Design in Three Dimensions: 3D Frames Signal a Shift


Exciting…fun…expensive…not up to snuff…marvelous: descriptors and opinions abound when it comes to 3D printing of eyewear frames.

3D printing is poised to significantly change the traditional manufacturing landscape. It could mean far less outsourcing to other countries as, over time, it becomes cheaper to print frames close to the place where they are ordered. And if 3D printing becomes the predominant method of manufacture, there will be no need for retailers to carry much, if any stock, because frames can be seen on the face via virtual 3D images and custom designed with software at the dispensary. 3D printing of frames has the advantage of generating almost no waste, in contrast to working with sheets of metal or acetate, which does the opposite. In addition, with 3D printing there is no need to over-manufacture products that may not sell because frames can be printed on a just-in-time basis. Finally, mass-customization becomes a reality with 3D printing, presumably making customers happier.

This feature brings you the best of what is currently available in Canada. We cover three manufacturers and four designers, all of whom use 3D printing for all or part of their work. In some cases, 3D printing results in far lower costs, such as when manufacturers use it for almost-instant prototyping; in other cases, the costs can go through the roof, as with 3D printing in titanium. One thing is for sure—this technology stands to shake up the industry big time.

Patrick Hoet, owner and designer for his eponymous brand, Hoet, based in Bruges, Belgium, took a pioneering position with 3D printed frames beginning in 2011. When he couldn’t attract partners he used his own assets to fund research and development, eventually launching the titanium 3D Hoet Couture collection at Silmo 2014. His daughter, Bieke, followed with a polymer 3D collection the following year.

Mod : DS9/ Patrick Hoet

Mod : DS9/ Patrick Hoet

Known for premium-quality artisanal frames, Hoet says that titanium printed in 3D is as good, if not better than traditionally manufactured frames. The polymer (nylon) used in the Cabrio collection has the advantage of being lighter and stronger than acetate, while also withstanding the ageing of acetate caused sweat and chemical agents. “However, colour possibilities and surface quality are somewhat diminished, for the time being,” he notes.

As a designer, Hoet says that 3D printing is “thrilling and challenging: a game changer. It’s like being a kid with his first Lego blocks—it’s not easy to master, but then it wouldn’t be as much fun if it was.”

Hoet helped to develop, and designed the initial frame collection for a 3D printing solution partnership between the Leuven, Belgium firm Materialise and HOYA Vision Care. The Yuniku project, which gives the eyecare professional the opportunity to create custom 3D frames made to order with personalized lenses, is not yet available in North America. He also created a 3D sports eyewear collection for Seiko called Seiko Xchanger.

His experience with 3D printing has made Hoet a big fan of the technology. “Waste is significantly reduced, while creating a product that is completely adapted to the needs of the customer. 3D printing will have a very positive impact on our ecological footprint. I have grandchildren and I want to leave them a better world.”

Sàfilo Group has developed a trend-setting collection, Oxydo Eyewear, in which frames of gold, ruthenium and palladium are enhanced by surrounding, lattice-like architectural structures created with 3D printers. Aesthetics and innovation meet in this striking collection of four styles, entirely Made in Italy. Multi-dimensional and quirky, Oxydo designs are wearable sculptures, one of which was created by New York-based artist Francis Bitonti.

Sàfilo also uses in-house 3D printing to develop prototypes for almost all of its brands. Vladimiro Baldin, chief product design and creation officer, says: “We currently use 3D printing on prototypes. Design ideas are embraced, refined or abandoned based on the look and feel of a prototype. To hasten and sharpen that crucial decision–making, we brought the 3D printing process in–house. Thanks to this, we can produce whole product prototypes in full colour, even with multiple materials, textures and gradients in as little as a few hours, speeding up the process of product development tremendously.”

Baldin sees a bright future for 3D printing: “There are huge opportunities, which consist in constantly refining the materials used, giving rise to products that are unique and tailor-made. And this is key in driving a future of customization. Currently, 3D printing systems are less cost-efficient than traditional mass production techniques, such as metal cutting or plastic injection moulding, but they are set to become better and cheaper over time, radically lowering barriers to entry for start-ups, no matter how small their production runs.”

Oliver Goldsmith, owner and designer of his eponymous London-based company, jumped on the 3D bandwagon with alacrity. “I was very excited by the fact that one can reproduce spectacles that would be impossible by traditional methods,” he says.

Goldsmith worked with Belgium-based 3D printing company, Materialise. “It took over a year to reach the point where I had some production samples in hand, as I had to educate them on the fine points of eyewear design, including six base toric curves for the lenses to fit correctly, getting the bridge fittings to be super-comfortable and joint angles according to the height of the temples being fitted to the fronts.”

Goldsmith and Materialise reproduced four models from Goldsmith’s father’s designs from the 1950s, including SATAN, which he enhanced with a finish that can only be done with 3D printing. The collection is for demonstration purposes only, however, as Goldsmith feels the perceived quality is not yet at the premium eyewear level. “While the actual quality is excellent, 3D printing cannot yet achieve the beautiful colours and colour combinations available in acetate. They are working on water transfer coatings, but this is still in the experimental stages. Also the look and feel in the hand are not the same.”

With the slogan, 20th century design meets 21st century production, Goldsmith’s first 3D collection will be used for window display and publicity purposes. He is hopeful, however, that he can bring a 3D collection to market as materials improve and prices come down.

Specsy is a Toronto-based 3D printing company with a turnkey printing solution for eyecare professionals. Founder and Product Development Manager, Milan Madhavji, a dental radiologist, has been manufacturing high-precision dental products since 2010 for his company, Canaray. He decided to turn his attention to the eyewear industry and launched Specsy in 2017.

Madhavji developed a solution that covers all the bases for ECPs. He explains: “They don’t need a web presence or even a computer or technical know-how to use the Specsy system. We provide what they need to give the customer a customized 3D printed frame, including an iPad equipped with the necessary software, 3D camera, brochures for customers, and a short training manual for opticians that includes information like how to set a lens in a 3D printed frame and how to adjust the shape. Engaging with a customer is as simple as taking her picture, bringing it up on the iPad and helping her select from a variety of frames, which are viewed on her virtual picture. Everything can be done in under five minutes.”

Specsy frames are currently available in a proprietary polymer material. All frames are printed at their Mississauga plant and the turnaround is approximately five days. The company will soon introduce a new printer to create metal frames, as well as software that will allow for increasingly sophisticated customization.

