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Device for Low-Cost Eyeglasses

Griffith Sydney, Australia native Saul Griffith has created technology that will simplify the method for producing eyeglass lenses. This, he hopes, will eventually allow those around the world who could previously not afford eyeglasses to obtain them via the low cost and improved availability this technology will provide.

Griffith studied Metallurgical Engineering at the University of New South Wales, then traveled to the University of California, Berkeley where he studied materials science. After receiving his bachelor's degree, he pursued a master's degree in mechanical engineering in Composite Materials Processing at the University of Sydney. He then attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he received his Master of Science in media arts and sciences.

Most recently, Griffith has been working on his Ph.D. in nanotechnology, also at MIT. As part of his research Griffith began working on a project that was based on his belief that it was possible to create a simple eyeglass manufacturing system that could allow local vendors to produce them inexpensively so that the one billion people in the developing world could feasibly obtain them. Griffith's compact, portable machine includes a single mold with an easily changeable shape, able to form an acrylic lens in the exact shape prescribed by an optometrist. He made the initial prototype with basic materials he found around the house, using a mold that changes shape when baby oil is injected from a syringe into a small rubber tube attached to the mold.

Much less expensive than traditional injection molding, which requires a separate mold for each prescription, Griffith's machine could also be used for advanced optics, rapid prototyping, or other types of injection molding. He has two patents pending on the technology, for which he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and for which he also won the Collegiate Inventors Competition. In 2001, he and colleague Neil Houghton won the Harvard Business School business plan contest for their proposed company, Low Cost Eyeglasses. They hope to market glasses in developing areas such as Africa, India and South America.

[May 2003]

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