All Aboard for Rimless Eyewear - This train keeps chugging along

By Liz Martinez, ABOC, NCLC
The rimless eyewear train has left the station and more and more people are getting on board. What used to be called a trend now appears to be a new style that is here to stay. In fact, the number of rimless jobs that labs are processing is on the increase. Regarding the issues that impact the processing of rimless eyewear, there is some good news and some bad news. The "bad" news is that rimless eyewear is not going to go away any time soon. And this news may not be so bad after all, depending on your point of view. The good news is that many of the problems associated with processing rimless jobs over the years have melted away like polycarbonate on a wet roughing wheel.

RIMLESS: ALL IT's CRACKED UP TO BE?

In fact, poly, which used to be the bane of every lab tech's existence, has been on its best behavior over the last few years and consequently has become one of the most favored materials for rimless.

According to Steve Conley of Clear Vision Inc. in Sioux City, Iowa, "Most of the problems with the higher-index materials have been fixed."

"Polycarbonate and Trivex are the natural choices for rimless," agrees Ron Konstanzer, owner of Conejo Valley Optical in Ojai, Calif. "Today, we won't even use CR-39 for rimless because it can crack too easily."

Howard Greenspan, a sales consultant for North Hollywood, Calif.-based Empire Optical of California Inc., has 31 years of experience in the optical industry. Greenspan joins the chorus on material choices. "The worst material to use for rimless is anything in the mid-indexes: 1.54, 1.55, 1.56," he says. "They're even worse than CR-39. They'll crack almost instantly upon drilling."

Greenspan says his number one choice is Trivex, with polycarbonate coming in second because of the materials' stability and durability. "But," he adds, "even with these materials, there can still be an issue with the lenses cracking after drilling."

Greenspan's lab addresses the cracking issue by recalibrating the tooling for their drills. "The cracking occurs because the holes are made too small," he says. "When the hole is too small, the tendency is to force the screw in, which can crack the lens."

He emphasizes that holes must be drilled to size in compliance with manufacturer recommendations. Also, technicians need to be conscious of which jobs need bushings. "Certain sizes of holes require the use of bushings, and the bushing can also crack a lens if it's forced into the hole," he says.

A DRILL A MINUTE

The secret to creating proper holes is the use of computer-controlled drills, Konstanzer says. "The software tells the drill what to drill and the correct angle to drill. You just take the lens out of the edger and put it into the drill," he says.

Even when there's no pattern stored in the computerized drill for a job you're working on, drilling still doesn't have to be hard, Konstanzer insists. "You put the lens on a grid and pinpoint the places where the holes belong," he explains. "Then you tell the machine where to drill the holes. As far as coming out right on the drilling angle, the software automatically drills the hole at 90 degrees to the front of the lens."

The use of computerized drills has de-skilled the job of rimless lab technician. Konstanzer points out that prior to the advent of computerized drills in the lab, technicians could demand a higher rate of pay. "Before we used these drills, we had to hire higher-paid lab techs who spent the entire day drilling," he says. "In the last five years, the process has become a lot easier. Now, we don't have to keep one person working on rimless all day long. Instead, we have a less skilled person who needs to spend only half a day working on rimless jobs."

Samuel Hall, assistant manager of 21st Century Optical in Long Island City, N.Y., says his lab provides extra training to technicians who specialize in processing rimless. "The biggest problem we have is the PDs being off," he says. "For most jobs, we have tracers that calculate the PD automatically, but with rimless, we trace just one eye. So we have to do manual calculations, and if they're off, the PD comes out incorrect," he adds.

Technicians get additional instruction on how to make rimless jobs come out to specifications. "Doing this properly takes time and requires optical knowledge," Hall says. "The tech has to know how to use a ruler in order to calculate the DBL. We prefer to train our techs in-house so that everyone is on the same page," he says.

Hall estimates that it takes a technician up to a year to become a real pro at processing rimless, while Conley believes that the learning curve is about six pairs. On the other hand, according to Kostanzer, if the worker has some degree of manual dexterity, it should take just a couple of weeks to teach someone how to assemble a rimless job. Kostanzer says he also prefers to train technicians in-house.

THE CUSTOMER IS NOT ALWAYS RIGHT

Regardless of how well the lab technician is trained, customers can create problems for the labs when placing orders for rimless eyewear. According to Greenspan, high-powered prescriptions ordered by eye care professionals can create difficulties. "We can't always surface as much plus power as the customer requests," he says. "With high minus lenses, the edges can be too thick to allow a bushing or a screw to penetrate through to the back of the lens. Bushings are only so long," he points out.

The labs agree that these kinds of issues can best be addressed by discussing them with ECPs. "We need to let the accounts know that with certain thicknesses and high powers, they have to keep decentration to a minimum," Greenspan says. "We also encourage them to use higher index materials."

A good way to get the word out is when reps are in the field, he adds. "And our customer service team has to call the account if we receive a job that we know we'll have difficulty with."

Conley agrees. "Customer service is about a lot of hand-holding," he says. "We have to do a lot of call-backs. If we send clients information via e-mail, nobody reads it," he adds.

Greenspan says that in the future, he would like to host a seminar for his customers to present the do's and don'ts of rimless jobs. "After all, rimless frames aren't going away," he says. "If anything, the trend is building momentum."

It seems that labs have done a great deal of adjusting to the fact that rimless frames are not only here to stay but taking an increasing share of the market. The labs have adapted well to processing rimless, with some of the credit for easier processing going to the equipment and materials manufacturers. So jump on board the rimless train and enjoy the ride as rimless eyewear takes its place in the optical lab.

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Labtalk November/December 2018