LONDON — Simula Inc., a Phoenix-based technology company, expects significant new markets for its polyurethanes in prescription eyewear, sunglasses and sportswear lenses, following licensing deals signed with PPG Industries in Pittsburgh and with Intercast Europe in Parma, Italy.
The agreement will enable PPG to combine Simula's PU materials with its monomer and coating technologies for prescription lens applications, according to a May 19 announcement from Simula. PPG plans to introduce the impact-resistant PU materials by the end of this year, the statement added.
Simula's family of patented transparent polyurethanes for lens applications include one particular liquid-casting formulation with modulus and hardness similar to polycarbonate, as well as improved impact and chemical resistance, according to Gary Boydston of Simula.
"It is a two-part system [prepolymer and curative] that fits in well with operations that are currently casting allyl diglycol carbonate lenses," Boydston said in a written statement to Urethanes Technology, a London-based sister publication of Plastics News.
The key to production is accurate automatic mixing and dispensing equipment. PPG is optimizing its coating system for use with this technology, though Simula's PU is compatible with many commercially available, abrasion-resistant and anti-fog coating technologies, Boydston pointed out.
In a separate development, Simula has licensed its PU lens technology to Intercast Europe, one of the world's largest manufacturers of hard resin cast lenses for sunglasses, supplying more than 20 million pairs of lenses per year for fashion and sport eyewear.
The Italian firm plans to install initial manufacturing capacity for 1 million pairs of sun and sport lenses, according to Simula.
Simula's affiliate, Simula Polymer Systems Inc., will work with both companies on projects designed to commercialize the impact-resistant, transparent polymers for various eyewear applications, said the company.
Simula Polymer Systems was formed in 1998 to commercialize Simula's urethane materials developed in conjunction with government defense agencies. These programs focused on military and commercial applications such as transparent armor for vehicles, aircraft windshields, bulletproof glass and protective shields.
Simula expects the material to carry a higher price than polycarbonate, and he does not expect the material to replace PC in all applications. But his company is targeting applications that will benefit from the combination of improved impact and heat resistance, and very good chemical resistance, in combination with excellent optical properties, said Boydston.
"We are also pursuing other markets for this transparent urethane. Of particular interest are flat-sheet applications for transparent armor, automotive, aerospace, electronic, glazing, etc. The lens work just happened to be the first application," he said.
Simula has been doing work in transparent polyurethanes since the early 1990s. The commercial entity, Simula Polymer Systems Inc., was established in 1998.
Currently, Simula Polymer Systems is working in low-volume, smaller flat-sheet production volumes of 6-7 pounds, maximum. A small facility contains processing equipment for production and process development, although PPG and Intercast are doing the bulk of the process development for lens casting
"It is our intent to scale up or establish partnerships with cell casters" during the next couple of years to be able to produce large sheets of material that may weigh in excess of 200 pounds," Boydston said.