Specsy should be available Canada-wide by March, after which they will launch in the U.S. All manufacturing will remain in Canada, says Madhavji.

WestGroupe, always on the hunt for new processes and technologies that will enhance product and improve service, has been using 3D printing for prototype development since late 2016. Beverly Suliteanu, vice president, product development and creative director, says the learning curve was not without its hiccups: “It took us a bit of time initially to determine the proper setup parameters for metal frames due to the thinness of some of the parts. When separating the 3D frame from the support base, we initially had a lot of breakage by the nose pad guard arm and some of the thin filigree detailing. It was a process of trial and error to determine the proper setup to ensure the 3D prototypes were perfect.”

Due to the fact that there are limitations on the type of colouring and detailing one can have in a 3D printed frame, WestGroupe chose their printer based solely on the need for rapid prototyping. “Knowing that we wanted to better evaluate fit rather than design, we chose a printer that made economic sense for us,” says Suliteanu. “It has offered a great return on investment and most importantly, it has improved the products that we bring to market.”

Rapp Optical designer Shilo Rapp, trained as a goldsmith, loves 3D printing technology. “It has completely transformed the design and fabrication process and I regard it as an extremely useful tool for anyone creating anything, including eyewear,” he says.

Before getting into eyewear design, Rapp freelanced for many jewellers in Toronto, providing them with 3D models for complex custom orders. “While completely eliminating the wax carving and mold maker, these ‘virtual’, though geometrically accurate, computer files would go to 3D printers and eventually become a physical object, ready for metal casting, polish and diamond setting, which is pretty amazing,” he says.

As a designer, Rapp still prefers to transform raw materials manually. “To me it is more fun to use my hands. However, we will continue to employ both the modelling and 3D printing technologies in our design process, prototypes and mechanical fixture making. Our latest collection of combination frames, while not 3D printed, were conceived and designed using 3D modelling software. And, over the years we have utilized the technology in the same way a jeweller would: adding embellished components to our frames, though mostly for one-off pieces.

“As for 3D metal printing, there are some truly amazing examples in the eyewear sector, but for us the technology costs are still high, especially in our preferred material titanium, and would catapult our products into an astronomic price range. When it comes to 3D printed polymers, I have to say that the warmth, along with colour, texture and pattern available in acetate is still unmatched compared to 3D printed frames, though maybe not for long. Whatever happens, we will be ready!”

Colin Redmond, designer for and owner of Niloca Eyewear (see our designer profile of Redmond in the November/December 2017 issue), is an undisputed expert on 3D printing. Educated as an industrial designer, he also has a degree in polymer science. Redmond, based in Melbourne, Australia owned a 3D printing company—Plastic Ink—serving all manner of industries from 2005 – 2010.

Redmond says that while 3D printing technology is getting faster and more reliable, the polymer science is lagging in improving materials. The biggest issue is maintaining climate control, as fluctuations in temperature, humidity, air chemistry, air pressure and even light, affect the printing, forming and fusing of layers.

Producing consistently perfect A-Class surfaces is the big challenge for 3D printing. “The material deficits result in surface finishes that aren’t great. If there is a slight blemish on a large object like a car hood it wouldn’t really show, but on a frame it is obvious. There are tricks to hide the blemishes, but that’s accepting defeat and selling a lesser product. I wouldn’t want to do that to my clientele,” says Redmond.

Despite the challenges, Redmond will release three 3D printed collections in June 2018. Something to look forward to!

As you can see, 3D printing is not yet an unalloyed success or necessarily cost-effective. The promise is great, however, and given the esteem accorded to the professionals covered herein, you can be certain of the best of the best in their 3D printed creations.



Lenses for Sale

LensesForSaleBy Brian P. Dunleavy

These days, more and more clients visit optical shops after seeing advertisements for spectacle lens products, either on television or in major magazines – and Dennis Higgins believes this is both good and bad.

“In general, it’s great that eyeglass wearers are more informed about lens products, whether they are certain lens designs or coatings,” says the optician and owner of Higgins Fine Opticians in London, ON. “But with advertisements, they don’t get all the facts. Lenses aren’t like prescription drugs. When you go to a pharmacist, you have a prescription for one drug that’s supposed to treat a specific condition. But with eyeglasses lenses, the potential combination of products is endless – reading glasses, lenses for distance, progressives, sports glasses, tints and coatings. Just because clients see something advertised doesn’t mean it will be the right product for them.”

Efforts to brand various spectacle lens products with consumers have created an interesting conundrum for eyecare professionals (ECPs): on one hand, independents struggling in a competitive marketplace appreciate anything that drives more traffic through their doors and many have sought to leverage branding programs by prominently displaying signage and other point-of-purchase materials for products their clients may see advertised on TV or in print.

“If you can do a good window promotion and if clients see that name and it draws them in the door, once they’re in, you can get them to the products they need,” notes Higgins. “That’s the trick to get them in the door.”

But Deborah Perry, optician and owner of Optika Eclectic Eyewear in Saskatoon, recalls a few instances in which clients were so impressed by the lenses they saw advertised – either by the touted technology or features and benefits – that it was a bit challenging to direct them toward the products they actually needed. Interestingly, in Perry’s experience, despite significant efforts on the part of some lens manufacturers to “brand” their products with consumers, “nine times out of 10, when you ask people what they’re wearing, they haven’t got a clue.” Progressive wearers, she notes, tend to be loyal to a specific brand if they are happy with their lenses, but otherwise there is not a lot of brand loyalty when it comes to spectacles.

“Overall, very few people care that much about the brand name of the lens,” she says. “What matters is that they are happy and comfortable with it. Advertising is a funny thing. People may remember it, but they likely don’t remember all of it, or where they saw it.” To illustrate, she relates that she advertises her shop at two bus stops in Saskatoon, and while these ads are effective at bringing in customers, those who come in after seeing them routinely forget where they saw them. “They’ll say, ‘I saw your ad in Sutherland,’ and I’ll think to myself, ‘No you didn’t, because they’re on Clarence [Avenue].’”

This is not to say that ECPs don’t appreciate the efforts of lens manufacturers to support their businesses and increase consumer demand for the products they sell. Quite the contrary. However, many of them would also like to see corresponding enhancements to branded point-of-purchase materials as well as increased funding for educational programs that help opticians and optometrists better understand lens technology.

