TENACIOUS AND DETERMINED A Q & A WITH FEA INDUSTRIES

By Christie Walker

Like a dog with a rope, FEA Industries is tenacious and   determined to not only stay in the game but to thrive in an industry that sees labs being sold, closed and merging   almost every month. FEA has implemented a number of   new initiatives to ensure they succeed.

AS AN INDEPENDENT LAB, YOU CONSTANTLY HAVE TO KEEP ON YOUR TOES. WHAT NEW INNOVATIONS HAVE YOU INSTITUTED TO MAKE FEA THE “GO TO” LAB?

We’ve been pushing the boundaries to try and keep up   with the latest developments in lens technology. As such, we’ve introduced a few new technologies in our free-form line-up, as well as in our anti-reflective coatings.

Our first big development is glass free-form. Here, we are able to take a single vision lens and do a full-backside progressive. We are going to be offering this in our Eagle family of lenses, powered by IOT’s digital Ray-Path technology. This means that these will be the same designs we already offer, vastly expanding the material range of our in-house brand of free-form lenses.

Our second free-form product that we are now offering is an ultra-premium lens – our Eagle lenses powered by Camber technology. This type of lens uses a variable base curve on the front, which allows us to better match the front curve of the lens to the prescription on the back. This means that we can have a lens that has, for example, a 6-base curve on the top, and an 8-base curve on the bottom.

Our third and final new offering is our Independence Tech – a blue-blocking anti-reflective coating, similar to the Essilor Prevencia or the Hoya Recharge. We released this product on February 1st, so it’s now available.

WHY HAVE YOU PUT IN FREE-FORM GLASS EQUIPMENT?  

The short answer is, “because it’s cool.” Few labs in the United States are producing glass free-form, so it seemed like a good niche to fill. We’re aware of the   market for glass, and we feel that it’s a good fit with   free-form technology. Everyone in the optical industry knows that optically, glass is the best material. We wanted to be able to pair that with some of the best lens designs available to give the best possible product.

Also, by offering glass free-form we greatly increase the availability of glass progressives on the market. There are only a few major ones available, and most of them only tend to be available in a few materials. With   free-form, we can offer glass progressives in every glass index and color, as well as having an add range that goes from +0.25 to +4.50. It also increases the turn around, as we don’t have to wait upwards of a week for progressives to be custom made; we can just calculate the free-form design we need and be on our way.

WHAT IS THE MARKET FOR GLASS LENSES? WHO IS ORDERING THIS?

The market for glass free-form is going to be similar to the market for conventional glass. Since we are positioning free-form glass to be price competitive with traditional glass progressives, anyone wearing glass now will be able to benefit.

Since we are able to use free-form to increase glass availability and to decenter lenses, we feel there will also be a large use for this in the sunglass market. Glass is   a great material for sunglasses used for hiking or on   the beach. Regular plastic would be much more likely   to scratch under these conditions.

We are also focusing on those that want the best possible optics. By combining an optically superior material with a whole host of free-form designs, we are paving the way for glass lenses to be tailored to every patient.

CAN OTHER LABS ORDER GLASS FREE FORM FROM YOU?

 They certainly can. We offer all IOT designs in glass, and we are able to customize the lens engravings for each   design. This means that we can produce lenses with markings that are in line with what each lab already uses for their plastic free-form. This means that other labs that already use these designs don’t have to worry about   using new progressives they aren’t familiar with. They can easily add this product into their catalogs. We hope this will appeal to other labs especially because many labs don’t tend to do a lot of glass in general.  

WHAT IS CAMBER TECHNOLOGY AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Camber is a new approach to free-form progressives. It is a combined effort between Younger Optics and Indizen Optical Technologies (IOT) to bring an ultra-premium lens product to wholesale labs to use for their ‘house brand’. It is an important step forward, as it uses both sides of the lens blank to deliver the best optics you can get. This is not to be confused with a dual-sided progressive. Camber uses a variable front curve to deliver better base curve optimization for all parts of the lens. Traditional backside free-form uses spherical single vision lens blanks, which means that the base curve is going to be the same across the whole surface. That equates to sacrificing some optical quality, since the optimal base curve for the distance part of your Rx is going to be flatter than the optimal base curve for your near vision.

