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Title:
METHODS, DEVICES, AND SYSTEMS FOR WASHING OPHTHALMIC LENSES DURING THEIR MANUFACTURE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2011/112998
Kind Code:
A2
Abstract:
Methods, devices, and systems for processing ophthalmic lenses, such as contact lenses, are described. The present devices and systems include a washing device, processing head or processing tip configured for use in processing an ophthalmic lens placed in a receptacle cavity to wash the ophthalmic lens. When the processing tip is placed in contact with the receptacle, the processing fluid in the well of the body of the processing tip is in fluid communication with the fluid in the cavity of receptacle. The volume capacity of the well is in addition to a volume capacity of the receptacle. The processing tip further has at least one port for fluid addition or removal. Processing methods using the present devices and systems are also described.

Inventors:
CHIANG, David (5870 Stoneridge Drive, Suite 1Pleasanton, CA, 94588, US)
FOLLOWILL, John G. (5870 Stoneridge Drive, Suite 1Pleasanton, CA, 94588, US)
Application Number:
US2011/028197
Publication Date:
September 15, 2011
Filing Date:
March 11, 2011
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
COOPERVISION INTERNATIONAL HOLDING COMPANY, LP (Suite 2, Edghill HouseWildey Business Park, St. Michael, Michael, BB)
CHIANG, David (5870 Stoneridge Drive, Suite 1Pleasanton, CA, 94588, US)
FOLLOWILL, John G. (5870 Stoneridge Drive, Suite 1Pleasanton, CA, 94588, US)
International Classes:
B65B55/18; A61L12/08; B65B7/28; A61L101/32; A61L101/34
Foreign References:
US20020190407A12002-12-19
US6080361A2000-06-27
US5176159A1993-01-05
US20080047590A12008-02-28
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DAO, Tom H. et al. (18200 Von Karman Avenue, Suite 725Irvine, CA, 92612, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

1. A method of manufacturing an ophthalmic lens, comprising:

providing a polymerized ophthalmic lens in a cavity of a container: the receptacle comprising a cavity volume;

placing a washing device comprising a sealing surface against the receptacle to create a fluid tight seal between the sealing surface and a perimeter around the cavity of the receptacle; the washing device comprising a well comprising a well volume;

placing a washing fluid in the cavity of the receptacle and well of the washing device, wherein fluid communication is provided between the cavity and the well.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the method further comprises the step of removing the washing fluid from the well of the washing device.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein the method further comprises the step of removing the washing fluid from the cavity of the receptacle.

4. The method of claim 1, wherein the method further comprises the step of inspecting the ophthalmic lens within the cavity.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the method further comprises the step of adding a packaging solution to the cavity.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein the cavity of the receptacle is a cavity of a blister package, and the method further comprises the step of sealing the blister package.

7. The method of claim 6, wherein the method further compri ses the step of sterilizing the sealed blister package.

8. The method of claim 1, wherein the washing fluid comprises an organic solvent, volatile alcohol, ophthalmically unacceptable material or combination thereof; or an aqueous solution comprising an organic solvent, volatile alcohol, ophthalmically unacceptable material or combination thereof.

9. The method of claim 1, wherein the washing fluid comprises water or an aqueous solution free of an organic solvent, volatile alcohol, ophthalmically unacceptable material, or combination thereof.

10. The method of claim 1 , wherein the ophthalmic lens is a silicone hydrogel contact lens. 1. The method of claim 1, wherein the ophthalmic lens is a silicone hydrogel contact lens that is not exposed to an organic solvent during manufacturing.

12. The method of claim 1 , wherein the washing device further comprises a retention surface, and the method further comprises the step of preventing the lens from floating outside the cavity with the retention surface.

13. A washing device for use in processing an ophthalmic lens, the device

comprising:

a surface configured to seal against a receptacle having a cavity for receiving an ophthalmic lens when placed in contact with the receptacle; the surface having a perimeter sized to seal around a perimeter of the of the cavity:

a body comprising a well configured to contain a volume of processing fluid, wherein a volume capacity of the well is in addition to a volume capacity of the cavity of the receptacle: and

at least one port configured to allow addition, removal, or both addition and removal of the processing fluid to well of the body and the receptacle.

14. A method for processing an ophthalmic lens in a receptacle, comprising: placing a processing head in sealed contact with a receptacle comprising a cavity having a volume and sealing around a perimeter of the cavity, the processing head comprising a body defining a well configured to contain a volume of a processing fluid and at least one port configured to allow addition, removal, or both addition and removal of processing fluid to and from the well;

adding a volume of processing fluid to the well and allowing the processing fluid to flow to the cavity; and

removing the processing receptacle.

15. The method of claim 4, wherein a total processing fluid volume is at least 1.4 times the volume of the cavity.

Description:
METHODS, DEVICES, AND SYSTEMS FOR WASHING OPHTHALMIC

LENSES DURING THEIR MANUFACTURE

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims priority from US Provisional Application Serial Number

61/313,524 filed on March 12, 2010, the contents of which are expressly incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

FIELD

[0002] The present invention relates to methods, devices, and systems for producing ophthalmic lenses, such as contact lenses. More specifically, methods, devices, and systems for washing ophthalmic lenses in the course of ophthalmic lens production are described.

BACKGROUND

[0003] During the manufacture of ophthalmic lenses, including contact lenses, such as hydrogel contact lenses and silicone hydrogel contact lenses, a polymerizable lens-forming composition containing reactive ingredients is polymerized in a contact lens mold assembly. The polymerized contact lens is subsequently removed from the mold assembly and undergoes a washing procedure. The washing procedure can include cleaning the lens to remove dust or debris from the manufacturing process, extracting the lens to remove extractable components or extraction media, hydrating the lens, and combinations thereof. The washed polymerized contact lens is then placed in a package with an aqueous packaging liquid, sealed, sterilized, and distributed. In some situations, the contact lens is washed in the package.

[0004] During the washing procedure, each contact lens is typically individually loaded in a receiving receptacle, such as a blister pack or a processing tray. The processing tray may include a plurality of pockets or recesses for holding a plurality of contact lenses for washing them in a bulk process. While in the receiving receptacle, each contact lens is exposed to one or more solutions or compositions that may include any one or a combination of organic solvents, alcohols including volatile alcohols, water, solutions of salts, buffering agents, surfactants, wetting or comfort agents, and the like, in order to wash the lenses, i.e., remove dust or debris from the contact lenses, fully or partially remove extractable components or extraction media from the contact lenses, or hydrate the lenses.

[0005] Multiple washing cycles may be required to ensure adequate washing of the lenses, i.e., adequate removal of dust or debris, removal of extractable materials from the lenses, removal of extraction media such as, for example, organic solvents or other ophthalmically unacceptable ingredients, from the lenses following extraction with organic solvents or other ophthalmically acceptable ingredients, and hydration of the lenses. When a carrier tray is used, the polymerized contact lenses are often transferred to different baths comprising one or more washing liquids. When individual blister packs are used to wash contact lenses, a series of fill and drain cycles can be employed using fill and suction lines that directly communicate with the blister pack cavity to fill and drain the cavity with different liquids. One process is disclosed in US Pat. No. 6,432,217 to Baxter et al.. the contents of which are expressly incorporated herein by reference.

