply visually and dimensionally to their required specification. 

Optimec has almost 40 years' experience in the design and manufacture of soft contact lens measurement instruments used by manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson. 

The Challenge

The company has already successfully completed one Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Aston University, launching the is830, a unique-to-market instrument for measuring contact lenses and curved objects using Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) technology to obtain sub-surface images of translucent or opaque materials. The instrument generated worldwide sales and has proven to be a key element in the company’s success.

The experience of bringing the is830 to market has allowed Optimec to identify more opportunities to deploy OCT in new applications. However, to deliver the intended new products the company requires a deeper understanding of OCT technology and image processing. 

The Solution

Aston University were called upon once again to develop Optimec’s capability for precision metrology using Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), by exploiting novel calibration and image processing techniques to deliver an innovative range of devices for use in ophthalmic and non-ophthalmic manufacturing sectors.

The benefits of this partnership included: 

  • Continuous real-world learning for Aston’s academics using cutting-edge science and technology research. 
  • Development of a new Calibration standard for use by Optimec and for distribution to its customers. 
  • New product developments to enable diversification into non-ophthalmic markets where contact free, precision measurement is critical

“In the last Optimec/Aston collaboration we revolutionised the machinery used to perform quality checks on contact lenses. This project allowed the technology to be built into the production line process allowing us to measure as we go, thereby enhancing our reputation in ophthalmic metrology and placing us as a ‘centre for excellence’ in Optical Coherence Tomography technology.” Dr Benjamin Coldrick, Head of Technical Development at Optimec Ltd. 

Team Aston

The academic team from Aston was led by Dr Antonio Fratini, whose key research interests lie in the areas of biomedical instrumentation and data processing and specialist experience in OCT technology. 

Dr Fratini was supported by Dr Patrick Geoghegan, who has expertise in the application of optical measurement techniques in engineering problems. This has included digital image processing, developing edge detection techniques, and developing de-warping algorithms. He also has vast experience in developing phantoms for optical imaging experiments.

The team as Aston was completed by Dr Izzati Ibrahim, who performed the role of Associate based at the company during the project. 

“KTP programmes fill the gap between research and industry, bringing the theoretical and applied research to a practical and impactful real-life application contributing to the welfare of the society.” Dr Antonio Fratini, Senior Lecturer Biomedical Engineering, Aston University.

The results

The project sought to gain knowledge of state-of-the-art Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) technology, which was achieved through extensive literature review and visiting the core technology partner of Optimec to fully investigate the technology. Other key achievements were related to the image processing of OCT scans, with new methods adapted into Optimec’s software, providing enhanced measurement capability.

“This second KTP with Aston University has built on the success of the first, helping to secure the future of our company as leaders in our field. Despite challenging circumstances presented by a global pandemic and a management buyout, the commitment shown by all involved has ensured that the collaboration has been fruitful.” Matthew Cleere, Director of Optimec Systems Ltd.

Alongside the key project items, the KTP Associate Dr Izzati Ibrahim also completed a ‘mini project’, analysing the visual camera system and highlighting some key areas of improvement. These have been expanded on and embedded into Optimec's products.