“Advertising is great, but lenses sell themselves if opticians take time to explain the technology and build a level of trust with the client,” Higgins clarifies. “To do that, they need to understand what the different products are, how they work and how they can improve vision. And that takes education.”

2015 VEE Show Shines Spotlight on New Products

VEE2015By JoAnne Sommers

Spring is the season of new beginnings. So what better time to roll out exciting new eyewear products than the recent International Vision Expo East (VEE) show in New York? More than 22,000 visitors and exhibitors from 90 countries, including many Canadians, participated in this year’s event. Here is an overview of some of the great products they found.

AdlensFocussTM, the world-leading Variable Power Optics (VPOTM) eyewear from Adlens®, provides four times more viewable area at near, intermediate and distance than the best freeform progressive lens. High acuity and unmatched viewable area for all distances is achieved by turning a dial. The fashion-forward frame design isn’t compromised by its adjustable function as the dial and VPO system are hidden within the frame.

Alternative & Plan “B” Eyewear
Get the perfect mix of style and function with three new models from Alternative Eyewear’s Clip Tech line. Model K3772 features a bold, retro shape combined with cool temple details and a keyhole bridge. Models 3774 and 3775 have a chunky acetate look and feature interesting patterns and eye-catching colour. All are made from high-quality acetate and come with a polarized magnetic clip-on, which is rimless, light and features a back-mounting system.

Ic! Berlin
Ic! Berlin presents plotic – 3D-printed eyewear created by Selective Laser Sintering. Finely tuned lasers fuse together powder particles to create eyewear that’s lighter, stronger, more flexible and more environmentally friendly than traditional materials. Plotic comes in eight rich colours, two plotic-metal hybrids and two plotic sunglasses with an innovative new nosepad solution.

VEE_LensPenLensPen presents PeepsTM, an all-in-one cleaner using a simple two-step process. First, wipe the lens with the retractable goat-hair brush, then slide the arms out from the holder and clean the lens with smooth circular motions of the cleaning tips. When the arms slide back into the holder, the carbon on the cleaning tips is replenished; Peeps’ cleaning tips can be recharged up to 500 times.


Modo Eyewear
New additions to Modo’s Super Thin acetate collection feature marbled hues and patterns and the signature metal-on-metal hinge. Handmade in Japan, the two new men’s shapes are classic squares with a straight, yet casual brow line. The rich acetate colour range brings classic shapes to a new level. Two new cat-eye-inspired women’s shapes are rectangular with a flattering upsweep. Model 6521 is a stylish square shape; 6522 is geometrical and feminine.

J.F. Rey
The “Au masculin” collection cultivates masculinity in a vintage-chic look. The St-Germain celebrates elegant fashion for the trendy guy who loves sharp lines and sophisticated colours. Club is a vintage-style frame made with beautiful Italian leathers. Factory appeals to the urban man looking for quality and style. Titanium clip-on sunglasses with mirror lenses complete this piece of art.

Prisme Optical Group
VEE_PrismeOpticalGroupThe new Frederic Beausoleil sunwear collection features four models, each in four colours. A tribute to the ‘70s, the designs represent glamour and fantasy. Made with exclusive cotton flower acetate plaque, some have silk-printed colours while others have gradient colours. Model S454, with a vintage look, features the iconic six-point Frederic Beausoleil hinge.


Optika Eyewear
The Nat & Coco eyewear collection includes 15 new styles for men and women: ladies’ styles feature textured acetates in animal prints with a mix of rhinestones, which creates an elegant flair; men’s acetates have a bold wood look. All are cut thin, extra lightweight and comfortable to wear.

New ladies’ styles are also available in metal with a three-tone finish, featuring new and original colour blends and patterns. All metal frames are crafted from super-lightweight stainless steel for extra comfort and durability

Spectacle Eyeworks
VEE_SpectacleEyeworksThis new stainless steel collection breaks boundaries with six unisex styles. The multi-layered contrasting colours of each frame combine deep, rich shades with pastel hues. Daring cutouts along the outside of each frame accentuate its angular shape. Modern, clean chic with just the right amount of flavour makes these German-made frames extremely wearable.

VEE_WestgroupeThe 10-piece stainless steel and acetate FyshUK collection was inspired by soft, feminine colours and the intricate use of pattern to create texture. Eye shapes range from sexy cat-eyes to retro, ‘70s-inspired squares.

The Kliik collection includes 10 models in acetate and stainless steel. Features include special laminates, faux wood laser finishes and acid etching.

The eight-piece Evatik collection is modern and masculine. Accent colours bring life to warm neutrals and varied finishes and treatments provide interesting details. Acetate predominates, ranging from ultra-thin profile to retro-heavy.

Zig Eyewear
VEE_ZiggyZig Eyewear introduces 10 new ZIGGY and 10 new Jean-Reno models, and SUNNY’s, a sun collection in acetate and metal.

SUNNY 104 is an ultra-feminine, metal, bi-colour frame. It comes with polarized lenses and can be used with progressives.

ZIGGY 1506 is ultra-delicate and feminine, with a double wire that gives volume to a small frame.

The retro-modern, bi-colour stainless steel RENO 1565 frame can be used with progressive lenses and comes in three colours.

Mido 2015 Sets New Standards for Attendance, Convenience

Mido2015By JoAnne Sommers

‘Milan’ is the top fashion buzzword for 2015, according to the Global Language Monitor. So it’s fitting that Milan is also home to the annual Mido eyewear exhibition, which ranks high among the world’s pre-eminent optical shows.

The 45th annual Mido, which ran from February 28 to March 2, drew record attendance of more than 49,000 visitors, 56 per cent of them — including some 300 Canadians — from outside Italy. The 8.7 per cent increase over 2014’s numbers is “extraordinary, especially considering the economic uncertainty that still affects some countries,” according to show organizers.

Mido President Cirillo Marcolin said the new communication campaign, new logo, pavilions located closer to the subway, and the revamped and more streamlined layout all made for a considerably larger exhibition space and more exhibitors (150 new companies).

Added Vice President Giovanni Vitaloni: “Attendees took advantage of the more visitor friendly layout to visit all the theme areas: Fashion District, Lenses and the FAiR East Pavilion (the exclusive showcase for Asian manufacturers).”