SUMMARY

[0006] New methods, devices, and systems for producing ophthalmic lenses are described. Specifically, new methods, devices, and systems for processing ophthalmic lenses during the course of ophthalmic lens production are described. As used herein, processing ophthalmic lenses refer to the process of washing the ophthalmic lenses to produced washed lenses. These washed lenses can comprise lenses from which dust or debris has been partially or completely removed, or reduced to an acceptable level. These washed lenses can comprise lenses from which extractable materials, such as un reacted or partially reacted chemical ingredients, have been partially or completely removed or reduced to an acceptable level; lenses from which organic solvents or other ophthalmically unacceptable ingredients used as part of an extraction process have been partially or completely removed or reduced to an acceptable level; lenses that have been partially or completely hydrated, lenses that are ready for packaging, and combinations thereof. It can be understood that washing, as used herein, refers to one or more steps in which ophthalmic lenses are cleaned, extracted, hydrated, or combinations of cleaned, extracted and hydrated. For cleaning, dust, debris or both dust and debris are removed from the lenses. For extraction, extractable materials, extraction media, or both extractable materials and extraction media are removed from the lenses. Extraction steps may include hydration steps if the lens becomes hydrated during extraction. In addition, separate hydration steps can be used to replace extraction media with a hydration liquid, such as an aqueous solution, including deionized water, aqueous salt solutions, aqueous buffer solutions, and the like.

[0007] The present methods, devices, and systems are effective in processing the ophthalmic lenses without having to transfer them to a new receptacle for each washing step. As used herein, a receptacle is understood to be a container. The receptacle or container comprises one or more cavities each dimensioned to accommodate an ophthalmic lens and a volume of liquid. Non-limiting examples of a receptacle include contact lens blister packs, trays or carriers comprising a plurality of cavities, and the like. The dimensions of the cavities can be selected to accommodate the ophthalmic lens in an unhydrated state, a partially hydrated state, or a fully hydrated state without the lens folding over on itself. A lens in an unhydrated state refers to a lens without any water content. A lens in a fully hydrated state refers to a lens having a water content at an equilibrium state. A lens in a partially hydrated state refers to a lens having a water content between the unhydrated state and the fully hydrated state. As example, the present contact lenses may be fully hydrated when they have an equilibrium water content from about 20% to about 70%, such as about 20%, about 30%, about 40%, about 50%, about 60%, or about 70%, or any value therebetween. As an example, with the present methods, devices, and systems, a lens remains in the same receptacle, which can be a blister pack or a processing tray, while subsequent washing steps, including cleaning, extraction and hydration steps, are performed on the lens without the need to transfer the lens to a new receptacle. Furthermore, with the present methods, devices, and systems, it is possible to reduce the number of washing cycles and thus to improve manufacturing efficiency. For example, with the present methods, devices and systems, the receptacle cavity for accommodating a lens to be washed is increased in volume to a second larger volume so that a greater quantity of processing fluids may be added to the lens for each cycle such that appropriate washing of the lens by dilution is achieved in fewer processing cycles. The process is also understood to include improved washing by dilution of a contact lens in a receptacle, the receptacle having a volume capacity that can be increased in-situ compared to a receptacle having similar volume capacity but with different methods, devices and systems that does not increase in volume, at least substantially to enable improved washing by dilution of the contact lens in the receptacle with fewer fluid filling and removal cycles. Thus, compared to methods, devices, and systems in which different receptacles are utilized or where a volume capacity of a receptacle cavity for accommodating a contact lens to be processed is fixed for each washing step, the present methods, devices and systems reduce processing time and labor and therefore improve, among other things, manufacturing efficiency. In addition, by minimizing the number of transfers from one receptacle to another, damage to the lens from physical handling of the lens is reduced, which in turn will improve the yield of un-damaged lenses.

[0008] In one example, methods of manufacturing ophthalmic lenses are provided.

[0009] In another example, a processing head or tip for use with a blister package is provided.

[0010] In another example, a processing head or tip for use with an array of blister packages is provided.

[0011] In another example, a processing head or tip for use with a processing tray is provided.

[0012] In still yet another example, a processing head or tip for processing a contact lens in a receptacle is provided.

[0013] Additional examples and details of the present invention are also described in the following detailed description, drawings, and appended claims.

[0014] Various embodiments of the present invention are described in detail in the detailed description and claims below. Any feature or combination of features described herein are included within the scope of the present invention and in combination whether expressly described provided that the features included in any such combination are not mutually inconsistent as will be apparent from the context of the described features and knowledge of one of ordinary skill in the art. In addition, any feature or combination of features may be specifically excluded from any embodiment of the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0015] FIG. 1 illustrates a schematic view of a processing assembly configured for use with a blister package to wash an ophthalmic lens;

[0016] FIG. 2 illustrates a perspective view of a blister package usable with the processing assembly of FIG. 1 ; [0017] FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of a support platform, which is a sub-component of the processing receptacle assembly of FIG.1 ;

[0018] FIG. 4 is a partial cross-sectional side view of a sealing surface of a processing tip, which is a sub-component of the processing assembly of FIG. 1 :

[0019] FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional side view of the processing assembly of FIG, 1 in an engaged state and ready for service;

[0020] FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the bottom of the processing tip;

[0021] FIG. 6 A is a perspective view of an alternative processing tip;

[0022] FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a processing assembly configured for use with a plurality of blister packages for simultaneously washing a plurality of ophthalmic lenses;

[0023] FIG. 8 is an array of blister packages usable with the processing assembly of FIG.

7;

[0024] FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a support platform, which is a sub-component of the processing assembly of FIG.7;

[0025] FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the bottom of a tip assembly comprising a series of processing tips, which is a sub-component of the processing assembly of FIG. 7;

[0026] FIG. 1 1 is a perspective view of a processing receptacle configured for use with a processing tray comprising a plurality of cavities;

[0027] FIG. 12 is a perspective view of a processing tray comprising a plurality of cavities usable with the processing receptacle of FIG. 1 ;

[0028] FIG. 13 is a partial cross-sectional side view of a sealing surface of the processing receptacle of FIG. 1 1; and

[0029] FIG. 14 is a perspective view of the bottom of the processing receptacle of FIG.

11.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0030] The following disclosure will be primarily directed to contact lens processing methods, devices, and systems for washing contact lens bodies, including cleaning, extracting, hydrating, and combinations thereof. However, it will be appreciated that embodiments of the present methods, devices, and systems can be used in the processing of other types of ophthalmic lenses. For example, the present methods, devices, and systems can be used to process lenses formed from cast molding, lenses formed from lathing, lenses formed from spin casting, corneal onlay lenses, corneal inlay lenses, intraocular lenses, and other types of ophthalmic lenses. In certain embodiments, the present ophthalmic lenses are hydrogel lenses, including silicone hydrogel lenses. For example the present ophthalmic lenses may be hydrogel contact lenses, silicone hydrogel contact lenses, or combinations thereof.

