Dispensers are wrapping premium lenses and lens treatment with high-end frames
by Brian Dunleavy
Optical veterans often call polycarbonate the “poor man’s high-index.” That’s because the 1.59-index plastic material is cheaper than many of its counterparts in the 1.54-index and above category, with an average retail price of $92.08 per pair compared to $133.96 for mid- and high-index plastic, according to the Jobson Optical Group Database.
Price aside, however, the expression doesn’t really apply, especially when you consider the role poly plays in the high-end, “fashion” eyewear arena. Because of its strength and durability—as well as its thin and light “high-index” cosmetics—polycarbonate has become the key lens component in the creation of rimless and/or drill-mounted eyewear, an increasingly popular product category because of consumers’ growing desire for smaller, if not virtually invisible, eyewear.
According to wholesale laboratories processing a significant number of drill-mounted eyewear orders, polycarbonate lenses make up the vast majority of those used with these frame designs. Trivex, a new impact-resistant plastic material, and select 1.60- and 1.66-index materials are a distant second.
“Polycarbonate has been long identified with drills, but Trivex is closing that gap,” notes Rick Tinson, general manager of QSA Optical, part of Hoya Labs of America, in South Windsor, Conn., referring to the lens monomer introduced by PPG in 2001. Trivex is available from Hoya Lens and Younger—under the brand names Phoenix and Trilogy, respectively. The material reportedly offers the same impact resistance as polycarbonate with excellent optics.
These impact-resistant materials work better than conventional plastic and certain other high-index plastic materials, which tend to crack or flake not only during processing but once the eyewear is being worn. Labs often attempt to steer customers toward certain lens products for rimless and drill-mounted frames to avoid returns and redos down the road through package programs.
“Lens retention is definitely an issue,” explains Tinson, adding his lab has launched a “Phoenix Drill Package” to encourage use of Hoya’s version of the Trivex material with rimless and drill-mounted frames for this reason. “If somebody is rough taking their glasses off, it can put a lot of pressure on the drill hole, and the lens—if it’s not a durable plastic—could end up flaking around it.”
“Because it’s a soft material, poly lends itself to drilling and holds up well to wear and tear,” agrees John Beach, owner of Opti-Matrix, an independent wholesale lab based in Huntsville, Ala. Opti-Matrix has its own package program—Rimless Simplicity—which bundles polycarbonate lenses with certain rimless styles.
“I would advise customers who want to fit a patient in a rimless frame with a 1.60- or 1.66-index lens to make sure they know the brand of lens that’s being used, or at least the type of high-index plastic material,” he continues. “Some 1.60 and 1.66 lenses work well with rimless, especially if they have a good hard coat. But not all of them do.”
“We still use some conventional plastic on rimless and drill mounts,” adds Craig Giles, vice president of sales and marketing at Soderberg Optical in St. Paul, Minn. “More than we’d like to, actually. It’s easy to work with, but not as durable as polycarbonate or Trivex or some of the other high-index materials.”
Because of the high-end nature of these eyewear products, of course, most—though far from all—are treated with anti-reflective (A-R) coating to reduce unwanted glare or reflections off the surface of the lens. Though Trivex lends itself well to cosmetic tinting, according to wholesalers, few rimless and/or drill-mounted jobs are treated with cosmetic tints because they can compromise the integrity of the A-R, a far more important treatment for this eyewear.
Rimless and drill-mounted frames aren’t the only “high-end” frame styles available and dispensers today are still looking to package premium lenses and lens treatments with other frame products. According to the 20/20 MarketPulse—Premium Lens Survey of Independents 2002, 41.1 percent of independents offer frame and lens packages while 31.9 percent offer lens and lens treatment packages. High-index plastic and polycarbonate lenses each account for 22.2 percent of lenses sold as part of a package and 27.3 percent of these packages include A-R coating (72.7 percent include scratch-resistant coating and 13.6 percent include cosmetic tints—up from 11.9 percent in 2001).
“It’s one of the rules of our business,” notes Giles. “With high-end frames go high-end lenses. We have the products at our disposal.”
the lens list
HOYA RELEASES PHOENIX TRANSITIONS Hoya has expanded its line of Phoenix Trivex lenses to include a photochromic version of the product using Transitions technology. The lenses will be available in Hoyalux GP Wide and semi-finished single-vision designs and will be available through the Hoya Optical Laboratories network and selected distributors. Hoya has also announced that its new Summit progressive lens will be available in Trivex later in 2002.
ZEISS RELEASES POLARIZED POLY LENS Carl Zeiss Optical has expanded its Gradal progressive product line with the Gradal Top polarized polycarbonate lens. According to the company, the progressive sunwear lens combines the latest Younger NuPolar polarized technology with the Zeiss Gradal Top progressive design. The new lens will be available this spring.
SOLA TO RELEASE TEFLON A-R Sola International and DuPont Fluoroproducts have announced an exclusive multi-year worldwide agreement for Sola to market a newly developed ophthalmic anti-reflective lens coating using DuPont’s Teflon brand. Sola’s high-performance Teflon EasyCare lens coating was released on a limited basis in April.
VISION-EASE INTRODUCES MIRROR-COATED SUN RX Vision-Ease Lens has announced that its Sun Rx prescription polarized sunglass lenses are now available in a variety of mirror coatings for extra glare reduction. According to the company, mirror-coated SunRx polarized lenses eliminate 99 percent of horizontal glare, block 100 percent of UV rays and provide a total light transmission of 9 to 14 percent. The mirror coatings cover the entire front surface of the lens and are available in blue, gold and silver.
CORNING SUNSENSORS DISTRIBUTORS EXPAND OFFERINGS Corning has announced the expansion of SunSensors plastic photochromic product lines by several manufacturers and distributors. Signet Armorlite, original manufacturer of lenses using Corning SunSensors lens material, has expanded its offering to include Kodak single-vision aspheric, Kodak aspheric flat-top bifocals and Kodak and Kodak Concise progressives. In addition, the Navigator Short progressive design is now available in Corning SunSensors. Augen Opticos plans to introduce an aspheric progressive design in SunSensors later this year. Nova, a Corning Connections partner laboratory, has launched its Balance progressive design in SunSensors. Finally, Premium Dynamic Lens has introduced the Easy-Fit progressive design in SunSensors.
SOLA SUNLENSES RELEASES NEW COLLECTIONS Sola Sunlens has introduced its spring/summer 2003 collections of plastic plano (non-prescription) sunglass lenses. The collections include: Independence, inspired by ’60s-style pop culture; Visionary, inspired by contemporary expressionism; Romance, inspired by the allure for greater self-knowledge; and Exotica, inspired by ethnic beauty and one’s longing for utopia.
INVICTA MOVES Invicta has moved to a new 24,000-square-foot facility in Boca Raton, Fla. The new location now houses the company’s corporate headquarters, R&D operations, manufacturing and warehouse. Invicta plans to hold a formal grand opening next month in conjunction with the introduction of its new Solera High Performance photochromics in gray and sienna. According to the company, the Solera High Performance photochromic process is activated by sunlight, not by ultraviolet light.