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Know Your Competition and Your Opportunities!
by Jim Grootegoed, professional editor

This issue of LABMail and my recent experience at the Vision Expo West/Optical Lab Division meeting highlights the issues and opportunities for processing laboratories: new products and technology...usually expensive technology.

I'm a lab guy at heart and I'm concerned about the future of the smaller independents. I'm in a position where I can preach: Get involved; Get innovative; Get outside the box. Not many labs can afford all the new technology. If you can't, how can you compete? Are there alternative strategies? Can you combine resources with other labs in a jointly owned technology center providing your customers with competitive products? Nexus is an example. For the smaller labs, can you reconstruct your business to essentially become a cut 'n' edge business with alliances to provide state-of-the-art products? OLP has previously published articles about Cherry Optical in Green Bay, WI, which ran 55% of its progressive addition lenses (PALs) as free-form in a cut and edge business before putting in surfacing. Are there other services in which you can specialize? Take a look, for example, at specialized edging/mounts. Several labs make a specialty of the Silhouette pressure mounts. Take a look at frames, safety, and unique products like Chemistrie from Eyenavision. What other labs can you network or align with for mutual benefit?

But, you'll never know your competition or your opportunities unless you invest in your education. And the best place to do that is at The Vision Council's Optical Lab Division's convocations. Please consider attending Vision Expo East and the Optical Lab Division's events in March to get a better understanding of the future of our industry and where you need to compete.

It has just been announced that Esssilor of America, Inc. has acquired Balester Optical Company of Wilkes Barre, Pa., an independent wholesale laboratory. The lab has been owned by the Balester family since its foundation in 1934. The lab will continue to be managed in day-to-day operations by Heather Balester, president, and Dale Parmenteri, vice president.

Carl Zeiss Vision, Inc. and Essilor Group have reached an agreement concerning Carl Zeiss' back-surface free-form progressive lens technology. Part of this agreement included settling the patent infringement litigation between Carl Zeiss and Signet Armorlite, Inc., an affiliate of Essilor.

In a separate development, Carl Zeiss Vision and HOYA Vision Care Co. have also reached a license agreement under Carl Zeiss Vision International's U.S. Patent No. 6,089,713 and Australian Patent No. 739,849.

The patents detail specific types of back-surface free-form progressive lenses and the various processes in which they are made.

From Left to Right: Owners Ralph, Robert, Ronald Cotran; HOYA Freeform Specialist, Mark Fiala; HOYA Director of Distributor Sales, Michael Thornton; CC Systems General Manager, Ken Jackson.
US Optical Laboratories Ltd. is now offering HOYA Lens of America products at its lab in East Syracuse, NY. With HOYA's iD Lifestyle and iQ Free-Form™ products, US Optical can give its customers more options. US Optical has been digitally processing lenses in-house since 2008 and is owned by the three Cotran brothers–Ralph, Robert, and Ronald.

VSP Optics Group has announced that its laboratory division, VSP Labs, has a new name–VSPOne™ Optical Technology Centers.

The following branches of the company have been renamed:

• VSP Labs Columbus is now VSPOne Columbus, OH
• Legends 4.0 Optical Laboratory is now VSPOne Dallas, TX
• Ultra Lens Optical Laboratory is now VSPOne Fort Lauderdale, FL
• Capitol Optical Laboratory is now VSPOne Olympia, WA
• VSP Labs Sacramento is now VSPOne Sacramento, CA
• Perfect Optics is now VSPOne San Diego, CA
• Zeiss/VSP Lab Tampa Bay is now VSPOne Tampa Bay, FL

Going forward, VSP Lab Rewards will be called VSPOne Rewards.

Techtran Lenses, which is fully owned by Techtran Ophthalmics Ltd. (TPL), has established a distribution center in Tampa, FL. Techtran Lenses is a distributor of finished (anti-reflective [AR] coated and non-AR coated) and semi-finished lenses in a variety of styles, including two progressive designs. TPL has been manufacturing lenses for nearly 20 years in India and has already been distributing them to some large customers in the U.S. as well as internationally.

At this time, lenses from Techtran are being offered in CR-39® and SunSensors® by Corning. In the future, Techtran plans to increase their range of lens materials to include 1.56 clear and high-index lenses in 1.60 and 1.67.

Pictured from left to right: Sarah Thomason, customer service; Jeff Fazio, HOYA territory manager; Melinda Hunter, service center manager; and Justin Thompson, lab technician at HOYA Iowa.
HOYA VISION CARE, North America, inaugurated its newest laboratory in Des Moines, IA. Michael Dougher, Regional Vice President for HOYA, said, "The opportunity to locally service independent eyecare professionals in another market is exciting for us. The Des Moines area is growing and we want to grow with it."