[ยง031 J In a cast molded contact lens manufacturing procedure, a polymerizable lens precursor composition, such as a monomer mixture and the like, is first placed in contact with a contact lens mold member. For example, the polymerizable lens precursor composition can be placed on a concave surface of a first mold member. The concave surface of the first mold member defines an anterior surface of a lens obtained therefrom. A second mold member is then placed in mating contact with the first mold member to form a lens shaped cavity containing the precursor composition. The second mold member includes a convex surface that defines a posterior lens surface of a lens obtained therefrom. The second mold member can be understood to be a male mold member and the first mold member can be understood to be a female mold member. As used herein, the combination of the first mold member and the second mold member can be understood to be a contact lens mold or contact lens mold assembly.

[0032] The contact lens mold containing the polymerizable lens precursor composition is then exposed to conditions effective in curing or polymerizing the polymerizable lens precursor composition. After the curing or polymerization step, a polymerized contact lens product is formed in the contact lens shaped cavity.

[0033] The contact lens mold is then demolded to separate the first and second mold members from one another. In the process, the polymerized contact lens product remains attached to or in contact with one of the mold members.

[0034] After demolding the contact lens mold, the lens is delensed or deblocked from the mold member to which it is attached or with which it contacts. Delensing can be performed using a dry delensing step not involving a liquid or a wet delensing step that involves exposing the lens to a liquid that assists in separating the lens from the mold member to which it is attached or with which it contacts.

[0035] After delensing the polymerized contact lens product, the product can undergo one or more processing steps including washing, such as cleaning, extraction, and hydration processes and combinations thereof, to produce a contact lens that is ready to be inspected or ready to be packaged. For example, a contact lens which has undergone an extraction step is an extracted contact lens, and a contact lens that has undergone a hydration step is a hvdrated contact lens. While it is not necessary to extract or hydrate all types of contact lenses prior to inspection or packaging, conventionally most hydrogel lenses undergo a hydration step, and most silicone hydrogel lenes undergo extraction and hydration steps prior to being sealed in packages. The hvdrated contact lenses can then be inspected, packaged, and sterilized, as understood by persons of ordinary skill in the art. Alternatively or in addition, the lenses are inspected in a dry state before being exposed to a liquid in a washing step of some sort. Inspecting the lenses in a dry state is often referred to as dry inspection of the lenses.

[0036] As understood from the present disclosure, the present methods, devices and systems relate to washing, including cleaning, extracting and/or hydrating, a polymerized contact lens product after it has been delensed from a contact lens mold member. The present disclosure is also understood to include a method for manufacturing a contact lens whereby the contact lens is processed in a series of fluid baths that include a step of increasing a volume capacity of a receptacle cavity that holds the contact lens, as further discussed below.

[0037] As used herein, a soft contact lens is a contact lens that can conform to the shape of the cornea of an eye of a lens wearer or can otherwise be folded upon itself without breaking, A hard contact lens is a contact lens that cannot be folded upon itself without breaking. A soft contact lens can be a hydrogel contact lens, that is, a contact lens that is capable of retaining water in an equilibrium state. The hydrogel contact lens can be a silicone-free hydrogel contact lens or a silicone hydrogel contact lens. Ophthalmic lenses usable with the methods, devices, and systems of the present invention include hydrogel contact lenses. A silicone hydrogel contact lens is a hydrogel contact lens that comprises a silicone component. Examples of silicone hydrogel contact lenses that can be used with the present methods, devices, and systems include, but are not limited to, silicone hydrogel contact lenses having the following U.S. Adopted Names (USANs): lotrafilcon A, lotrafilcon B, balafilcon A, galyfilcon A, senofilcon A, com fi Icon A, and en fi Icon A. A non-si I icone hydrogel contact lens is a hydrogel contact lens that is free of a silicone component. Examples of non-si 1 icone hydrogel contact lenses that can be used with the present methods, devices, and systems include hydrogel contact lenses having the following USANs: omafilcon A, ocufilcon A, ocufilcon B, ocufilcon C, ocufilcon D, ocufilcon E. etafilcon A, methafilcon A, and methatllcon B, among others. [0038] Referring now to FIG. 1, a schematic view of a processing assembly 10 is shown. The assembly 10 comprises a support platform 12 and a processing head or processing tip 14. The platform 12 is dimensioned and configured to accommodate a contact lens receptacle, such as a blister package. The tip 14 is configured to form a fluid tight seal with the contact lens receptacle positioned within the platform 12. When assembled, various processing fluids for washing, such as for extracting, and/or hydrating, can be sequentially added or removed from the contact lens receptacle without the need to transfer the contact lens to a different receptacle, as further discussed below. The number of fluid addition and removal cycles may be determined based on the type of process being used (washing, extraction, hydration, a combination, etc.) as well as the type of fluid being used (water, organic solvent, volatile alcohol, aqueous solution of an organic solvent, aqueous solution of a volatile alcohol, aqueous saline solution, aqueous buffer solution, surfactant solution, wetting or comfort agent solution, etc.). Thus, when the process being used requires that the contact lens be exposed to a given amount of liquid, and the amount of liquid required is greater than the capacity of the receptacle cavity holding the contact lens, use of the present processing assembly 10 allows the number of washing cycles to be reduced due to volume addition of the present processing assembly 10 that enables greater dilution than comparable fixed volume dilution.

[0039] Some of the present methods comprise performing one or more washing cycles on the present ophthalmic lenses in the receptacle cavities. For example, some methods comprise performing one to one hundred washing cycles per ophthalmic lens. In some embodiments, the methods comprise performing one washing cycle. In other embodiments, the methods comprise performing two washing cycles, three washing cycles, four washing cycles, five washing cycles, six washing cycles, seven washing cycles, eight washing cycles, nine washing cycles, or ten washing cycles per ophthalmic lens. In still further embodiments, methods comprise performing about twenty washing cycles, about thirty washing cycles, about forty washing cycles, or about fifty washing cycles per ophthalmic lens.

[0040] In an example, the processing assembly 10 is configured to process a contact lens placed in any variety of blister packages. In one embodiment, the assembly 10 is configured to process an ophthalmic lens 16 placed in a blister package 20 illustrated in FIG. 2. Broadly speaking, the blister package 20 comprises a cavity 22 having a cavity perimeter 24. The cavity 22 is sized and configured to accommodate a single ophthalmic lens 16 with the posterior lens surface facing up and the anterior lens surface facing the bottom wall surface of the cavity 22, The package 20 further comprises a flange 26 configured for mating with a peelable seal layer or lid stock (not shown). The flange may optionally include raised bumps or protrusions 28 for gripping purposes and aesthetic appeal. Optionally, the cavity 22 can be circumscribed, at least in part, by a protruding portion 30 located subjacent a lateral plane defined by the flange 26 to reinforce the flange. The cavity 22 is configured to fit or slide into a bore formed in the platform 12, as further discussed below. The flange 26 comprises a mating surface or area 34 extending from the cavity perimeter 24. The mating surface 34 is engageable in a fluid tight seal with the processing tip 14. as further discussed below. A fuller description of blister pack 20 is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 7,503,908, the contents of which are expressly incorporated herein by reference. However, blister packs with different shapes and configurations for storing contact lenses are also usable with the present methods, devices, and systems without deviating from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

