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When to Add New Products in a Mature Market Category

HOYA DF makes rimless even less, that's more.

By Mark Mattison-Shupnick, ABOM

Release Date: October 1, 2013

Expiration Date: November 1, 2014

Learning Objectives:
Upon completion of this program, the participant should be able to:

  1. Learn the current issues of and solutions presented by rimless eyewear.
  2. Understand why Avantek is the first rimless frame designed to improve the resulting lens optics.
  3. Learn how to improve a mature frame category and communicate their consumer benefits.

Mark Mattison-ShupnickFaculty/Editorial Board:
Mark Mattison-Shupnick ABOM is currently director of education for Jobson Medical Information LLC, has more than 40 years of experience as an optician, was senior staff member of SOLA International and is a frequent lecturer and trainer.





Credit Statement:
This course is approved for one (1) hour of CE credit by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). Course #SWJH537

This course is supported by an educational grant from Hoya Vision Care and Avantek.


img1I was struck by a new way that I saw an advertisement of a man in a rimless frame that I had seen a number of times. You're probably like me, recognize an ad that you've seen before and turn the page without really reading it again. But this was different. It was an ad I recognized; just a startling new way that I saw it. I was in a lecture about new products and technologies but sitting at the back of a long and narrow lecture hall. From that distance, the man was just that, a man –without glasses. Because the frame was so minimalist, it just disappeared.

That made me think about the reasons why customers choose rimless. It's simple. There's a continuing preference to have a pair of glasses that disappears. Many of my customers would prefer not to have to wear glasses for a variety of reasons, and rimless meets one of those reasons.

Admittedly, the rimless segment is smaller in most offices than it was from 2006 to 2009, but it is estimated that it makes up about 7 percent of the frames sold today (units). However, while a small segment in units, it has a much higher dollar value even though there hasn't been a new kind of rimless in about a decade. There have been excellent changes in temple design to add style and freshness to meet the trend of wide, bright-colored and textured temples. However, as a mounting system for lenses, there have been no changes.

As a smaller segment of the business, it may lead an office's frame buyer to dismiss rimless in favor of a few brands or just "keep" the old favorites. What's wrong with that? Our lives and the lives of our patients revolve around segments. By sticking with the norms in what may appear to be a small and unimportant segment, we miss the way that innovation and new technologies can affect the financial implications and patient satisfaction in an office. Especially when it's "disappearing eyewear" that drives some of our customers to rimless.

The CEA Consumer Sentiment IndexesNEW OPPORTUNITY, OLD CATEGORY

Financially, a 7 percent market at retail is about $1 billion dollars (7 percent x 70 million frames = 5 million frames at ~$200 each). That's impressive. From Businesswire.com, consumer confidence in technology reached the highest level in the history of the CEA Index, according to the latest figures released by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). That is certainly helping the adoption of digitally enhanced lenses. Customers are tickled that digital technology has come to eyewear.

That same interest in technology can also help to merchandise frames and lenses with patients in a new way. Combining new lens materials and rimless frame technologies can fix the problems of rimless with which ECPs and patients have had to contend. Therefore, with this kind of opportunity on the table, shouldn't you consider the latest technology and fashion options for the rimless segment of your business? Here's what I mean.

Customers buy complete pairs of glasses so lenses and frames must work as one. In this case, the lens material attributes can enhance the frame's characteristics so that the eyewear works better than frame and lens separately. It's sort of like a composite, i.e., the sum of the individual frame and lens properties are more than their individual benefits alone. In rimless however, that has not always been the case. For example, a screw and nut rimless frame that loosens easily with wear and/or star cracks expanding from the lens' drill holes are embarrassing for the optician and a disappointment for the wearer. These drawbacks have led some offices to discontinue them as a product completely. Therefore, a solution is to consider new material and frames that address each of these issues to make a better total pair of glasses. Even a small segment deserves the best.

From www.ce.org, The CEA Consumer Sentiment Indexes represent more than three years of research into cutting-edge methods for measuring consumer expectations about the future. The indexes measure how consumers perceive the overall health of the economy and the outlook for technology spending. Both indexes focus on consumer perceptions of the future. These forward-looking expectations provide market observers valuable information into how consumers will likely behave over the ensuing months.

ISSUES AND SOME ANSWERS

To make a believable case for change, it's helpful to describe the issues and the solution by listing the points of difference that affect both the ECP and patient. In a discussion of issues and technical (and aesthetic) solutions resides a way to also communicate the benefits to the patient for adopting these new technologies.

Issues – Lens Materials
Rimless eyewear can star crack at the drill holes or within the groove of semi-rimless. From the lens material point of view, it's the notch sensitivity and flexural strength of the lens material used that allows a star crack to grow. Lens materials have varying notch sensitivities, and those highly sensitive like standard hard resin are rarely if ever used for rimless eyewear. If a tiny micro-crack is left at the drill hole edge, a small amount of pressure on the hole, where the frame is attached will open the crack and make it run to the lens edge resulting in breakage at the temple or bridge. In a 1.67 lens, there is less sensitivity but with enough pressure, a crack might run from hole to hole in a compression mount. For polycarbonate, there is slight notch sensitivity so the crack migrates very slowly. The good news is that the eyeglasses do not break apart but instead the patient wears lenses with visible cracks at the drill holes. I've always found it personally embarrassing to explain to the patient, when they return, as to why this has happened. Some of it can be their fault but clearly, the use of certain lens materials was clearly mine.