One major highlight was the new LabAcademy theme area within Mido Design Lab, which was reserved for exciting young designers who were first-time Mido participants.

“It’s an incubator of ideas, reserved for a careful selection of emerging creative talents and fresh, original brands that experiment with new outside the box concepts.”

Otticlub, a multi-function area for seminars, conferences, courses and educational meetings, attracted keen audiences, “which is another sign of the dynamic atmosphere pervading the industry,” added Marcolin.

The show also saw the debut of Bestore, an international award for the store that ensured its customers the best shopping experience in terms of creativity, innovation and ambience. The inaugural honours were awarded to the Leidmann store of Munich. The Bestand award for the most attractive and communicative stand, went to Italy’s Blackfin (see designer story on page 22 of this issue).

Mido’s importance has been recognized by Italy’s Ministry of Economic Development, which includes the exhibition in its special Made in Italy promotion program. The ministry organized a special event to which international buyers and journalists were invited.

Among them was Richard Stortini, president of Montreal-based Prisme Optical Group, one of four Canadian companies that exhibited at Mido. “We used the opportunity to meet with eyewear manufacturers,” he notes. “Mido is a great place to get together with our suppliers, see new products and make purchases.”

WestGroupe President Michael Suliteanu liked the exhibition’s move to a new pavilion. “Our booth was busy and we made a lot of new contacts compared to previous years.”

Mido is a key show for WestGroupe in terms of building its international distribution network, said Suliteanu. “Our brands continue to grow and we’ve added an international export sales manager based in Italy. That should further strengthen our international growth, particularly in Europe.”

In terms of trends, Beverly Suliteanu, WestGroupe’s vice-president of marketing and product development, noticed the continued strength of the retro or vintage look. “Acetate was still strong, but in a more refined and thinner profile,” she said. “We also saw more metal and a wide array of finishes and colours. Round and P3 were definitely the key shapes in Europe.”

Plans are already under way for next year’s Mido, which will be held from February 27 to 29, 2016, said Marcolin.

Gonna Wipe That LWE Right Out of My Lid

LWEBy Shirley Ha, HBSc., O.D., FCOVD

Not all dry eye problems, including those related to wearing contact lenses, are the same. Typically, dry eye patients, both contact lens wearers and non-wearers, report symptoms of dryness and have signs of inadequate tear volume, decreased tear breakup time (TBUT) and corneal staining that support the dry eye diagnosis. However, there are some dry eye patients and contact lens wearers without dry eye who have normal, objective test results but continue to complain of discomfort that mimics the symptoms of dryness and grittiness. Notwithstanding the routine assessment and management of aqueous dry eye and Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) that disrupts tear film support, lid wiper epitheliopathy (LWE) is often an overlooked condition, one that is characterized by worldrenowned dry eye researcher Dr. Donald Korb of Boston, MA as the distinctive feature for symptoms of dry eye1.

The lid wiper area lies behind the row of Meibomian glands on the upper lid margin. Akin to a windshield wiper blade, it moves up and down across the bulbar conjunctiva onto the corneal surface about 12,000 times a day to clear the eye of debris and replenish the pre-corneal tear film layer that protects the ocular surface from mechanical stresses during a blink.

In patients with symptoms of dry eye, decreased lubricity or increased coefficient of friction between the lid wipers and the lens surface occurs and the lid wiper surface becomes compromised. The constant friction causes a change to the epithelium of the inner-upper lid margin. Instead of a wiper blade that glides smoothly without leaving “streaks” in the tear film, clinically shown as decreased TBUT, the irregular lid wiper area now has uneven pressure over the contact lens surface, increasing its sensitivity and patient discomfort.

The causes of LWE are many and can include pre-existing dry eye conditions, secondary, but not limited to exposure keratopathy, age, cosmetic lid surgery, lagophthalmos, incomplete blinking and environmental factors. With any new contact lens fits or refits, the lid wiper area should be scrutinized for evidence of LWE, in addition to other screening tests. This should be repeated at all regular follow-ups thereafter.

Clinically, LWE is detectable with topically applied fluorescein or lissamine green or rose bengal dyes. By gently lifting and everting the upper lid, the lid wiper area can be assessed and classified for width, length and shape of the staining.

The increase in epithelial permeability in this region must be differentiated from the same dye uptake that occurs in the Line of Marx (LOM). While LWE is caused by repeated irritation between the lid wiper surface and the front surface of the lens, the LOM is a “normal” thin band of accumulated, superficial, conjunctival epithelial staining that lies directly behind the mucocutaneous junction.

LWE patients demand lubricious contact lenses that can reduce the insult to, and protect the lid wiper area and the ocular surface. Sometimes it is best to discontinue wear for a while if there has been chronic irritation of the lid wiper area. Lenses with higher surface wettability, such as the Alcon’s DAILIES TOTAL1® water-gradient contact lenses, with better oxygen permeability (SiHy material) and lower modulus may help reduce the LWE mechanical friction, as can Type I, II – lower ionicity lenses that minimize protein buildup. Also, patient compliance in the cleaning and lens replacement regime, with emphasis on rubbing and rinsing immediately after CL removal and timely replacement, is necessary to ensure that the lenses are clean and fresh for everyday wear.

Recommend contact lens solutions that remove lipids and proteins effectively while providing a more wettable lens surface to protect it from lipid and protein deposition. Sometimes the additional soak prior to lens insertion can offer improved comfort by further enhancing the beginning wettability of the lens. For incomplete blinkers, blinking exercises can be prescribed several times a day. The lids should “kiss” each other on each blink in order to modify and develop better blink habits and to forcibly express the Meibomian gland for better tear film stability. Blink training also has a very important biofeedback mechanism to prevent forced blinking, which may be very negative. By placing the index fingers on the lid margin during a blink, there should be no pulling sensation if blinking correctly.

The posterior margin of the eyelid is an important but under-assessed structure when it comes to ocular surface diseases and non-specific contact lens dropouts. LWE with staining may be an early indicator of dry eye disease and should be considered and evaluated, even when contact lens patients are asymptomatic and/or if diagnostic dry eye testing is normal. For contact lens providers, restoring the lid surface to some normalcy can increase contact lens performance and comfort for patients and decrease idiopathic contact lens dropout.

1. KORB DR, HERMAN JP, BLACKIE CA, et al. “Prevalence of 
Lid Wiper Epitheliopathy in Subjects with Dry Eye Signs and Symptoms”, Cornea, vol. 29, April 2010, p. 377-83.