[0041] Referring again to FIG. 1 , in one example the platform 12 is made from a rigid material such as from metal, plastic, including engineered plastic, including but not limited to PFA, PEEK, PTFE, Vespel polyimide, etc., and glass reinforced plastic. The platform 12 is configured to retain a contact lens receptacle, such as the blister package 20, during the washing process. In some embodiments, including in the illustrated embodiment, the platform 12 comprises a rectangular body section 40. In alternative embodiments, the platform 12 can have a square, a cylindrical, a hexagon, an octagon or any other appropriately shaped container configuration for housing a blister package. The platform 12 can include a top wall 42, a plurality of sidewalls 44, and a planar bottom wall 46. Together, the top wall 42, the sidewalls 44 and the planar bottom wall 46 define a platform space 48 for receiving the blister package 20. The top wall 42 comprises an opening 50 having a peripheral rim 52 extending therefrom. The opening 50 is configured to receive the package 20 in a way that allows the flange 26 to rest on the peripheral rim 52 whereas the protruding portion of the cavity 22 is accommodated securely within the platform space 48, as shown in FIG, 3. The package 20 is thus supported at the flange so that the processing tip or head 14 may engage or press there-against in a fluid tight seal, as further discussed below. In another embodiment, the blister pack is sufficiently rigid and may abut the processing tip without added support. In still yet other embodiments, an open channel is slid under the flange 26 for support or the flange is slid against the open channel for support.

[0042] In one example, the processing tip 14 is made from a rigid material such as a metal, plastic, such as an engineered plastic. As shown, the tip 14 comprises an elongated body 60 with an open-ended base 64 defining at least one outlet 66. As shown in FIG. 1. the elongated body can optionally include a top wall 62. or can be open to allow direct filling of the well area 68 defined by the body 60 and base 64. In some embodiments including in the illustrated embodiment, the tip 14 has a cylindrical configuration. In alternative embodiments, the tip 14 can have a rectangular, square or any other appropriately shaped container configuration. The elongated cylindrical body 60, the top wall 62 and the base 64 define a well 68 having quantifiable volumetric capacity, which may be understood to be equal to a volume of processing liquid contained inside the space defining the well. The open ended base 64 is sized and shaped to mate with the cavity perimeter 24 of the blister package 20, with the mating surface 34, or around the upper top surface of the perimeter to seal against the blister package. The base 64 further comprises a peripheral flange 70. which may simply be a cylinder end or an extended end flange surface, surrounding the outlet 66. In an example, the peripheral flange 70 includes a groove 72 configured to accommodate a gasket or O ring (not shown), which together form a sealing surface 76 shown in FIG. 4 configured to engage the mating area 34 of the blister package 20 in a fluid tight seal. When placed in sealing contact with the blister package 20. the well 68 is in fluid communication with the cavity 22 and increases the volume of the cavity 22 by the volume of the well, as further described below.

[0043] Referring again to FIG. 1, as illustrated in this example, the tip 14 can optionally further comprise a first port 78 configured for fluid addition and/or removal. As used herein, a fluid can include a liquid, a solution, or a gas. In some embodiments, the first port 78 is located on the top wall 62. In other embodiments including in the illustrated embodiment, the first port 78 is located on the cylindrical body 60. The first port 78 normally connects to a flow line 82 leading to an external tank 84. such as a fluid tank containing a fluid source. Thus, the processing fluid contained within the body 60 can be placed under pressure, or under vacuum as needed. Although the first port 78 may be configured for inflow and outflow to add or remove processing fluids, the tip 14 can comprise a second port 80 optionally connected to a discharge line 86 for fluid removal. The second port 80 is preferably located on the body 60 at an elevation above the base 64 or near the base, such as tangent to the outlet 66 at the base. The first and second ports 78, 80 may comprise apertures integrally formed on the top wall 62 or on the body 60 of the tip 14. In alternative embodiments, the first and second ports may be externally made and connected to a second open cylinder to form the tip 14, Thus, it is understood that the present invention includes a tip comprising a body having a cavity of a first volume capacity, at least one port in fluid communication with the cavity, and a body outlet; said body outlet configured to engage a contact lens container so that a cavity of the lens container, which has a second volume capacity, is in fluid communication with the cavity of the body to increase the second volume capacity by an amount equal to at least the first volume capacity.

[0044] Although not shown, the processing assembly 10 is understood to include control valves, pumps or dispensing devices, various tanks, and at least one controller for controlling the processing operation, such as holding time in between cycles, number of cycles, a heater for heating the processing fluid, one or more temperature gauges for monitoring the temperature of the processing fluid during processing, etc. Level sensors may also be included for regulating inflow and outflow based on fluid level in the well of the processing head and/or the package cavity. Heating or cooling may also be done through mixing hot and cold streams as necessary.

[0045] FIG. 5 shows a cross sectional side view of the assembly 10 of FIG. 1 in an operational state. The assembly 10 may be operated as discussed herein. First, the package 20 containing the contact lens 16 is placed in the opening 50 of the platform 12 such that the exterior protruding portion of the package, i.e., the cavity, is securely seated within the platform space 48 while the flange 26 rests on the peripheral rim 52 of the platform. The tip 14 is then positioned on top of the package 20 so that the sealing surface 76 of the tip engages the mating area 34 of the flange in a fluid tight seal. In one embodiment, the mating area 34 is contiguous with the cavity perimeter 24 such that the area external of the cavity perimeter 24 remains dry during the washing process of the contact lens 16. In this assembled state, the well 68 of the processing head 14 is in fluid communication with the cavity 22 of the blister package 20 and increases the volume capacity of the cavity by a volume capacity that is at least equal to the volume capacity of the well 68.

[0046] For each processing step, the amount of fluid available for washing, extracting and/or hydrating the contact lens 16 corresponds to the combined volume capacity of the cavity 22 and the volume capacity of the well 68. Thus, for each washing step, the contact lens 16 is exposed to a much larger volume of processing fluid as compared to a contact lens processed in a blister package without the processing assembly and especially without the added capacity of the well of the processing head. The larger combined volume per cycle increases the removal efficiency of extractable materials. Indeed, extractable materials from the contact lens 16 will leach out of the lens 16 into the surrounding media until concentration equilibrium is reached. Thus, the higher the volume of processing media, the higher the amount of extractable materials that can be removed per cycle. Therefore, the number of washing cycles can be reduced if relatively larger volumes are used. Said differently, contaminated washing fluid, which can comprise washing fluid with suspended and solublized extractable materials, is effectively removed by dilution with clean washing fluid at a higher efficiency per washing cycle than a comparable container package having the same package volume capacity due to the added effect provided by the volume of the well 68 of the processing head 14.

[0047] Thus, the present devices and systems include a processing tip for use in processing a contact lens body positioned in a packaging receptacle cavity or other receptacle cavity. The processing tip comprises a sealing surface engageable in a fluid tight seal with the receptacle so that the perimeter of the cavity of the receptacle is sealed by the engagement. The processing tip further comprises a body configured to contain a volume of a processing fluid in addition to a processing fluid contained in the receptacle cavity of a second volume, and wherein the volume of processing fluid in the body is in fluid communication with the volume of processing fluid in the receptacle cavity when the tip is in sealing contact with the receptacle. The processing tip further comprises at least one port configured to allow addition, removal or both addition and removal of the processing fluid to the body and the receptacle,

f 0048] An embodiment of the present device and system is further understood to include a processing assembly configured for processing a contact lens body positioned in a receptacle cavity, the assembly comprising a processing tip and a support platform for accommodating the receptacle.

