OptiSource’s Multimeter costs the same as standard UV meters but also works as a UV meter, photochromic lens demonstrator, and a visible light meter.

In this digital age, some low-tech devices can still be indispensable to an ECP.

While much of the equipment for the optical industry is becoming computerized, this can still be a hands-on business that uses the tools of the artisan, for example, the screwdriver (invented in the late Middle Ages) or pliers (invented in the Bronze Age)—which makes sense when you remember eyeglasses were first made with temples sometime in the 1280s.


Of course, the potential dangers of ultra-violet (UV) radiation were unknown back in “the old days”—but since learning of the perils of excessive UV light to the eye, optical engineers developed the UV meter.

Used to quickly and accurately measure the transmittance or absorption percentage of UV light through a particular lens material, the UV meter is probably the most high-tech of the low-tech devices available to eyecare professionals (ECPs).

Overall, these machines are much like Hilco’s 110 volt UV 400 Sun Meter, which can accommodate most lenses, in or out of a frame.

But you can be assured engineers are looking for ways to improve the UV meter. In fact, a few years ago, OptiSource International developed a multifunctional digital UV meter, Multimeter, which works as a UV meter, photochromic lens demonstrator, and a visible light meter—but it costs about the same or less than a traditional UV meter.

According to OptiSource, the Multimeter can activate the darkening ability of Transitions® lenses from Transitions Optical, Inc. or any other brand of photochromic lenses. It can also measure the UV transmittance of any lens and the visible light transmittance of colored lenses.

Smaller than a shoe box, which makes it convenient for countertop use, this photochromic demonstrator works with either mounted or unmounted lenses.

OptiSource stresses the practicality of the unit, especially for photochromic lens patients who drive after sunset, during inclement weather, or visit lower natural light locations like indoor shopping malls.

PSI’s Hot Air Frame Warmer offers variable temperature adjustment.

Returning to tools that a pince-nez manufacturer from the Victorian Era might envy: Amcon Laboratories offers its 10-piece Essentials Tool Kit from its Standard Line Tools. This features the most commonly used optician’s tools in one convenient kit, something the company notes would be ideal for a start-up practice, or for an optician with offices in multiple locations.

The kit includes a lens aligner, adjusting pliers, an eyewire-forming tool, chain nose pliers, nosepad adjusting pliers, nylon-pad adjusting pliers, top cutter, an acrylic tool rack, a double flat-blade and handle screwdriver, and a double Phillips and handle screwdriver.

Amcon also sells a kit that it calls “perfect for the optician on the go,” which contains 13 of the most commonly used optician’s tools. While including many of the aforementioned essentials, it also has a side cutter, narrow double-nylon jaw-gripping pliers, a wide mouth lens thickness caliper, a 5.5-in. flat file, a 5.5-in. half-round file, 6-in. ruler, double flat blade and handle screwdriver, double Phillips blade screwdriver and handle, and a pair of self-locking tweezers.

Ergonomics is important to Hilco. The company provides a range of hand tools like bench tools, pliers, screwdrivers, and wrenches engineered for less stressful gripping. Some of the company’s more specialized equipment includes its drilling guides for rimless compression mounts, like the Bull’s Eye Lens Drilling Template in 1.45mm or 1.55mm.

The Premium Temple Bending Plier from Western Optical allows an optician to put a smooth and physically comfortable curve to the earpiece.

The company also offers bent-nose insulated self-closing tweezers, where the springs close rather than open; stainless steel push-on nosepad removal tweezers that push out nosepads without affecting pad arm adjustment; and then the Skweezer Tweezer which is grooved to hold any optical screw firmly for insertion. With both horizontal and vertical notches, the Skweezer’s sliding lock holds the screw, leaving the other hand free to work on the rest of the glasses.

Western Optical Supply, Inc. has some nice bench tools waiting for dispensing ECPs, especially its 6.5-in. Concorde Carbide Cutter, which combines carbide-steel cutting tips with military-grade tensile-strength stainless steel.

“For the money, it’s the best out there,” says Joshua Freilich, president, Western Optical. “We make this ourselves,” he says, a process that eliminates costly outside contractors and suppliers.

The Premium Temple Bending Plier is a Western Optical tool that allows an optician of any skill and experience level to put a smooth, continuous, visually pleasing, and physically comfortable curve to the earpiece. It has become very popular: the company is currently shipping one to every store in North America for “a major big box chain.”