When Emergency Strikes: Are You Prepared?

EmergencyBy Evra Taylor

With the increase in natural and man-made disasters over the past several years, emergency preparedness has become more essential than ever – and has moved from the back to the front burner for businesses and individuals in high-risk geographical zones and cosmopolitan areas alike.

The ice storm that hit Quebec in 1998, the 9/11 tragedy in 2001 and the floods that deluged Alberta in 2013 all highlighted the need for enhanced and more comprehensive emergency and post-emergency measures for citizens and their businesses.


As part of preparation for a forced shut-in, adequate supplies of food and water for several weeks should be maintained. Fire drills, knowledge of first aid, including CPR, and business insurance for natural disasters are also a must.

The United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) highlights the fact that, “how quickly your company is back in business following a disaster will depend on emergency planning done today.”

The following are some of the recommendations FEMA makes in its ‘Ready Business’ plan, which involves protecting your employees and your facility:

  • Obtain emergency contact information from your employees.
  • Designate a telephone number at a location away from your primary facility where employees can call in and leave an“I’m okay” message and receive instructions.
  • If you have employees with disabilities or special needs, ask them what assistance they would need in the event of a disaster occurrence.
  • Make an Evacuation Plan, as well as a Shelter-in-Place plan. In the event of a transportation accident that releases chemicals into the air, for instance, individuals should shelter-in-place within the building. This requires shutdown of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and the closure of air intakes.

In March 2011, a magnitude-9 earthquake shook northeastern Japan, unleashing a savage tsunami and killing more than 230,000 people. Ophthalmologists used a customized ‘Mission Vision Van’ – a clinic on wheels – to provide survivors with eye exams and medications, and treat a large number of eye infections as the result of contaminated water.

However, a new study has shown that the items most needed in post-disaster relief are replacement eyeglasses, contact lenses and eye drops, underlining the crucial role ECPs can play in post-disaster aid and recovery.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which struck New York and New Jersey in 2012, power outages had an obvious effect on the level of foot traffic as optical retailers and labs scrambled to conduct business. But the greatest concern was how to assist customers with damaged or lost eyewear. Numerous optical firms, some as far away as Texas, rallied to provide much-needed help through replacement eyewear, financial aid and feet on the ground.

In July 2013, a train derailment in the town of Lac-Mégantic in Quebec’s Eastern Townships resulted in the explosion of multiple tank cars carrying crude oil. Forty-two people were confirmed dead and more than 30 buildings in the town centre were destroyed, including two optical stores. Six months after the tragedy, a report published by the Canadian Red Cross noted that, “People affected by the disaster can also receive assistance from the Red Cross for purchasing dental prostheses, hearing aids, glasses and home support equipment. All expenses are covered by the Red Cross.”

One of the things ECPs can do proactively is to recommend that patients who are able to do so keep a back-up pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses on hand, in addition to an extra month’s supply of medications, if possible.

While shelter and food remain at the top of most people’s lists of essentials, re-tracing your daily activities, including your healthcare regimen, can serve as a helpful reminder of health-related items, such as eyewear, that are easily overlooked.

SMILE: A New Alternative to Laser Refractive Surgery

LaserSurgeryAlternativeBy Netan Choudhry, M.D, FRCSC and Jennifer George

Advances in ophthalmic surgery now make it possible to eliminate or significantly reduce the need to wear glasses or contact lenses, even for those with very large refractive errors requiring thick lenses. Surgery can modify the eye to focus light rays correctly on the retina. Many operations can reduce or correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Newly developed intraocular lenses can even correct presbyopia – the reduced ability to focus from far to near that people begin to experience in their 40s.

There are two basic types of corrective refractive surgery. One modifies the curvature of the cornea, the outer surface of the eye. The other alters its internal optics by either replacing the natural lens of the eye or using an intraocular lens in addition to the natural lens.

Refractive surgery became popular in the U.S. through radial keratotomy (RK), an operation that was introduced in the early 1980s. In this operation, incisions made in the outer part of the cornea result in the flattening of the central part of the cornea. This can correct mild-to-moderate nearsightedness. Astigmatism can be corrected with astigmatic keratotomy, which involves making circumferential incisions in the outer part of cornea. Radial keratotomy has been largely replaced by better procedures but astigmatic keratotomy is still performed widely, especially together with cataract surgery. With cataract surgery, the pre-existing spherical refractive error can be improved by choosing an intraocular lens of appropriate power. Astigmatism can be corrected by utilizing a toric intraocular lens or by making astigmatic keratotomy incisions at the time of cataract surgery or later. Additionally, an excimer laser can be used before or after cataract surgery to increase the accuracy of the refractive correction.

Femtosecond laser (FSL) technology has been widely used in various refractive surgery applications in recent years. Studies have suggested decreased phacoemulsification energy use with FSL when it is used for cataract surgery, with the potential advantages of more precise corneal incisions and capsulotomy formation. The precision of FSL can allow a surgeon to create the circular opening with the exact intended size, shape and location. Clinical studies indicate that the circular opening is almost 10 times more accurate than the manual alternative.

Using FSL, surgery is highly customizable. Patients will receive more precise treatment and because FSL is less invasive, the procedure results in little to no discomfort. The added lower-energy approach of FSL also results in faster recovery times, placing this new approach on the cutting edge. Femtosecond laser technology has recently been used as a new technique for performing laser vision correction on the cornea. Small incision lenticule extraction, or SMILE, is a new way of performing laser vision correction on the cornea. It uses a femtosecond laser to separate a thin lenticule, or disc-shaped segment of corneal tissue, from within the cornea. This disc is then removed through a very small incision and the resulting change in the corneal shape corrects the patient’s nearsightedness, also known as myopia.

A major advantage of SMILE over LASIK is that it is not dependent on the creation of a flap. LASIK flaps present a host of potential complications, from interface inflammation (diffuse lamellar keratitis, or DLK), striae in the flap, or frank flap dehiscence. As the corneal surface and corneal nerves are less injured with SMILE than LASIK, there is potential for less post-operative ocular surface irritation and dry eye. There is also a theoretical reduction in the risk of post-operative ectasia as well.