[0049] The present invention also includes a method for processing a contact lens housed in a receptacle using a processing tip. The method comprises placing the processing tip in sealed contact with the receptacle; adding a volume of processing fluid to the processing tip; and removing the processing tip from the receptacle. In certain embodiments, the receptacle is a packaging receptacle, such as a blister pack. In other embodiments, the receptacle is a tray or lens carrier comprising a plurality of cavities for storing a contact lens and a volume of liquid. In a specific example, the overall processing volume per washing cycle is at least 1.4 times the volume of the cavity of the packaging receptacle so that washing by dilution is improved over a similar receptacle with a wash volume that approximate that of the package cavity alone. The overall processing volume is preferably the volume of the package cavity plus the volume of the well of the processing tip. In still yet other embodiments, the overall volume is at least 1.5 times the volume of the cavity of the receptacle, such as 1.6 to 2.5 times or more, such as 5 times or 10 times the volume of the receptacle cavity.

[0050] In one embodiment, a method is provided that includes the step of positioning a receptacle in a support platform and placing a processing tip against a mating surface of the receptacle such that a perimeter of the receptacle cavity is circumscribed by the processing tip. In an example, the processing tip comprises at least one port that is in fluid communication with the receptacle cavity.

[0051] The present invention is further understood to include a method for manufacturing a contact lens. The method comprises molding a polymerizable composition in a lens mold to form a polymerized contact lens; separating the lens mold into a first mold half and a second mold half so that the polymerized contact lens is attached to either the first mold half or the second mold half; delensing the polymerized contact lens from the first mold half or the second mold half and placing the delensed polymerized contact lens into a receptacle; and mating a processing tip against a flange on the receptacle so that a cavity of the receptacle is circumscribed by the processing tip. In one specific example, the processing tip comprises at least one port that is in fluid communication with the receptacle cavity.

[0052] With reference now to FIG. 6, a perspective bottom view of the processing tip 14 is shown with an added feature. As shown, the tip 14 further comprises a retainer element 90 configured to restrict the lens 16 from floating up into the well of the tip 14 during processing. The retainer element 90 can be made from a nylon or plastic mesh and covers the outlet 66 of the cylinder body 60. Thus, regardless of the level of processing fluid in the well 68 during washing, the lens 16 can be confined within the cavity 22 of the blister package 20 by the retainer element 90. Thus, an embodiment of the present devices and systems further comprises an apparatus that prevents the contact lens from floating outside the cavity of said blister package. In a specific example, the apparatus is a physical barrier that prevents the contact lens from floating. The physical barrier can be, for example, a mesh screen or a plate, such as a planar surface, with one or more holes or openings formed on the plate or surface.

[0053] Referring to FIG. 6. the tip 14 can comprise one or more temperature control devices 92 configured to monitor, adjust, or both monitor and adjust the temperature of the processing fluid added to the assembly 10, as needed. The temperature control device 92 can be a heating element and/or a cooling system, which may include a blending system that mixes multiple fluid streams of varying temperatures to a desired or set operating temperature.

[0054] In one embodiment, after each washing step, the processing fluid can be removed by. for example, in embodiments of the tip with an open top. directly through the open top of the tip by placing a tube connected to a vacuum source into the well 68 through the open top or applying a vacuum source to a port, such as the first port 78. In other embodiments including in the illustrated embodiments, fluid removal can be done by draining the fluid through the second port 80. As the second port 80 is located above the cavity 22, the lens 16 remains in a processing fluid at all times, minimizing the risk of the lens being dried out and damaged. Other evacuation systems include an eductor system and a tilting mechanism for tiling the assembly to drain the fluid inside the processing head and/or the container package.

[0055] Following processing of the contact lens 16, the tip 14 can be removed from the package 20. In a preferred embodiment wherein the mating area 34 is contiguous with the cavity perimeter 24, the area external of the cavity perimeter 24 remains dry and thus the package 20 is ready to be sealed and packaged immediately without further treatment. In other embodiments, the mating area 34 can be spaced further from the cavity perimeter 24 so that part of the mating area is surrounded by the processing well and consequently under fluid throughout the washing cycles. In this alternative case, the flange 26 may need to be dried before the package 20 can be sealed.

[0056] If desired, a drying device can be provided to dry the cavity perimeter 24 in case there is inadvertent presence of liquid on the cavity perimeter. For example, the drying device can be a source of gas to blow away liquid, a vacuum device to remove liquid, or an absorber to absorb liquid present on the cavity perimeter.

[0057] Thus, an embodiment of the present devices and systems includes a processing assembly configured for use in processing a contact lens located in a packaging receptacle, such as a blister pack, the assembly comprising a processing head configured to form a fluid tight seal with the packaging receptacle such that after processing, the packaging receptacle can be sealed with a peelable seal or lid stock and packaged without further drying treatment,

[0058] As described, the present methods, devices and systems are effective in improving the efficiency of manufacturing a contact lens. For example, by actively washing the contact lens it is possible to improve efficiency by reducing the number of processing cycles that are required to extract, wash and hydrate a contact lens before the contact lens is sealed in a package. A further feature of the present methods, devices, and systems is a configuration that allows the packaging receptacle to be sealed without first drying the area of the packaging receptacle to be sealed.

[0059] Furthermore, the present methods, devices and systems are effective in improving the yield of acceptable contact lenses by reducing the number of transfers between receptacles and therefore potential for damage due to handling the contact lenses. For example, using the processing assembly provided herein, a contact lens is subjected to multiple washing steps without the need to transfer the contact lens to different containers for each step as the different cycles are performed to the same packaging container. Thus, a further feature of the present invention is understood to include a method for increasing contact lens yield by subjecting contact lenses to washing cycles without physically handling the contact lenses between two consecutive washing cycles and wherein the contact lenses are washed using processing heads that individually mate to a respective packaging container and increases the volume of the respective packaging container by an amount that is at least equal to the volume of the well of the processing head.

[0060] The present invention also relates to methods of manufacturing a packaged ophthalmic lens using the devices and methods disclosed herein. For example, a method is provided for manufacturing a packaged ophthalmic lens which is a silicone hydrogel contact lens, and wherein the silicone hydrogel contact lens is exposed to repeated washing, which is effective to clean, extract and hydrate the silicone hydrogel contact lens, and wherein at least one of the steps include increasing a volume capacity of a container package by an amount that is at least equal to the volume of a well of a processing head. The present methods can also be practiced on an ophthalmic lens that is a polymerized contact lens that is non-silicone based, such as a hydrogel contact lens. When hydrogel contact lenses are washed in accordance with the present methods, devices, and systems, fewer washing steps may be performed compared to the number of washing steps of silicone hydrogel contact lenses.

[0061] The present invention is also directed to a method for manufacturing a packaged ophthalmic lens, the method comprising providing a polymerized contact lens in a cavity of a container; placing a processing tip comprising a sealing surface against the container to create a fluid tight seal between the processing tip and the container while effectively increasing the volume of the cavity of the container; and placing a washing fluid in the space defined by the cavity of the container and the processing tip. In one example, the lens had not previously been exposed to a washing step prior to being placed in the cavity of the container. In another example, the lens had not previously been exposed to a liquid prior to being placed in the cavity of the container.

