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Brian Mann, OD PC
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Eyeglass frames are made out of many different composite materials and formulas, but the basic groupings are metal and plastic. In plastics, zyl is the most common although lower quality plastics are used in the cheaper frames. Nylon is often used in sport sunglasses due to its impact resistance and flexibility. Among the metals, monel is most common, followed by titanium, stainless steel, nickel silver, alpaca, and aluminum.
Zyl is a short name for the material cellulose acetate, which is made of wood flakes, cottonseed fibers, stabilizers and plasticizers. Zyl is the most common plastic frame material because it can assume a large array of colors, textures and patterns. Temples and frame fronts can be cut from blocks of zyl extruded as a sheet of block acetate. Or, granular zyl can be liquefied and then injection molded. Block-cut zyl is stronger and more stable, while injection molded zyl is less stable and less expensive. With daily use in warm temperatures, zyl can shift and lose its form. Sometimes metal cores are added in the temples in order to strengthen and stabilize the frame. If zyl eye glasses frames reach a temperature over 160 degrees Fahrenheit, the plasticizers could rise to the surface of the frame, turning areas of the frame a milky white color. In addition, body oils, perspiration, ultraviolet radiation and cosmetics can also damage the material.
The best quality designer eye glasses frames are made with Italian Mazzuccheli zyl. Mazzuccheli now has factories in Italy and China, with the best quality and newest design materials coming from the Italian plants. All Mazzuccheli zyl is made in sheets, which are then cut in the eyewear factories.
Monel is composed of about two-thirds nickel and one-third copper. This highly ductile alloy can be hammered into a variety of different shapes without losing strength. It resists stress well is often use to stabilize frame bridges and endpieces. Monel colors well, is corrosion resistant, and durable. If you have an allergy to some metals, it is usually the nickel in the metal that causes allergic reactions.
Titanium is extremely lightweight and will not rust, making it a very popular and relatively new material for eye glasses frames. Titanium's strength allows it to be made thin, but it is hard to solder or weld and is expensive. Titanium is a more expensive metal composite used in eye glasses frames known for its beneficial qualities of strength, lightness, and flexibility. However, titanium is very difficult to color so titanium frames usually come in a very restricted range of eyeglasses frames colors.
Eyeglass frames that are 100% titanium are also a hypo-allergenic--they do not contain any nickel which causes allergic reactions in some people. There are many other allergies (to plastics, stainless, and various other materials commonly used to make eyewear), and 100% titanium eye glasses frames are a good choice for people with allergies to any of these materials. Many designer eye glasses frames brands use titanium in some part of their collection.
Stainless steel is comprised mostly of iron, with a mixture of nickel, manganese, and chromium. Stainless steel is highly lustrous, and makes a good thin and sturdy eye glasses frames with strong corrosion resistance. Although it is hard to make eye glasses frames with stainless steel due to soldering and welding difficulties, stainless steel temples are especially springy.
Nylon is virtually unbreakable, so it is often chosen for sports and safety applications. Nylon is lightweight and flexible, but can only accept opaque colors.
Sometimes called "Alpaca" or "German Silver", nickel silver is rigid compared to other more malleable metals. Nickel silvers contain more than 50% copper, 25% nickel, and the rest zinc (no silver at all). Copper adds pliability, zinc adds strength, and nickel gives it its namesake color, a whitish appearance, because when the nickel content exceeds 12% the copper color no longer shows through. Although the metal is lustrous, its brittleness makes it a poor choice for slender frame fronts and nose pads. Thus, it is better designed for use in hinges, endpieces, bridges and ornamental trims, as well as an inner core for temples.
Aluminum is cut from a block, is lightweight and low in density. This makes the material strong, and yet light enough to use for thick fashion designs. Aluminum can accept a variety of colors, and chemical anodizing is sometimes used to create black, brown and gold colors. Because aluminum cannot be easily welded or soldered, endpieces, hinges, and nose pads must be fastened with rivets or screws, increasing the chance that those pieces fall out causing the frame to fail. This greatly limits the design possibilities. Aluminum is also very stiff, which limits its versatility.
However, the lightness and stiffness of aluminum in some eye glasses designs offers great advantages. For example, for metal frames that are thicker in design, and larger in design, aluminum is the toughest material and can accommodate the thickest and heaviest lenses. Aluminum frames last a long time and can take a lot of abuse compared to plastic frames, or thin metal frames. Revue Eyewear uses aluminum in many of its glasses, as well as some Neostyle glasses. Use the advanced search function to see all the aluminum frames we offer.
Flexon is a trade name for one company's flexible eyeglasses frames material. Flexible eyeglass frames are available in many compositions, but the goal is always the same. This kind of material is used in eyeglass frames in order to reduce breakage. It is normally found in the shaft of the temple and in the bridge, and it allows these areas to endure tremendous twisting without breakage or permanent distortion of the frames shape.
Some people have an allergic reaction to certain metals, especially nickel and certain plastics, which are common component materials used to make eyewear. Hypo-allergenic frames, such as titanium frames, do not contain such materials.