Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician

Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician Overview

When we need prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses, it is the ophthalmic laboratory technician who fashions them for us. These technicians are also called optical mechanics, optical good workers, or manufacturing opticians. The reason why prescription glasses and contact lenses improve our sight is because the glass is shaped in such a way as to bend the light so that it strikes our retinas in the correct way. In addition to making contact lenses and eyeglasses, some technicians also make lenses for binoculars and telescopes.




Opticians, ophthalmologists, and optometrists supply the necessary information to the technician who then grinds and shapes the glass or plastic according to the prescription. Some ophthalmic laboratory technicians will still do this process by hand, but most now use precision machinery for the task. Generally, the technician will also insert the lenses into the frame.

They're responsible for the following:

  • Polish eyeglasses, contact lenses, or other precision optical elements.

  • Assemble and mount lenses into frames

  • process other optical elements 

  • Adjust lenses and frames to correct alignment.

  • Mount and secure lens blanks or optical lenses in holding tools or chucks of cutting, polishing, grinding, or coating machines.

  • Shape lenses appropriately so that they can be inserted into frames.

  • Assemble eyeglass frames and attach shields, nose pads, and temple pieces, using pliers, screwdrivers, and drills.

  • Inspect lens blanks to detect flaws, verify smoothness of surface, and ensure thickness of coating on lenses.

  • Clean finished lenses and eyeglasses, using cloths and solvents.

  • Select lens blanks, molds, tools, and polishing or grinding wheels, according to production specifications.

  • Examine prescriptions, work orders, or broken or used eyeglasses to determine specifications for lenses, contact lenses, or other optical elements.

  • Position and adjust cutting tools to specified curvature, dimensions, and depth of cut.

  • Inspect, weigh, and measure mounted or unmounted lenses after completion to verify alignment and conformance to specifications, using precision instruments.

  • Set dials and start machines to polish lenses or hold lenses against rotating wheels to polish them manually.

  • Set up machines to polish, bevel, edge, or grind lenses, flats, blanks, or other precision optical elements.

  • Remove lenses from molds and separate lenses in containers for further processing or storage.

  • Lay out lenses and trace lens outlines on glass, using templates.

  • Repair broken parts, using precision hand tools and soldering irons.

  • Immerse eyeglass frames in solutions to harden, soften, or dye frames.

  • Control equipment that coats lenses to alter their reflective qualities.




Inspecting Processes and Equipment

Must be able to identify errors and defects in equipment or processes and correct them as necessary.

Gathering Information

Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Analytical Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems. Use your best judgement to make decisions and follow through.

Controlling Machines and Processes

Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes

Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings

Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
Organization Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.

Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards

Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.

Computer Knowledge

Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.


 Must be nimble with your fingers and good with your hands. You work with small parts and little screws, so you must be able to handle meticulous fixes.


Working Conditions

Ophthalmic lab technicians usually work in workshops, laboratories, or sometimes in larger retail situations. These workers have little, if any, contact with the public, and the workplace is generally quiet. A knowledge of the machinery used to grind the lenses is essential, of course, and these technicians will spend most of the day on their feet. The use of safety glasses is essential.


Salary Outlook

How to Become a Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician:

Most employers will not hire someone for this position unless they have a high school diploma. However, it is a good starting job as most of the ophthalmic laboratory technicians learn their job right at their workplace. This is a good job for someone who has superior manual dexterity. The person must also have the ability to perform precision work.


1. Receive On-the-Job Training (6 Months)

Most ophthalmic lab techs get training by working their job. The length of training depends, but it can take as long as 6 months to learn all you need to know to work independently. You will start by prepping lenses and helping your superior do their tasks. You learn as you go and will advance as time passes. Your supervisor will gauge your process and determine your skill level to allow you to complete more tasks. 


2. Advance with Further Education

You could go on to complete a certificate program and learn about optical theories, dispensing and laboratory techniques, though it's not required. These programs will broaden your skills and advance you in your career.