[0062] The present invention also relates to a processing system, such as a contact lens processing system, wherein multiple contact lenses are processed simultaneously, as further discussed below. Again, although the present description is provided in reference to contact lenses, the description, including the systems and system components, can be used in processing systems for other types of molded lenses, including corneal onlay lenses, corneal inlay lenses, intraocular lenses, and the like.

[0063] FIG. 6A is a perspective view of a processing tip provided in accordance to further examples of the present invention, which is generally designated 300. Like the processing head of FIG. 1. the present processing head 300 comprises a top end or top head 305. a cylindrical body 302 comprising a first port 304. and a second port 306. The first and second ports 304, 306 may be an inlet port and an outlet port, respectively, or both can simultaneously serve as inlet and outlet ports through an upstream valving scheme (not shown - such as using three-way valves, eductors, vacuum source, etc.). Alternatively, a single port may be used to both fill and drain, or the processing head 300 may be filled and drained directly into or out of the top of the head.

100641 An enlarged operating end 308 comprising an outer diameter that is larger than the outer diameter of the body section 302 is incorporated at the distal end of the processing tip 300. The operating end 308 further comprises an end surface 314, a protruding head 310. and a shoulder 312 defined therebetween. In one example, the protruding head 3 10 is shaped by a shoulder 312 that forms the shape of an opening of a packaging container. For example, the protruding head 310 has a circumference that matches the opening of the cavity 22 the packaging container of FIG. 2. Hence, when the processing tip 300 is mated against a packaging container, such as the container 20 of FIG. 2, the protruding head 310 projects into the container cavity and the cavity perimeter 24 forms a fluid tight seal against the shoulder 312. The end surface 3 14 is configured to press against the flange 26 surrounding the cavity perimeter 24.

[0065] With further reference to FIG. 6A, a plurality of spaced apart fluid nozzles 3 16 are formed on the head surface 318 of the protruding head 3 10. In use, the head surface 3 18 is configured to entrap and confine the contact lens within the cavity of the packaging container, similar to that discussed in FIG. 6. while the fluid nozzles 3 1 6 provide fluid communication between the container cavity and the well of the processing tip 300. Processing fluids can be both added and removed from the cavity 22 through these nozzles. Optionally, one or more dedicated fluid removal ports 320 can be included on the head surface 318 for removal of processing fluids from the cavity 22. Such a dedicated fluid removal port 320 can be placed on the periphery of the head surface 3 18 in order to prevent or diminish the likelihood of a contact lens contacting or blocking the dedicated fluid removal port 320 during the process of removing fluid from the cavity 22 through the port 320.

[0066] The processing tip 300 may be used in similar ways and for similar purposes as described with respect to the processing tip of Figs. 1 and 4-6. For example, the processing tip 300 may be used to increase the volume capacity of the packaging container in-situ during contact lens washing. In one specific example, the processing head comprises a protruding head that projects into the cavity of the packaging container and forms a fluid tight seal with the perimeter of the packaging container. In a still further example, the protruding head comprises a head surface for limiting movement and confining the contact lens within the cavity of the packaging container during different washing cycles,

[0067] An exemplary contact lens processing system is illustrated in FIG. 7 for processing a plurality of contact lens blister packages simultaneously. The packages can be individual packages as shown in FIG. 2 and discussed previously. Alternatively, the packages can be arranged in an array 1 10 as illustrated in FIG. 8. Briefly, the array 1 10 comprises a plurality of contact lens packages 120 adjacent to each other. For example, individual contact lens packages 120 can be transported in a manufacturing line and provided on a carrier designed to hold a plurality of contact lens packages. In some embodiments, the plurality of contact lens packages can be connected together, such as by frangible tabs. Each of the packages 120 comprises a cavity 122 for receiving a contact lens 1 16. The cavity 122 is circumscribed by a cavity perimeter 124. A flange 126, extending from the cavity 122, is configured for mating with a peelable seal layer (not shown). Exteriorly, a protruding portion 130 part of the cavity is positioned subjacent a plane defined by the flange 126. The flange 126 comprises a mating area 134 extending from the cavity perimeter 124. Although the array is shown as a 4-pack array, any number of packages may be used with the assembly 100 of the present embodiment. In one example, the processing assembly 100 comprises the same number of processing heads as the number of container packages in the array. In another embodiment, the processing assembly 100 comprises half as many processing heads as the number of container packages in the array. In the latter embodiment and during washing, half of the array is configured to be washed with the fewer number of processing heads, which are then moved to the other packages, i.e., the other half of the array, for washing. Still alternatively, the number of processing heads may be any sub-set of the number of container packages.

[0068] Referring again to FIG. 7, the assembly 100 comprises a support platform 1 12 and a processing tip assembly 1 14. As shown in FIG. 9, which is a partial close-up view of the plat orm 1 12 of FIG. 7, the platform comprises a housing 140 that includes a top wall 142, a plurality of sidewalls 144, and a planar bottom wall 146. The top wall 142, the sidewalls 144 and the planar bottom wall 146 define a platform space 148 comprising a plurality of bores for receiving a plurality of contact lens containers, for example blister packages 120. The top wall 142 comprises a plurality of openings 150 each having a peripheral rim 152 extending therefrom and configured for receiving a blister package 120 as previous described. In one embodiment, the plurality of openings 150 are spatially configured to accommodate the connected blister packages 120 in the array 1 10.

[0069] Referring again to FIG. 7, the tip assembly 1 14 comprises a plurality of processing tips or processing heads 1 15 interconnected by a header 154. As also shown in FIG. 10, which is a perspective view of the bottom of the tip assembly 1 14 of FIG. 7, each processing tip 115 comprises a cylindrical body 160 with a top wall 162 and an open ended base 164 having an outlet 166. In some embodiments including in the illustrated embodiment, the processing tip 1 15 has a cylindrical configuration. In alternative embodiments, the tip 1 15 can have a rectangular, square or any other appropriatel shaped container configuration. The cylindrical body 160, the top wall 162 and the base 164 define a well 168 having a quantifiable volumetric capacity. The outlet 166 is sized and shaped to mate with the cavity perimeter 124 of the package 120 such that when assembled, the well 168 is in fluid communication with the cavity 122 of the package 120 and increases the volume capacity of the package by at least the volume capacity of the well, as described in connection with previous embodiments. The base 164 further comprises a peripheral flange 170 surrounding the outlet 166, the peripheral flange 170 includes a groove 172 configured to accommodate a gasket or O ring (not shown), which together form a sealing surface 176 for forming a fluid tight seal with the mating area 134 of the package 120.

[0070] Referring to FIG. 10. the processing tips 1 15 each further comprises an inlet opening or nozzle 178. In some embodiments including in the illustrated embodiment, the opening 178 is located on the top wall 162. In alternative embodiments, the opening 178 may be located on the body 160. Similarly to previously described embodiments, even though the opening 178 can be used both for fluid addition and removal, each of the processing tip 1 15 can further comprise a second port 180 connected to a drainage tube (not shown) for fluid removal. The port 180 is preferably located on the body 160. above the base 164. Thus, the lens 1 16 remains in submerged in the processing fluid at all times, minimizing the risk of the lens being dried out and damaged.