For surgeons, a major benefit of SMILE over LASIK is that SMILE only utilizes a femtosecond laser. LASIK utilizes a femtosecond laser to create the flap, and uses an excimer laser to perform the actual ablation. SMILE offers a refractive surgical option with comparable efficacy, predictability and rapidity of visual rehabilitation to LASIK, but with only one laser.

Since the SMILE lenticule is extracted as a single piece, it may be possible to use the lenticule for other purposes. One suggestion is that refracted lenticules might be stored for reimplantation at a later time. This might provide a method of tissue restoration in ectatic corneas and could afford an opportunity for reversing the myopic correction in patients who might progress to presbyopia. Refractive lenticule reimplantation has been demonstrated in rabbits that have been cryopreserved for a month.

The ideal surgical candidate for SMILE is a moderate myope with relatively low astigmatism. It has been used to treat up to 5 diopters of astigmatism and up to 10 diopters of myopia but surgeons often note that low myopic treatments are somewhat more challenging as the lenticule created is relatively thin. Unfortunately, hyperopic treatment with SMILE is still experimental, and there is concern for hyperopic regression after treatment. So, for the hyperopic population, LASIK remains a first-line refractive option.

For a certain subgroup of patients with dry eyes and other corneal surface issues, SMILE may provide a better outcome. For others with irregular corneal shapes, LASIK is still the best option. As with all laser eye surgery, the best procedure depends on a number of factors and should be recommended by a surgeon to provide the optimal result.

The Road to Blackfin: Corrado Rosson and Pramaor are Making History

Corrado-RossonBy Paddy Kamen

Corrado Rosson is a bright spark of a designer; a self-taught self-starter in a company renowned for innovation.

Born in the town of Agordo, in the dramatic and rugged Dolomite mountain area of northern Italy, Corrado Rosson simply followed his natural inclinations to a career in design. Before he even knew that eyewear manufacture was his region’s leading industry, Rosson’s path was in a sense laid out for him: “I was always incredibly attracted to sketching, drawing and any opportunity to represent something graphically,” he says. As he matured, Rosson was increasingly drawn to the combination of art and technical accuracy that is intrinsic to design.

Rosson eschewed formal post-secondary education, instead teaching himself 3D graphics. This passion led to a chance meeting with a professional designer who created bath furniture, leading him to a job in that field. From there, he easily moved into eyewear design, as a member of Luxottica’s design department (Luxottica has a major factory in Agordo), beginning in 2006.

POD_1The road to Blackfin emerged when Rosson joined forces with Pramaor Srl in 2011. Pramaor is an Agordo-based family firm, founded in 1971 and now headed by Nicola Del Din, the secondgeneration CEO. The company originally produced frames for larger eyewear companies in the region. In 1991, they began working intensively with titanium, eager to develop its potential for quality and performance. By 2008, their vision for titanium fully realized, Del Din and his team decided to concentrate their efforts on the brand that would be all their own: Blackfin. This bold move has been richly rewarded and Blackfin is on a roll, with stellar sales figures and international acclaim. The combination of a strong history and forward thinking makes for a dynamic company, true to its roots, yet always evolving.

BlackFin_GravityRosson, vice president of product and design, heads a team of four, all of whom are responsible for innovation. “We have patented many innovative solutions over the years – some aesthetic, some technical,” says Rosson. “For example: the ATOM ZERO screwless hinge can be opened and closed more than 50,000 times without becoming slack. Our SWORDFISH temple tips with break-off guides make it possible to shorten the temples by five or 10 mm in three simple moves without using any instruments. The SHARKLOCK glazing system makes it possible to fit the lenses into the 0.5-mm beta titanium inner rims without the need for screws. This is the result of the special “sharks-fin” grooving in the rim, lined with a thin sheet of metal, enabling the lenses to be locked into the frame simply with the aid of a screwdriver.”

André Bélanger’s company, Mood Eyewear, distributes Blackfin in Canada. He points out that Pramaor’s deep legacy with titanium has made all the difference. “Titanium is typically stiff and hard to adjust. In contrast, Blackfin temples are easily adjusted, making them the dispenser’s friend. The quality and comfort are outstanding.”

BlackFin_FramesBélanger notes that Blackfin meets the need for metal frames in a market over-saturated with acetate. “The frames have a lot of character, making them present on the face yet very comfortable and light. And the colours are amazing, in just the right shades and combinations.”

The firm recently established a new colouring department to build on their distinct advantage in this area, and custom-ordered colour combinations will soon be available on special order, with the customer’s name engraved on the frame as well as on the packaging.

BlackFinUnder Rosson’s leadership, the design team’s work is resonating strongly in the marketplace. Sales volume is up 62 per cent from 2013 to 2014, and they have seen a 56 per cent increase in exports. Even in the sluggish Italian market, the firm saw 29 per cent growth last year. Blackfin frames are 100 per cent Made in Italy and the company has coined the term ‘neomadeinitaly’ to describe their profound commitment to this policy. CEO Del Din notes, “Our company has grown a lot in the last few years, which gives great satisfaction to all those who help us inside and outside the company and who strongly believe in what we do. To get this result, we considered every aspect of the business: product, marketing, events, finance. Every move we made has been a good move to this point and we’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished, even if we still feel ourselves at the beginning of our journey.”

The passion and excitement of design has not abated for Rosson. “I live each day as if it is the first. I love my job and the fact that my personal inclinations and work life are so in sync. I hope that my three children find careers as rewarding for them as eyewear design is for me.”

Success with advertising: Retailers share their gains

SuccessWithAdvertisingBy Paddy Kamen

It’s no secret that many retailers are struggling in the current market; news about retail woes is rampant, with major closures including Target and Future Shop.

John Torella, senior advisor, marketing, with the J.C. Williams Group in Toronto, says, “The good news is that more shoppers are looking for a meaningful relationship. They’re tired of mass, undifferentiated service. But you have to deliver and that means doing all the little things well.”

Further, you cannot ignore the fact that we are in an era of multi-channel e-commerce. Fortunately, new media is an economical way for smaller retailers to get their message out, adds Torella. “Bricks-and-mortar are still crucial, but you need both because the customer wants both.”

This feature gives you a glimpse of what’s working for six optical retailers, from the new retailers – like Allyson Tang, to the experienced and well-established, like Josh Josephson – and from large chains to smaller ones and the single location store.