In a pro-bono initiative, Augen Optics this year expects to complete 320,000 pairs of eyeglasses for children aged 6 to 15 at public schools in Mexico. The project, to enable children to see better to learn better, is called "Ver Bien Para Aprender Bien" and is funded by a non-profit organization. Augen's collaboration with the program began three years ago and it participates by sending opticians with laptops into schools to test childrens' eyesight. The optician does an eye exam and then, while still in the classroom, can place an order online at Augen's Web site. If a child needs glasses, Augen gives them a pair from its Vigeo children's eyewear line which is made out of sturdy grilamid TR-90 using 1.5 hard resin material. Jobs are processed centrally in one of Augen's labs dedicated to the foundation in Mexico. The lab processes all the orders and ships the packages directly to schools.

Polyoptics International, Inc. has introduced a new lens material called Quatrex. Launched in Canada in February, Quatrex already has four lab customers. High impact resistance, optical clarity (Abbe value of 48), and a low specific gravity (1.25) combine to make it ideal for everyday use for sports, children, safety, or any other situation that would call for the use of polycarbonate, Trivex® material, or 1.6 lenses. Quatrex also has a 1.58 index, is safety certified to ANSI-Z87-2003, chemical resistant, provides 100% UV protection, and cuts and edges as easily as a CR-39 plastic lens. Quatrex lenses are available as single vision stock lenses as well as semi-finished lenses in base 0.50D, 1.00D, 2.00D, 3.00D, 4.00D, 5.00D, 6.00D, 7.00D, and 8.00D in 75mm diameter. Polyoptics has a lab in Laval, Quebec, manufacturing facilities in Thailand, and various warehouses in North America.

VSP Optics Group has expanded the portfolio of its UNITY® Performance Optics products with the introduction of a new, advanced digital progressive lens: the UNITY PLxpression with Cascade Technology™. This lens will become nationally available on October 10.

"This is pretty smoking hot technology," said Don Oakley, president of VSP. "It's the highest category–an 'N' class progressive lens which is made for your eyes only." The precursors to this lens were UNITY PLXtra and PLX. In other VSP news, VSP will introduce a new app called otto™ to simplify digital lens measuring and dispensing, in the fourth quarter.

InTouch™ is Shamir Insight Inc.'s newest free-form lens for smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and any other handheld digital device. Shamir says this is the first everyday progressive addition lens (PAL) design enhanced for smartphone and tablet users.

Unlike a standard progressive, Shamir InTouch features enhanced visual comfort from 15 in. to 27 in., the distance at which digital devices are primarily held and the add power starts quickly in the intermediate zone. InTouch is available in both 15mm and 18mm fitting heights and in CR-39, SuperLite™ 1.60, SuperLite 1.67, SuperLite 1.74, polycarbonate, and DLC™ Trivex material. It is being sold through Shamir's network of Autograph® partner laboratories.

Signet Armorlite, Inc. has launched the KODAK Unique DS Progressive Lens which incorporates the features and benefits of the original KODAK Unique Progressive Lens into a dual-side design. The KODAK Unique DS Lens improves the reading area for many prescriptions, while providing enhanced visual performance in the intermediate and distance viewing areas. It starts at a 13mm minimum fitting height and is available with six corridor lengths (13mm to 18mm), and an option for prescribed prism. It is also available in 13 lens materials, including 1.50, 1.60, 1.67, polycarbonate, Trivex material, and Transitions® lens 1.50, 1.67, polycarbonate, and Polarized 1.50. Polarized and photochromic options are available in gray and brown as well.


• US Optical LLC is being honored as OLP's 2012 Lab Innovator of the Year.

• Stefano Sonzogni, President and Technical Director of MEI System, is interviewed by Carol Gilhawley, OLP's Editor-in-Chief.

• We run the second part of our Q&A with VSP about its Contract Laboratories.

• Picture Roundup of The Vision Council's Hall of Fame dinner and awards ceremony at Vision Expo West in Las Vegas.
Oct 2012, Issue 27
This Month

Zeiss makes two deals
US Optical offers HOYA
A new identity for VSP
Techtran in Tampa
HOYA rolls out Iowa lab
Augen helps children

Quatrex hits the US
VSP expands portfolio
Shamir launches InTouch
Signet debuts Unique DS

Click here to view the latest digital edition of Optical Lab Products

Download the updated Free-Form Progressive Lens Chart

The State of Opticianry
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