[0071] Referring again to FIG. 10, the header 154 interconnecting the processing tips 1 15 may be made of metal, plastic, such as engineered plastic. The header 154 comprises a cylindrical main header body section 194, a first end 196 and an optional second open end 198, and a plurality of branches 154 extending from the main header body section 194 for connecting to the inlet nozzles 178 of the plurality of processing tips 1 15. The first open end 196 or the second open end 198 is connectable to a flexible tubing 182 leading to one or more external fluid tanks, gas sources or vacuum sources 184 (FIG. 7).

[0072] The assembly 100 may operate in the manner herein discussed. First, each of the packages 120, individually or part of the array 1 10 (FIG. 8), is placed inside each opening 150 of the support platform 1 12 such that the protruding portion of the cavity is securely accommodated within the platform cavity 148 while the flange 126 rests on the peripheral rim 152 and/or the top wall of the support platform, as discussed above. Next, the tip assembly 1 14 is positioned on top of the platform 1 12 such that each processing tip 1 15 forms a fluid tight seal with the respective package 120, the fluid tight seal being formed by the sealing surface 176 of the processing tip and the mating area 134 (FIG. 8) on the flange 126. Thus, the well 168 of each tip 1 15 is in fluid communication with the respective cavity 122 housing the contact lens 1 16. In an alternative embodiment, the processing tip 300 of FIG. 6 A is used instead of or in combination with some of the processing tips shown in Figs. 7 and 10.

[0073] Processing fluids can include, for example, water; organic solvents, alcohols including volatile alcohols; aqueous solutions containing organic solvents, volatile alcohols, or other ophthalmically unacceptable materials; aqueous solutions containing salts, buffers, surfactants, wetting or comfort agents, and the like, aqueous solutions of combinations of one or more agents selected from organic solvents, volatile alcohols, ophthalmically unacceptable materials, salts, buffers, surfactants, wetting or comfort agents, and the like; and combinations thereof. Examples of organic solvents include ethanol, methanol, propanol. and mixtures thereof. Examples of salts include sodium chloride, potassium chloride, sodium phosphate, sodium borate, and mixtures thereof. Examples of buffer solutions include phosphate buffer, borate buffer, phosphate buffered saline, borate buffered saline, and mixtures thereof. Examples of surfactants include non-ionic surfactants, such as polysorbates. poloxamers, poloxamines, and mixtures thereof. Examples of welting or comfort agents include poly(vinyl pyrrolidone), polyethylene glycol, water-soluble polymers of 2-methacryloyloxy ethyl phosphorylcholine (MPC), homo-polymers or co-polymers derived from polyvinyl pyrrolidone), polyethylene glycol, MPC, and mixtures thereof. The processing fluid can be heated or chilled prior to exposure to the contact lens, or can be heated or chilled while in contact with the contact lens. In one example, the processing fluid comprises water or an aqueous solution free of an organic solvent, volatile alcohol or ophthalmically unacceptable material, and the processing fluid is used to remove extractable materials from hydrogel contact lenses. In one example, the extractable materials include solvents or diluents. In another example, the extractable materials include unreacted monomers and partially reacted monomers. In one particular example, the processing fluid comprises water or an aqueous solution free of an organic solvent, volatile alcohol or ophthalmically unacceptable material, the contact lens comprises a contact lens which is not exposed to a volatile alcohol during manufacturing, and the extractable materials comprise unreacted monomers and partially reacted monomers. [0074] The processing fluid may be sequentially applied to the header 154 via tubing or other piping means from fluid sources or tanks. The processing fluid is delivered to the plurality of processing heads 1 15 via inlet openings 178 that are in fluid communication with the header. Thus, for each washing, extracting and/or hydrating step, the contact lens will be exposed to an amount of processing fluid that corresponds to a combined volume capacity of the cavity 122 and the volume capacity of the well 168.

[0075] After each washing step, the processing fluid can be removed by applying a vacuum source to the first open end 196 or second open end 198 of the header 154, If a single open end is used by capping the other end, a 3 -way valve and/or other piping arrangements may be made to both flow and withdraw fluid from the same end. In another example, fluid removal can be done by draining the contaminated fluid through the port 180 of individual processing heads 115. In another example, draining is performing with tilting the processing assembly 1 14 or at least the individual processing heads to empty fluids that are below the level of the drain port 180.

[0076] Thus, an embodiment of the present devices and systems is a processing tip assembly configured for use with a plurality of packaging receptacles, each packaging receptacle comprising a cavity having a contact lens. The tip assembly comprising a plurality of processing heads interconnected to one another by a header. Each processing receptacle is configured to form a fluid tight seal with a respective packaging receptacle. The embodiment of the present devices and systems can thus be understood to include a plurality of processing tips each forming a seal around the cavity perimeter of a respective packaging container for increasing the volume capacity of the cavity of the packaging container by at least the volume of the well of the processing tip.

[0077] In one embodiment, the processing assembly further comprises a platform configured for accommodating a plurality of packaging receptacles in a spaced configuration that aligns with a plurality of processing tips.

[0078] An embodiment of the present methods is a method for simultaneously processing a plurality of contact lenses each positioned in a respective cavity of an individual packaging receptacle with a processing tip assembly that comprises at least two processing heads with each processing head comprising a well and a processing end. The method further comprises placing the at least two processing heads in sealed contact with at least two packaging receptacles. adding a volume of processing fluid to each processing head and allowing the processing fluid to flow to the cavity of the corresponding packaging receptacle; and removing the at least two processing heads from the packaging receptacles.

[0079] In an embodiment, the method further comprises positioning the packaging receptacles in a support platform configured for accommodating a plurality of packaging receptacles. Said support platform comprising a plurality of cavities for accommodating a plurality of packaging receptacles. Alternatively, a support structure comprising a plurality of channels is provided for sliding under the flanges of the packaging receptacles.

[0080] Referring again to FIG. 10, in some embodiments, the processing tip 1 15 can further comprise a retainer element 190 configured to restrict the lens 116 from floating up the processing tip 1 15 during processing. The retainer element 190 can be a nylon or plastic mesh covering the outlet 166 of each individual tip. Alternatively, when the processing tip of FIG. 6A is used, the retainer element is a head surface 318 of the protruding head 310. Thus, regardless of the level of processing fluid in the well 168. the lens 1 16 is retained by the retainer element 190 and stays confined within the cavity 122 of the packaging container. The tip 1 15 can further comprise a temperature control device 192, such as a thermocouple, configured to regulate the temperature of the processing fluid inside the well 168, as required.

[0081] Following processing of the plurality of contact lenses 1 16, the processing tip assembly 1 14 can be removed from the plurality of packages 120 by breaking the fluid tight seal between each processing tip 1 15 and its respective package container 120. In a preferred embodiment where the mating area 134 of the package container is contiguous with the cavity perimeter 124, the area external or radially outwardly of the cavity perimeter 124 remains dry during processing and thus can be sealed and packaged immediately without further treatment, such as drying. In other embodiments, the mating area 134 can be spaced further from the cavity perimeter 124. In this case, the flange 126 may need to be dried before the packages 120 can be sealed.