Star CracksHighly impact resistant materials are better for rimless eyewear because of increased flexibility but that also makes the lenses more susceptible to deformation effects like hoop and internal stresses. Stress can cause vision changes around the drill holes and in polarized lenses for example, a change to the efficiency of the polarization and a patient's satisfaction with their lenses.

Issues – Frame Construction/Materials
For some mounting systems, lenses loosen easily and need to be tightened or renewed. In fact, once lenses begin to loosen, tightening is required more often until renewal is required. In a screw/nut rimless frame, the nut may be over-tightened, compressing the lens more, leading to a faster loosening and exploitation of any micro-cracks at the entrance or exit of the drill hole. This loosening is a problem especially for rimless since most U.S. consumers own one pair of current Rx glasses. Combined with the fact that many offices are less experienced in adjusting rimless and many cannot disassemble and reassemble a frame when renewal of lenses, screws or bushings are required, the frame needs to be sent to the laboratory for renewal and repair. Patients can be left without their primary eyeglasses for up to a week.

Star CracksRimless frame design also has a unique obstacle to address and that's the visibility of the lens mounting, i.e., the screw or compression mount. For the narrow PD patient, it's common for them to see the attachment point and to have to learn to ignore it. Some can't. Fitting and lens size can help. Smaller lenses and the right shape get the lens closer to the eye so the mounting point is less visible; however, that requires a knowledgeable optician. Consider yourself now knowledgeable. However, for rimless and progressives, they often benefit from larger lenses for more available reading and mid-range so the visibility of the mounting can be a problem.

img3Finally, like all consumer products, not all rimless frames are made the same. Some use better materials, different kinds and qualities of titanium, or some hold their adjustment better than others. The choice of screw and nut, cap nut or bushing quality also changes how effective the frame is at holding lenses tight or facilitating adjustment or renewal. One of my pet peeves is the rimless eyewear that I often see on people with the plastic screw thread covers from the frame board, still attached. They are there to protect the patient while they try on those glasses and the reason for the long screws are to be long enough for any range of lens thicknesses. In my view, once the eyewear is completed, the screw should be cut and either a cap nut is used or the edge of the cut screw is burnished. This is not only ugly, but dangerous.

In addition, there is an inventory issue for the many tiny parts and bushings required to properly service a variety of rimless brands as well as the knowledge and expertise required for special handling. For example, a common reason for star cracks is when sleeves and washers are left out of the reassembly of a rimless frame when new lenses are added, or the wrong softness/hardness of bushing is used.

When Golf Clubs Lead to Rimless Frames
The Beta Group (Beta) is an "incubator" for technology-based businesses and is responsible for the original memory metal frames still sold under the trade name Flexon.
The Beta Group started with a design for a new golf club, called the HXL using hexagonal pixels of nitinol, a memory metal to re-face a club head. While yet to be fully commercialized, the process to identify, evaluate and produce products using new technologies was the same for the Avantek frame.
Beta commercialized what became Flexon in the U.S. through a joint venture with Marchon, a U.S. eyeglass frame manufacturer, and internationally through license agreements with Japanese and European eyewear manufacturers.
Over the past 14 years, Beta had successfully built a portfolio of businesses in the medical, consumer products, and industrial technology sectors by systematically matching proprietary technologies to unmet market needs. It all started with a new material and a golf club idea.

Some Answers – Len Materials
Notch sensitivity is a major factor in rimless lens choice and the less the better. Trivex material has virtually no notch sensitivity so even if a drill hole has a small micro-crack, it won't turn into a runner, star crack or lens breakage. Also, while being extremely impact resistant—it isn't as easily stressed by compression. That results in clearer delivery of the prescription. Tied to that is its higher Abbe number (45-47) so there is less chromatic effects in the lens periphery especially in higher lens powers. It's lower index is somewhat moderated because of its high impact resistance so centers can be made as thin as high-index materials so for the core range of prescriptions (+3 to -3), there are negligible differences. In higher prescription, the differences can be determined so you can make a considered decision. 

While good technique for all materials, if materials other than Trivex are used, it is essential that chamfering (beveling) of the drill hole edge be completed to reduce the presence of micro-cracks. Excellence in assembly technique is also needed so as to not add too much compression by screw/nut or post and bushing. That means using all the parts that the frame manufacturer supplies as washers, sleeves, nuts and cap nuts or that the correct soft or hardness of bushings are used for compression mounts as well as the correct hole diameter and the right amount of torque or pressure when assembling.

