One of your customers bursts into your practice holding the remnants of her beloved pair of spectacles in one hand and the hand of her boy in her other. She goes to great lengths to explain how, in her rush to get out of the carpark, he (or she), sat on her glasses and snapped them in half… again! She holds up the pieces of acetate in front of you as if to say ‘fix them’. You decide it’s time to introduce her to the latest range of flexible eyewear.
OK, it’s an extreme example, but let’s face it, how many times do customers come off the street asking you to repair a nosepad that’s been twisted out of shape, replace an arm that’s been snapped by the kids or straighten a metal frame that’s been buried in the bottom of a handbag. I even know a family that stores all their glasses and sunnies overnight in the fruit bowl – what hope do those poor frames have?
The answer for all those time-poor care-free customers lies in flexible eyewear – frames crafted from memory metals and plastics that bounce back into their original shape even after stress. There are plenty of metals and plastics to choose from as well as an abundance of styles.
Flexible metal was first discovered in 1959 by William J. Buehler of the U.S. Naval Ordnance Laboratory. It was subsequently developed by Buehler and Frederick E. Wang, and applied to orthopedic and cardiovascular surgery, orthodontics, solid-state heat engines, ‘shrink-to-fit’ pipe couplers for aircraft, safety products, toys… and eyewear.
..evolving technologies have enabled more fashion-forward styling to come into play to meet the needs of a younger clientele..
Memory metal eyewear was first introduced around 30 years ago. The initial aim was to deliver a frame that would recover from the stress put on the bridge and sides when spectacles were distorted by force, either by being sat on, dropped or roughly pulled off. At that time, most models were made using memory metal wire, bridge design was limited to wire-and-chuck construction.
One of the first frames to greet the market was made by Reflex (no, not the paper company). Made from a Japanese titanium/cobalt alloy and treated to be extremely flexible, the original Reflex memory metal frames had a 97 per cent memory, which meant they could be twisted up to 180 degrees and still return to the original position.
New forms for the bridge and sides created a look that was more in keeping with traditional frames on the market. They retained the ability to twist 90 degrees yet still provided the same memory capability.
More recently Reflex began to laser cut bridges from sheet memory metal. According to distributor Frames Etcetera, this enables a constant thinness to be achieved across the entire bridge, which allows greater flexibility without creating any weak points.
While classic designs have always dominated the memory metal frame market, evolving technologies have
enabled more fashion-forward styling to come into play to meet the needs of a younger clientele.
Flexible eyewear from the Danish company Fleye, for instance, comes in bright solid colours with bold styling. Weye eyewear, with its sleek titanium wire rims, is also available in a multitude of brilliant colours and the Mazzoni collection from Reflex, which features memory metal bridges and memory plastic (TR90) sides, has also been tailored to suit more fashion-focussed consumers. Eschenbach is now producing memory frames from Titanflex sheet material.
Eschenbach says its “performance design technology” provides for unlimited design possibilities and delivers “a lifetime of perfect fit and wearing comfort” thanks to shape stability, robustness and resilience that sheet material achieves. Then there’s Bonastar’s range of flexible eyewear, which in bright colours and a multitude of styles, is perfect for kids and teens. At the Bonastar budget price, this is a great option for the customer who might want more than one frame to suit their active lifestyle… yes, it’s a viable opportunity to get that second sale that really provides value for the customer.