Photo courtesy of Charmant, CFX.
PRODUCT ROUNDTABLE WITH OPTICAL PROFESSIONALS ON: Memory Metals
After decades of being on the market, eyecare professionals and patients have come to accept memory metal frames as part of the standard arsenal of tools they can use for their visual correction. The three opticians below have worked with this material since it was introduced and share their insights into using this unique frame material.
Neal Simkowitz, Optician and Lab Technician, MyOptics, Denver, CO
John Bruening, Licensed Optician, Optical Consultant, and Owner of nine optical practices in northeast Ohio
Bobby Luttrell, Licensed Optician and Owner of three optical boutiques and a finishing lab in Knoxville, TN
What exactly is it that you like about memory metal products in general?
Neal Simkowitz: We like memory metals simply for their durability over standard frame materials. A wide variety of people can appreciate the value of a long-lasting, tough frame. Memory metal frames maintain their shape well and the corrosion resistance is important to some. Demonstrating the flexibility is also a tangible benefit that the patient can see immediately. Having the patient try on a frame that weighs so little is also an immediate plus.
John Bruening: The feature I like most about memory metal is the ability for the dispenser to demonstrate just how durable it is. In terms of strength, there are stronger frame materials so a good dispenser will rely on comparisons (it was on the space shuttle; it’s used to make golf clubs; it’s used to manufacture prosthetic limbs, etc.) to get the point across. With memory metals, you show them exactly what it can do and let the product speak for itself.
Bobby Luttrell: It’s lightweight. Flexible titanium is amazingly light, strong, and flexible. No other product on the market can match its features.
What patient categories do you use memory metal products for?
NS: Kids, almost always. It’s usually the parents who want a durable frame. Kids that have already broken their eyewear seem to feel a little relieved to have something that won’t break as easily. Some patients just don’t like the feel of glasses so anything that can provide clear vision with almost no additional weight is a plus. Memory metal’s light weight provides this.
While not a traditional category, many people fall asleep in their glasses. Having memory metal frames that spring back to their original shape really helps these people avoid constant adjustments or breakage.
JB: I offer memory metals to all patient demographics; from toddlers to senior citizens. Nobody wants to be without their prescription eyewear for even a short time. Memory metals reduce the chance of breakage due to mishaps. Accidents don’t discriminate by age groups. Who wouldn’t want to have a flexible frame that can handle almost anything that comes along? Obvious choices for patient selection are children and the elderly (who may sit or sleep on their glasses). Teens and young adults are also great candidates, although we stress they aren’t a substitute for sports and/or safety glasses.
BL: Mostly to people who like lightweight eyewear or who are rough on them. Kids are a good category for these frames too, although small sizes were hard to get when these materials first came out.
Photo Courtesy of ClearVision, Izod PerformX.
Which memory metal frame products do you use?
NS: We use a great deal of Flexon frames by Marchon. Made with a metal alloy of titanium and nickel, it provides flexibility, shape retention, and some adjustability. There is a wide variety of styles in both full-rim and semi-rimless, and a good number of colors and finishes. There are plenty of sizes and styles for children, too. Since many have a magnetic clip included, patients quickly appreciate the price.
Lindberg’s Air Titanium line is another good example. While it’s more expensive, it’s a frame that patients keep for many years. I think they’re easily the most flexible, durable, and lightest weight of any flexible frame. They rarely break, have no screws, and patients keep bringing them back to update their lenses. They come in a variety of colors and are easy to adjust.
JB: We carry more than 60 styles of memory metals from various distributors including Tura, ClearVision, and Kenmark, as well as many from private label companies we deal with. Most of our memory metals are beta-titanium, as well as some beryllium. One of the lines I really favor is the Izod PerformX from ClearVision. Many memory metal frames look too “practical” and utilitarian; ClearVision makes sure styling is appealing as well as a great performing material.
BL: My two favorites are Marchon’s Flexon and Charmant’s CFX. The main reason I use these is because of their sales representatives and their price points. I like their wide selection of style choices and colors. CFX is a little less expensive than Flexon. I have never had a problem with these companies so I don’t need others.
How do you demonstrate memory metal products to your patients?
NS: I like to have the patient wear the frame and compare the weight to standard frames. I’ll demonstrate its flexibility, but more importantly, I’ll have the patient do the same. Pointing out that there’s no need for flexible hinges (therefore one less part to possibly repair) makes the patient that much more comfortable. These actions generally result in the “wow” factor. We also explain that memory metal frames are not unbreakable and should not be twisted often for fun. They should keep the flexibility for those when it’s needed.
JB: Having been a Marchon sales rep when Flexon was first introduced, demonstrating memory metal product is second nature to me. One important thing is its limitations. Yes, I show (usually out of sight of kids) the flexible features, but am careful to not overextend the action, nor repeat the bend in the same place. This demonstration usually elicits responses telling me how active they are, which is a great segue to introduce sun, sports, and safety protective eyewear in addition to the dresswear purchase.
BL: I demonstrated a memory metal frame by wrapping the temple around my finger and twisting the bridge. I quickly learned not to demonstrate this to a kid because they want their friends to twist it and memory metal can only hold up so long.
What don’t you like about memory metal products?
NS: Some memory metals aren’t too friendly to adjust. That means we must guide patients to the proper size and fit to eliminate unnecessary adjustments.
JB: Some memory metal frames use inferior materials and construction. I stay away from memory metals that utilize a “post and barrel” type bridge fabrication. These tend to give out in time and are usually the weakest part of the frame. I prefer direct welds for memory metal. This process is more expensive but is worth it in the long run.
BL: I think memory metal frames have gotten easier to adjust over the years. I still have a little trouble adjusting the temple pieces however. Every once in a while someone is allergic to the nickel in some of these frames, which may cause a skin allergic reaction.
How do you price memory metal products?
NS: We price our memory metal frames using standard markups (generally around 2.5 times) and do not charge more simply for this feature. We carry many frame lines, each with its own unique features. Each collection or designer has their own niche but we don’t charge a premium just because of that unique function or style.
JB: We don’t use a markup formula. We price all of our frames based on what our local market will bear. We do tend to charge a bit more (10%) for memory metals than for other dress frames, but less than high-end luxury frames. When memory metals first hit the market, they were unique, patented, and sold for a higher wholesale cost. The addition of branding (Izod, etc.) adds a higher pricing dimension, but that’s the case for any frame collection.
BL: When memory metals first came out, I charged a higher multiple because it was a “luxury material.” Now the usual two and half to three times cost markup seems pretty standard for all products. I probably should charge more because it seems people get tired of the way they look, not because they break down.