Polycarbonate lenses can have significant internal stresses in lenses (birefringence) that have been molded to prescription (stock lenses). Most semi-finished lenses also have internal stresses but some, when surfaced, become virtually stress-free since one of the compressed (molded) surfaces has been cut away. Trivex material and high-index don't have these internal stresses. However, the edging process and the subsequent tension that the frame eyewire (hoop stress) or rimless attachment causes additional compression stress on lenses, some materials more than others; Trivex, 1.67 and 1.70 high-index work best.

 

Some Answers—Frame Construction/Materials
To reduce the visibility of the mounting point, make them as small and invisible as possible. Therefore, the use of materials like titanium provides extreme strength in fine stylized mountings. It is possible to solve the loosening of screws and compression mounts while getting rid of the holes completely by using the HOYA DF system. This is a unique way of delivering rimless eyewear.

COMBINING THE BEST OF TWO MATERIAL WORLDS

HOYA DF is a unique application of the HOYA lens material Phoenix and a titanium frame design from Avantek. This marriage produces distortion-free lenses because of the lens material used and the elimination of the drill holes and/or notches from a rimless frame.     

Phoenix Lenses are the HOYA manufacturing result of a process that starts with Trivex material as a platform. The molding process and chemistry is modified to produce Phoenix lenses. The lenses are extremely stable, stress-free, highly impact resistant and lightweight, easily AR treated and has the better clarity of a higher Abbe (45). This material has grown significantly in popularity because of its application for rimless and for children's prescriptions. Its combination of attributes, especially its thinner centers and lowest specific gravity of all materials (1.11 gm.cm3) combine to produce lenses that complement the minimalist and lightweight expectations for rimless.

Phoenix lenses produce high Abbe, stress and birefringence-free lenses. This maximizes the opportunity for free-form lens designs to deliver the edge-to-edge vision crispness that digitally optimized and customized lenses promise (all other factors being equal).

No notch sensitivity ensures that lenses won't star crack, splits or flake during the life of the prescription. Also, because Trivex-based lens materials are chemical and heat resistant, there are no problems if the lenses come into contact with ordinary household cleaners and solvents that might affect materials like polycarbonate (nail polish or paint remover, cleaning products that contain ethanol or lauramine oxides that increase alkalinity but soften and crack polycarbonate surfaces and coatings).

Avantek Frames employ a unique mounting system, with no wires, nuts or screws to loosen. Instead they use a box design for lens mounting. Because of the Phoenix lens properties, a square tab (minimum lens edge thickness, 2.2 mm) can be digitally edged during the edging process on the nasal and temporal lens edge. Then, the unique Avantek loop mount is placed over the tab and secured with a Trivex rivet, from the back through the loop and the tab. This results in an extremely secure and stable endpiece or bridge attachment and the removal of the drill holes or slots. This also moves the frame/lens attachment point outside the lens perimeter.

With the lens now free of holes and mounting hardware it can provide an unobstructed view to deliver precise vision from edge to edge. This maintains the goal of distortion-free lenses even after assembly. The result is glasses that disappear for the patient that wants the least visible eyewear.    

The absence of screws to attach the lens to the frame also leads to a more durable frame lens system. Typical return rates on rimless product are reported to run 8 percent in the US versus 4 percent for non-rimless jobs. Labs producing Avantek report mounted frames have a return rate of less than 4 percent. Reducing the rate of returns on rimless product by more than 50 percent is reason for many practices to move back to a category that they previously dispensed with enthusiasm before rimless problems brought back dissatisfied patients. Finally, the patented reversible bonding system allows patients to use the durable frame chassis over multiple prescription changes.

The HOYA DF Avantek is also a technical story that can help differentiate the independent office since this eyewear is available only through HOYA labs.

Patient Benefits:
Function:
  • No frame intrusion into the lens
  • No lens aberrations
  • No drill holes
  • No screws to loosen or break the lens
  • Very easy cleaning (vs. 3-piece, nylon)
  • No wires or nylon to loosen where lenses fall out
Patient Benefits:
Fashion:
  • Clean, minimalist look
  • Opens up a whole new category of fashion design
  • Any lens shape, including concave, faceted
  • Ideal for contact lens wearers
Retailer Benefits:
  • Easy to sell
  • Fewer problems, returns 
  • No multiple screw, attachment inventory
  • A completely new, unique, clean look
  • There is no limit to power ranges as long as the lens edges are at least 2 mm thick (same as rimlon)

IT'S SIMPLE

Best New Product
Vision Choice Awards, International Vision Expo East 2012



The Vision Choice Awards present Barney Dougher, President and CEO of HOYA North America (second from left); Heather Padgett, HOYA National Project Marketing Manager (center); Grant Zider, HOYA DF Avantek Mounting System National Product Manager (second from right) with the Best New Product recognition award.

Provide the best solutions for every segment by evaluating terrific combinations of frames and lenses; after all, they can't exist without each other. HOYA DF eyewear uses Phoenix lens material in a unique way to match the properties of the specially designed Avantek frame. Together they eliminate screws, posts and holes, star cracks and stress from rimless eyewear. When it's "disappearing eyewear" that drives some of our customers to rimless, consider unique HOYA DF. It makes rimless even less, that's more.