We also cover three major manufacturers who are advertising direct to consumers. This is a trend that supports retail. And as we see from the recent news, retail needs all the help it can get these days.

→ Dr. Allyson Tang, Optometrist
Takeaways: Mobile Signage, Website


Allyson Tang is the newest practitioner (in business for 1.5 years) and among the youngest (age 29) to be covered in this feature.

With a small marketing budget, Tang initially focused on direct mail, relationship marketing and her website.

DrTangEyecareDirect mail proved to be a costly mistake says Tang. “I distributed flyers through the local newspaper and Canada Post. It cost almost $2,000 for 10,000 flyers. If you repeat this every few months it can really add up. And I didn’t get much in the way of results.”

In contrast, Tang’s website ( has been an excellent investment. She paid a website developer to create her site and social media accounts with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Tang writes the content herself and posts weekly to her website and social media. “I estimate that 30 per cent of our patients find us through an online search.”

Tang will update her website soon. “It will cost around $600. Keeping our website up-to-date and mobile-friendly makes it easy for people on the go to find us.”

Tang has also attended local service group meetings (Lion’s Club and Rotary), visited neighbouring merchants and bought booths at business-to-business expo events (costing less than $200). The Vaughan Business Enterprise Centre offers networking meetings and marketing workshops in which she participates. The Centre also gave her a start-up grant of $5,000, which she used for equipment purchases.

The strip mall in which Tang is located has a mobile sign that merchants can rent for 21-day periods. She first used the sign last summer to advertise a promotion. “It cost around $300 and we captured five new patients with an average sale of $250, so the return on investment (ROI) was good. I have pre-booked the sign for our next high season.”

→ IRIS The Visual Group
Takeaways: Direct Mail, Email, Live Chat


IRIS is a national chain with 163 stores. Direct mail is one of IRIS’ most effective advertising channels, according to Executive Vice-President Daryan Angle. “We mail to our existing customer base and also send offers to specific postal codes. These give us a very measurable return. We market extensively to the AirMiles® database through our affiliation with them, which is another excellent channel.”

Angle points out that every market is different. “You cannot take the same approach in each region. For example, TV advertising is relatively inexpensive in Quebec compared to the rest of Canada, and in some markets radio is affordable. While we have promotions that everyone participates in, we look carefully at how best to leverage that promotion in individual markets.”

“People often can’t say with certainty when you ask them what drew them to your location,” says Angle. “With direct mail we can track the return through bar codes. We also send time-limited email offers to existing customers. These are low cost and have a very high return.”

Iris_DossierIRIS recently implemented customer surveys to assess the likelihood that a customer will recommend IRIS. Customers are encouraged to fill out the survey at the point of sale, and are also selected randomly and approached by email.

The IRIS website ( has a live chat service for booking appointments, as well as their ‘Ask a Doctor’ feature. The website also has a pop-up questionnaire; upon completion the visitor receives a $50 gift certificate toward a purchase. This is an excellent way to capture useful consumer information and provide an incentive to visit IRIS stores.

“The more helpful information you give customers, the more effective your website will be in connecting you with future customers or reconnecting with existing ones,” says Angle.

→ Karir Eyewear
Takeaways: Social Media, Product Placements


DaytimeTorontoNamita Karir is managing optician at Karir Eyewear Yorkdale in Toronto. The business, featuring artisanal eyewear, was founded 34 years ago and has grown to three locations. Namita, at age 29, is right at the heart of the online generation.

Karir Eyewear advertises twice yearly (their November sale and again on Boxing Day) in major newspapers. “However, we primarily use our website and social media to establish a presence,” says Karir.

A public-relations firm helps Karir keep current by feeding her material to use in social media posts. “I try to personalize each one. We keep our Facebook page very current and I also Tweet regularly.”

Keeping website and social media content fresh, visual and up-to-date is key for Karir. “You have to keep putting in the effort and giving people variety. They are doing their research and it’s your job to keep them excited. Boring simply won’t do.”

Lightbox posters help to attract new customers to Karir Optical’s two downtown Toronto locations. They also send four email blasts to existing customers annually. One of those advertises their annual trunk show, which is a huge draw. “We typically offer an exclusive product or a meet-and-greet with the designer. For example, last year we featured the renowned Israeli designer Ron Arad, who was in town to give a lecture.”

Their PR company also pitches the Karir brand to fashion media outlets. “They get us product placements in fashion magazines, and interviews. This is an excellent spend for us because it builds our brand.”

→ FYidoctors
Takeaways: Google Ads, Facebook, Aeroplan

FYidoctors is a Canadian chain with 190 clinics nationwide and another 100 Vision Source franchise locations. They are now converting all their clinics (except in Quebec) to the common FYidoctors banner.

“In the early days our clinics were each responsible for their own advertising, with access to central resources. Now our advertising initiatives are centralized, while still having local budgets to meet local needs,” says CEO and President Alan Ulsifer.

FYIFacebookFYidoctors is focusing on online advertising. “We have experimented with magazines, newspaper and radio,” says Ulsifer. Three things have risen to the top for us: Facebook, Google Ads and the Aeroplan loyalty program.

“Our Aeroplan relationship lets us communicate with Aeroplan’s 5.5 million members through email and other mediums, to let them know about new products and promotions. This generates the most referrals,” says Ulsifer.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is also helping FYidoctors build their business. Ulsifer explains: “Two years ago we had fewer than 15,000 visits to our website each month; now we get 175,000. That is resulting in patient visits.”

The company has done a comprehensive analysis of online ads from YellowPages and Google Ads. “We found that Google Ads was far more effective,” says Ulsifer.

FYidoctors recently launched a new vision screening mobile app that is building excitement around their brand and will be bringing it to their other databases and all existing patients through email and text blasts.

“We now have a good sense of best practices for our clinics,” says Ulsifer.

“We’ve created the team to manage our advertising program and we make the necessary investments to stay current. You can market all you want and get people through your door but when they arrive, will they make an emotional connection with your brand? We really hope we have achieved that.”

→ Josephson Opticians
Takeaway: Follow your demographic

Optometrist Dr. Josh Josephson sold his private practice 20 years ago and took charge of the optical stores that have been in his family for 80 years. He now divides his time between his six Toronto locations and other business and professional activities.

Interestingly, given the huge changes in advertising over the past 20 years, Josephson hasn’t changed his advertising approach much.

