Eyeglass Frames

Objective: To continue with the application of shape memory alloys to performance and design enhancement for optical frames, focusing on fasteners and lens connection systems.
Market: The U.S. market for ophthalmic frames exceeds 80 million pairs annually. Retail value is in excess of $8 billion. Our introduction of Flexon frames, which provided high performance resistance to fatigue and bending and breaking, has resulted in one of the most successful product launches in the industry. We estimate Flexon products worldwide to be approximately $500 million today.

Despite Flexon's success, eyeglass frames still suffer many performance problems. Lenses fall out, screws come loose, and designers are still dependent on rim and screw technology for fastening lenses to frames. Some 40 million replacement screws are used each year suggesting a market need for fail-safe fastening. The applications which guarantee against failure and provide improved design capabilities could be as successful as Flexon.
Technology: Beta's experience in the forming, joining, coating and design of high performance nitinol components has led to the development of several applications for eyeglass frames beyond Flexon. Nitinol's shape memory properties allow for the softening of the material in a cold state for attachment to a lens. As it warms up to ambient temperature, the strength increases and it returns to its programmed shape which can provide a variety of attachment of strong, reliable attachment mechanisms. Its superelastic qualities can miniaturize spring hinge applications. Prototypes have been developed and our historical success in this field makes us confident in our ability to manufacture and further develop this technology.
Commercialization: There is currently an internally funded development program to optimize new ways of joining lenses and components. Our intent is to either develop a high technology frame line or partner with one or several industry participants. We might take a licensing approach, as we did when we licensed Flexon to Marchon; however, we are also investigating joining forces with a lab organization or starting our own lab to provide high-tech solutions to optical assembly.
Patents: Patents are pending in addition to 5,584,631; 5,395,193; 4,757,978; 4,772,112; 4,895,438; and 4,896,955.
Contact: Dave Plough   plough@betagroupllc.com