Camber fixes that problem by having a flatter base curve at the top of the lens, and a steeper one at the   bottom – perhaps going from a 6 base down to an 8 base. This helps to give Camber-based progressives better performance in near vision, as well as having plus lenses not require quite so steep base curves, as is a common issue with full-backside progressives.

This is different from dual-sided free-form progressives. Dual sided progressives have a number of limitations on them, since their design is more or less fixed on the   front. This means that it can be impossible to change the inset, corridor length, or decentration of a front-side progressive. With Camber, the back surface calculations can take in to account the prescription in combination with the lens blank and move the design to the optimal place on the back of the lens.

WHAT PATIENTS WOULD BENEFIT FROM THIS LENS?

Anyone that wears a progressive lens. I know that’s what everyone says about every progressive ever made, but Camber actually delivers on this. In a double-blind study, 100 percent of wearers reported that the near zone was easier to find. Also, 94 percent of wearers had equal or better near vision quality, with 83 percent having an easier adaptation.

Usually in progressives, when you improve one visual zone (distance/intermediate/near), you have to sacrifice visual performance in another. By better optimizing the front curve of the lens to the prescription, we are able to improve both distance and near zones without sacrificing the other.

HOW ARE YOU MARKETING ALL THESE NEW ADVANCEMENTS TO ECPS?

We will mostly be focusing on this through direct mail marketing, combined with email blasts to announce our various products. With something such as glass free-form, it is easier to advertise since it’s more obvious   what the product is. Since most people are also aware of the optical benefits that glass provides over plastics, we are hoping that the optical quality will speak for itself.

Are you marketing to other labs as well?

We’re not really doing any direct marketing to other labs. The advertising for this is mostly going via   word-of-mouth. It seems the number of labs out there gets smaller and smaller every day, so we’re trying to   find some stable partners that we can work with.

Tell me about the new AR coating?   When it comes to pricing where will this coating fit...mid-price, high-end, etc.

 Independence Tech is designed to block the harmful   blue light that is emitted by most of today’s technology. Computers, tablets, phones, televisions – our eyes are bombarded by quite a bit more light today than they were 30 years ago. This can affect things like sleep cycles and blue light can also be a risk factor for eye diseases, such as cataracts or age-related macular degeneration.

The thing to remember about this type of coating is the way that it looks. It will give lenses more blue reflectance when viewed from the front. This is the coating working to reflect the blue light away from the eye. The lens itself will look slightly discolored or brownish. This is because the front of the lens has already prevented visible blue light from passing through the lens. Since this takes out the blue, you’re left with a lens that can look slightly tinted. The back surface coating of the lens is designed to be the opposite of the front; it is designed to let as much light through as possible. This means any light coming from behind is allowed into the lens, and not reflected back into the eye.

With this new addition, we will also be changing our traditional Independence Anti-Reflective coating to include UV protection. This means we will be offering our standard Independence AR coating (which comes in blue, green, and gold reflex colors, and a lifetime warranty) for $39.95, while the Independence Tech will debut at $59.95. Independence Tech will still have a lifetime warranty.  

STAYING INDEPENDENT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU...HOW DOES BEING AN INDEPENDENT LAB GIVE YOU AN   ADVANTAGE OVER MANUFACTURER-OWNED LABS?

The advantage we have is quality. I believe that being an independent lab means that quality comes first, since it’s our name that is at stake. That’s why we’ve focused on giving our customers the best lens technology that we can. This means that we can offer the best products for our customers, regardless of who makes them. Manufacturer-owned labs that sell those very expensive brand names are usually contractually obligated to not have any comparisons involving those very expensive lenses. As an independent, however, we have the ability to recommend the best lens products for customers at the best price possible.

We are also often asked about our pricing, since it seems that when we offer a fair price for lenses, many people’s first reaction is to ask, “What’s wrong with it?”

This is somewhere else where being an independent lab helps greatly. When we find a way to make lenses faster or more efficiently, we can offer a lower price to our customers. This means that we don’t have to keep our prices in line with other labs because corporate says so.

Being independent also makes us much more agile than manufacturer-owned labs. We can respond quickly, such as adding new products. This helps to keep us on   the cutting edge of technology, as evidenced by our   glass free-form.


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August/September LabTalk 2017