“We’re still in most of the same media and that’s because our clientele is reading those media. Most of our targeted demographic, professionals and entrepreneurs – in fact, anyone who appreciates uniquely designed fashionable eyewear – read the Globe and Mail and Toronto Life magazine. That hasn’t changed.”

JosephsonAlthough the retailer maintains a more-than-respectable website, Josephson says it is harder to reach his specific demographic through online advertising. “Online is more for a mid-or-low market demographic.”

The goal for the website is to help potential clients familiarize themselves with the products Josephson’s carries. “Those who seek out something different or are looking for knowledgeable care hear about us from friends or do their research online before coming to the store.”

Josephson and staff members handle their own creative advertising. “We worked with some advertising firms in the past but we do a better job ourselves. We learned along the way and developed a style. We don’t sell anything that is mass-marketed but instead work with hands-on designers who move the market forward in terms of fashion.”

Josephson advises newcomers to optical retail: “Find local media that present well and get yourself in there as much as you can afford. It’s about building awareness over time, with consistency. Advertising is not simple and learning to make it effective involves a lot of trial-and-error.”

→ Eye Health Centres
Takeaways: Being ‘On Call’, Fridge Magnets


Diana Monea, O.D, has been in business for 34 years and operates three locations – two in Calgary and one in Regina.

She well remembers the ‘bad old days’ of direct mail, print ads and printed newsletters and is happy to be well beyond that now. “New media works better and is less costly.”

EyeHealthCentresWith a strong website ( and superb social media presence, Monea has never looked back. “We have a web designer who keeps the site current for us. And every associate in the store is responsible for one social media posting each week. Every Wednesday we send out a Tweet and an Instagram post. We use these for sharing information about new products. We also regularly post staff wearing new product. Word of mouth is our best referral source. After that it is our website, and from there it is about equal for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.”

Monea’s patients can book appointments online. And the doctor is always available to her patients via email. “One of the things that has really helped build word of mouth for us is that patients can email me 24/7. I receive emails from patients on vacation who have run into a problem with eye infections, for example. If I’m away, one of my associates is on call for email enquiries. I give patients a magnetized business card so they can keep my contact info handy. That’s a great little advertising device!”

Advertising direct to Consumers: Manufacturers prime the pump

Over the last 20 years, there has been a distinct increase in the number of eyewear and lens manufacturers advertising direct to the public. In this article, we’ll look at three of these: Transitions Optical, Essilor and WestGroupe.

Transitions lenses have become one of the most recognizable consumer brands in the optical market thanks to consumer advertising.

Transitions_AfficheTransitions Optical is spending some of its ad budget on a younger audience these days. “Our research showed that even though the technology behind Transitions® lenses has improved, some younger consumers claim they don’t prefer them because they have an outdated perception of the product,” says Isabelle Tremblay-Dawson, senior marketing manager, Canada.

Online advertising, TV advertising and social media will combine to help tell a glamorous story about Transitions® Signature™ graphite green lenses to this younger age group. As Tremblay-Dawson points out: “Our Chromea7™ technology story presents an opportunity for us to connect with a younger audience – particularly single vision wearers. We’re partnering with actress Laurence Leboeuf to tell this audience – who are trendy, ambitious, status-conscious and who value technology – about the new colour choices available and the technology advances this product offers.”

“Essilor has been advertising directly to consumers since the mid-1990s, and our investment has increased substantially since then,” says Robert Menes, vice-president of marketing and communications for Essilor Canada. “We started out with smaller initiatives such as ‘brought to you by Crizal’ on the UV report on the Weather Network, leading up to complete national campaigns. Last year we piloted two additional campaigns on Xperio and Varilux.”

Menes says, “Because of our advertising, people walk into the retail experience with awareness; either they ask for the products or they recognize them when the eyecare professional (ECP) brings them to their attention. Advertising definitely helps drive consumer demand and acceptance.”

Essilor measures the response to every campaign through market research. They do brand recall surveys (i.e. asking, ‘Have you ever seen an ad for this product?), and awareness surveys (i.e. ‘Tell me about the lens brands you are aware of ’), and also measure web traffic and can see how many viewers are looking for local ECPs, for example.

Once consumers come into the store, ECPs can reinforce Essilor’s advertising by showing video loops of the TV advertisements on in-store monitors. Essilor also supports individual ECP advertising with pre-formatted content for Facebook, print ads and radio.

WestgroupeBoardsWestGroupe began direct-to-consumer advertising in 2011 for Evatik, their frame collection for men. “Our national outdoor campaign included billboards and transit shelters across the country,” says Beverly Suliteanu, vice-president of marketing and product development. “Although consumers may not have gone to the ECP asking for Evatik, many did recognize the name when they were shown the collection.”

WestGroupe has websites for each of their three proprietary brands: Evatik, Fysh UK and Kliik denmark. Each site features engaging videos. “All of our websites are designed for both consumers and the trade and have components geared to each audience,” says Suliteanu. “The videos are a great way of creatively telling our story.”

Each brand also has its own Facebook page and is supported by social media platforms, including Twitter and Instagram. “It’s all about engaging with those who connect to our brands,” says Suliteanu.

“Consumer advertising supports our retailers and increases sell-through of our brands,” notes Suliteanu. “There is a definite synergy in that. Without the distribution, the consumer would not be able to purchase our products and, without consumer awareness, it would be much harder for the retailer to sell our products.”


Capsule Men’s Eyewear Collection

carrera6000Carrera and Jimmy Choo announce the launch of an exclusive capsule collection of Carrera by Jimmy Choo sunglasses for Men, following the success of the Carrera by Jimmy Choo Women’s capsule collection of sunglasses launched last year. This marks Jimmy Choo’s first foray into the Men’s eyewear category expanding their existing offering of Men’s shoes, bags and small leather goods.

The collection blends the eyewear expertise and passionate attitude of Carrera with the innate confidence, effortless attitude and overtly masculine style expressed by the Jimmy Choo man in a range of unique and eye catching styles featuring signatures of the Jimmy Choo Men’s collection.

Carrera’s latest best-seller, the Carrera 6000, with its distinctive shaped temples, is presented in three finishes, combining high performance in a fashion forward aesthetic. The extraordinary work in Optyl material allows the use of silks which are injected into the sunglasses, featuring contrasting colours, camouflage prints with hidden burlesque silhouettes, sophisticated details and a rebellious sense of humor.