The plier is used to create the most individualized bend for the patient, by using a series of different-sized Delrin plastic arcs to gently curve earpieces on temples.

Western Optical makes “tools that resonate” with the customer, says Freilich who is especially proud of the company’s Universal Nut and Screw Grabber, which he described as “a killer tool—something everyone has to have.”

The device’s expandable jaw automatically grips any size or shape lock nut, hex nut, star nut, cap nut, or round nut; and the Universal Nut and Screw Grabber can be used as a screw starter promising to get into the smallest and most hard-to-reach places. Western Optical provides two models: all-metal construction for continuous use, or with an injection-molded plastic exterior for office use.


Amcon’s various hand tool kits are perfect for the veteran ECP or the beginner.

Another tool that is “very necessary,” but also “very popular,” he said, is the Premium Spring Hinge Plier Kit, which enables an ECP to conveniently and single-handedly assemble spring hinge frames. A table-mounted support starts the process, and then the self-locking plier lets you align the temple with the frame front and insert the hinge screw.

Meanwhile, the stainless steel narrow nosepad-adjusting pliers from Vigor Optical, a division of Grobet USA, make adjustments easier on high minus lenses due to its extra narrow 4.5mm jaw. Vigor also offers a deluxe nosepad adjuster with a 4.7mm nylon jaw and a spring hinge, which is especially useful for soft silicone nosepads.

Aiming at the half-eyes and small eyesize segment, Vigor offers oval jaw pads for better grip on these smaller lenses with its Midget aligner lens axis pliers.

Vigor consciously addresses the fact that the screws on eyeglasses tend to be almost annoyingly small with its Pick Up screwdriver line. The company provides a 2.0mm flat, a 2.0mm Phillips, and a 1.0mm super-thin nosepad blade for tiny screws—but the 1.0mm blade is very fragile, and is only useful for pad screws.

Lens thickness calipers precisely measure the thickness of lenses, in a simple “old school” way. Often used by laboratory personnel and dispensers, the lens thickness can be directly measured using an external or clamping-style caliper.

Calipers work by clamping onto a lens and providing the measurement via a dial or measurement scale. Usually the thickest and thinnest portions of a lens are measured although any spot of the lens can be measured.

Western Optical provides thickness calipers scaled in 10th of a millimeter increments made out of corrosion-resistant brass and stainless steel, with extra-deep and extra-wide jaws for use on lenses up to 86mm in diameter and 15mm thick.

Vigor’s stainless steel Midget aligner is used for small and half-sized lenses.

Before a lens can be mounted in a plastic frame, the frame needs to be warmed up, enough to become pliable. While salt pans are still very popular, the hot air blower—a twist on the hair dryer—has gained strong traction: no glass bead games here, just good old hot air, often followed by a quick bath in cold or running water.

Western Optical provides the PrimeAir Frame Warmer, whose maximum temperature is 350°F, with a hot air concentrator for spot heating on frames. This is a development spun from Western’s PrimeAir Basic Frame Warmer, which doesn’t have a continuous variable air-speed control.

Meanwhile OptiSource has its own lightweight Digital Hot Air Frame Warmer, featuring a digital temperature setting that allows temperatures anywhere from 104°F to 302°F.

The company has adapted its popular Hot Air Frame Warmer and outfitted it with a digital controller and temperature monitor, where the LED screen displays the actual temperature inside the housing and the latest working temperature upon restart.

Practical Systems, Inc. (PSI) is also in on the action. Its Hot Air Frame Warmer offers variable temperature adjustment—together with cold air—to help prevent frame damage, but with an almost instantaneous warming up time, and includes a heat concentrating attachment.

So while sales reps will always be pitching the latest high-tech (and high-price) equipment, an ECP should also consider the value of being hands-on by using low-tech devices.

Ivan Lerner is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City.


Amcon Laboratories
800-397-0012 • amconlabs.com

Hilco USA
800-955-6544 • hilco.com

OptiSource International
800-678-4768 • 1-800-optisource.com

Practical Systems, Inc. (PSI)
800-237-8154 • looktopsi.com

Vigor Optical (division of Grobet USA)
800-847-4188 • vigoroptical.com

Western Optical Supply, Inc.
800-423-3294 • westernoptical.com


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