Sunglass Replacement Lenses in the Ophthalmology Industry

Overview of Sunglass Lens Replacement Trends:

The ophthalmology industry has long focused on the prescription eyeglass market and eye care. In recent years the demand for prescription sunglasses has also grown significantly due to consumer awareness of UV damage and the rise in macular degeneration. However, non prescription sunglasses have been somewhat ignored. Consumers that have tried to get their regular sunglass lenses replaced have found it too expensive or impossible as manufactures of sunglasses seldom offer replacement parts, especially for models that are out of production. However, in the last decade there have been several start up companies trying to solve this issue for consumers and are making quality sunglass replacement lenses and parts.

Sunglass Lens Replacement Trends in the Ophthalmology Industry Chart
Fig1. – Industry Growth Rates Sunglass Lens Replacement Ophthalmology Industry Last 7 years.
Source – Private Company 2015.


How are Sunglass Lenses are Replaced?

Like prescription frames, most sunglass frames are designed to certain specifications which allow lenses to be replaced. Optical lens edging equipment has progress over recent years and can be used to trace existing lenses or the frame and create exact copies of the original lenses. These can be tested and verified in the frames by a qualified optical dispenser. Good optical lens edging equipment operates within .05mm in precision in all three dimensions resulting in safe, good fitting replacement lenses.

Lens CNC and Edging Equipment
Fig 2. Lens Edging Equipment to Make Sunglass Replacement Lenses

Sunglass Lens Replacement Specialization:

Several companies have focused on non prescription sunglass lenses manufacturing. They make lenses not only for the Ophthalmology market, but directly for consumers. Many companies now have over 40,000 models of lenses for existing sunglass brands. You do have to be careful as some companies focus on low end lenses while others provide high quality replacement sunglass lenses. In some cases the lenses are better quality than the original lenses but you do need to ensure you are getting a good quality product.

Pricing of Sunglass Replacement Lenses:

Replacement lenses can cost vary dramatically based on the quality and the services provided. For self installed lenses I found prices that range as low as $20.00 on Ebay and upwards of $100 dollars. However, good quality polarized sunglass replacement lenses range around the $50.00 mark. Some manufactures also provide replacement lenses for current product lines. These generally cost significantly more. Polarized lenses from some of the leading manufacturers can cost well over $100 and tend to make replacement of sunglass lenses less viable than buying a new pair. However, quality polarized lenses at the $50.00 range can be a massive saving to the consumer who originally spent upwards of $150 to $500 dollars on their original frames. Replacing sunglass lenses with high quality lenses for 10% of the original purchase price is hard to turn away from.

Quality of Sunglass Replacement Lenses for the Ophthalmology Industry:

Last think optometrist want to do is install an inferior product in their customer sunglasses. Polycarbonate lenses are common in the sunglass replacement industry and tend to be the most common lens used across the sunglass industry. However, the hard coating and distortion can be unfavorable in a Polycarbonate lenses and varies dramatically from lens to lens. Polyamide lenses or Trivex type materials tend to have better optical properties and less aberration. They also are more malleable so are better from rimless application here a lot of stress is focused on mounting points. Polarized lenses are also in high demand by customers seeking sunglass replacement lenses. However, the quality of the polarization film is critical. If poor quality polarization film is used it will cause rain-bowing effects and conflict with LED lighting commonly found in automobiles. Getting good polarization film on a good lens medium is critical for long lasting, high perform sunglass replacement lenses. Overall, shop around before finding a lens lab and ensure it produces a cost effective, quality lens for your customers.

Quality of Sunglass Replacment Lenses Varies
Fig3. – Sample Sunglass Replacement Lenses – Quality Matters so Shop Around

Replacing Sunglass Lenses in your Ophthalmology Practice

The sunglass replacement industry works in two manners. First, with some companies offering upwards of 40,000 sunglass lens models, you will find it more cost effective and timely to have lenses shipped directly to your premises and installed by one of your technicians for the customers. This allows you to ensure the frames are in good condition, the fit is perfect, and provide that extra service to your customers. It's usually the most profitable option as well as your cost will usually be under $50.00 and with little effort you can still provide the service for far less than your competition could through normal lens labs. Another option provided by some sunglass replacement lens providers is to send the entire frame in. These companies will install the lenses of your choice and send the completed sunglasses back to your premises for the customers to pick up. This may sound like an easier option but it has several downsides that should be considered. First, the postage time back and forth may turn away customers. Also, if the lens lab is busy, it may take several days to a week for them to perform the installation. Additionally, the added cost of postage can slide into your profit margins.

optical dispenser replacing sunglass lenses
Fig 4. Usually only Takes minutes for optical dispenser to install sunglass replacement lenses

Final Words:

There is not stopping the trend of consumers replacing their Sunglass Lenses. The Ophthalmology industry can either accept it and leverage the emerging sunglass replacement lens industry or ignore it. However, as consumers gain knowledge that replacing sunglass lenses is a cost effective manner to extend the life of their sunglasses and in many instances get better quality lenses than they originally had, they will be seeking it out. If you don't provide the service you may be loosing customers.

example of sunglasses with sunglass replacement lenses
Fig 5. Sunglasses look new after getting sunglass lenses replaced