[0082] Thus, an embodiment of the present devices and systems includes a processing assembly configured for use with a plurality of packaging receptacles, each packaging receptacle housing a contact lens, the processing assembly comprises a plurality of interconnected processing tips, each configured to form a fluid tight seal with a respective packaging receptacle such that after processing, the respective packaging receptacle can be sealed and packaged without further treatment.

[0083] The present invention also relates to processing systems, such as contact lens processing systems, configured for use with a processing tray comprising a plurality of pockets for individually housing a plurality of contact lenses. Again, although the present description is provided with reference to contact lenses, the description, including the systems and system components, can be used in processing systems for other types of lenses, including corneal onlay lenses, corneal inlay lenses, intraocular lenses, and the like.

[0084] An example of a contact lens processing system configured for use with a processing tray provided in accordance with the present invention is shown in FIG. 1 1. which is a perspective view of a processing receptacle 200. The processing receptacle 200 of the present invention may be configured to process a plurality of contact lenses placed within any type of lens carriers or trays simultaneously. In one embodiment, the assembly 200 is configured to simultaneously process a plurality of contact lenses placed in an exemplary processing tray 220 illustrated in FIG. 12. Broadly speaking, the processing tray 220 is configured to temporarily store ophthalmic lenses following a delensing step, or a washing step, such as an extraction step or hydration step, or a combination extraction hydration step. The tray 220 comprises a top planar surface 224 having a peripheral flange 226 and a bottom planar surface 228. A plurality of cavities 222 are formed in spaced relationship along the top planar surface 224 with each sized and shaped to hold a single wet ophthalmic lens 216. Although a 4x8 cavity array 220 is shown, it is understood that the processing tray may have any shape or size and the receptacle 200 is configured to operate therewith accordingly, and to operate with all of the cavities contained in the processing tray or with a subset of the cavities contained in the processing tray (e.g.. three-quarters of the cavities contained in the processing tray, half of the cavities contained in the processing tray, a quarter of the cavities contained within the processing tray, one tenth of the cavities contained in the processing tray, etc.). Further discussions regarding the processing tray 220 is provided in pending US Application Ser. No. 12/558,424. filed September 1 1, 2009, entitled METHODS, DEVICES, AND SYSTEMS FOR MOVING WET OPHTHALMIC LENSES DURING THEIR. MANUFACTURE, the contents of which are expressly incorporated herein by reference. [0085] Referring again to FIG. 1 1, the receptacle 200 comprises a housing 260 having a top wall 262, a plurality of side walls 263. and an open-ended base 264 having an outlet 266. Together, the plurality of side walls 263, the top wall 262 and the base 264 define a well 268. The outlet 266 is sized and shaped to mate with the peripheral flange 226 of the processing tray 220. The base 264 further comprises a peripheral flange 270 surrounding the outlet 266. The peripheral flange 270 includes a groove 272 (FIG. 13) configured to accommodate a gasket or O ring (not shown), which together form a sealing surface 276 that is engageable in a fluid tight seal with the peripheral flange 226 of the tray 220. In one embodiment, the base 264 further comprises a retainer element 290 configured to restrict the lens 216 within the cavity 222 during processing (FIG. 14, which is a reversed perspective view of the receptacle 200). The retainer element 290 can be a nylon or plastic mesh covering the outlet 266. Alternatively, the retainer element 290 may be a solid surface comprising a plurality of openings.

[0086] In some embodiments, the receptacle 200 can further comprise a temperature control device 292 configured to monitor or regulate the temperature of the processing fluid inside the well 268, as required. For example, the temperature control device can be a thermocouple that sends signals to a controller to blend heated streams with cool streams, or the reverse, to produce a desired steam having a set temperature.

[0087] Referring again to FIG. 1 1, the receptacle 200 further comprises at least a first port 278. In some embodiments including in the illustrated embodiment, the first port 278 is located on one of the plurality of side walls 263. In alternative embodiments, the first port 278 may be located anywhere on the housing 260, such as on the top wall 262. Similarly to previously discussed embodiments, although the first port 278 can be used both for fluid addition and removal, the receptacle 200 can comprise a second port 280 optionally connected to a drainage tube 286 for fluid removal. The second port 280 is preferably located on one of the side walls 263, spatially closer to the base 264 than the top wall 262.

[0088] In operation, the contact lenses 216 are individually loaded into each cavity 222, either manually or by robots or other automation assemblies. The cavities may be dry or may contain processing solutions. The receptacle 200 is positioned over the washing tray 220 such that the sealing surface 276 of the receptacle engages the peripheral flange 226 in a fluid tight seal. In some embodiments, the retainer element 290 is used to confine the contact lenses 216 within their respective cavities 222. [0089] Various processing fluids can be sequentially added to the well 268 via the first port 278 or second port 280, For each washing step, including extracting and/or hydrating, each contact lens 216 is exposed to an amount of processing fluid corresponding to the combined volume capacity of the cavity 222 and the volume capacity of the well 268. After each washing step, the processing fluid can be removed by applying a vacuum source to the first port 278 or the second port 280. In another example, fluid removal is performed by drainage via the second port 280, as discussed in previous embodiments. As the second port 280 is located above the cavities 222, the contact lenses 216 remain submerged in processing fluids at all times, minimizing the risk of the lenses drying out and becoming damaged due to handling.

[0090] Subsequent to the washing procedure, the receptacle 200 is removed from the processing tray. The contact lenses 216 are then individually transferred to a corresponding blister package containing a packaging solution for further processing, including for inspection and sterilization, as understood by one skilled in the art.

[0091] Thus, the devices and systems of the present invention include a processing receptacle configured for use with a processing tray comprising a plurality of cavities for individually housing a plurality of contact lenses. The processing receptacle comprises a surface configured to seal against the processing tray when placed in contact with the processing tray, a body configured to contain a volume of processing fluid, and at least one port configured to allow addition, removal or both addition and removal of the processing fluid to the bod and the plurality of pockets f the processing tray.

[0092] An embodiment of the present invention further includes a method for processing a plurality of contact lenses positioned in individual cavities of a processing tray using a processing receptacle described herein. In an example, the method comprises placing said processing receptacle in sealed contact with the processing tray; adding a volume of processing fluid to the processing receptacle; and removing the processing receptacle.

[0093] The present systems and components thereof can be made using conventional machined equipment as understood by persons of ordinary skill in the art. For example, the support platforms and processing receptacles can be machined or molded from sturdy, durable materials such as metals, plastics, or engineered plastics. The interconnecting header can be made from plastics or metals. [0094] The present methods and systems can be, and preferably are, automated. Thus, one or more robots or robotic components can be used to practice the present methods and systems. The methods and systems can be provided as components in a lens manufacturing line. For example, a manufacturing line may include a washing station that includes one or more of the present processing assemblies, or a washing station that performs the present washing methods, in addition, multiple washing systems can be provided to facilitate the production of large quantities of lenses.

[0095] Although the disclosure herein refers to certain specific embodiments, it is to be understood that these embodiments are presented by way of example and not by way of limitation. The intent of the foregoing detailed description, although discussing exemplary embodiments, is to be constraed to cover all modifications, alternatives, and equivalents of the embodiments as may fail within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the claims.