Supplying the U.S. Army and other military and law enforcement outfits with protective goggles and sunglasses, Revision Eyewear Ltd. is supporting a mission it deems critical.
The company is taking steps to make sure it protects the protectors by expanding its molding, testing and coating capabilities with the opening of a 45,500-square-foot facility. It showed off its $6 million investment recently with an open house where Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, and local and military officials were among 150 people touring the Essex Junction, Vt., facility.
``It's been quite a rapid growth curve. We make principally U.S. Army-approved products spectacles and goggles. We are a leading producer for the U.S. Army, but we do have four to five other products we hope do well internationally,'' Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Blanshay said in a Sept. 4 phone interview.
Revision Eyewear also is used in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Singapore, India and Pakistan.
The company started in Montreal but moved operations to Williston, Vt., in 2004. It took an even bigger step in 2007 when it left a 10,000-square-foot building to move to Essex Junction, where it does its manufacturing. It maintains a design and engineering office in Montreal, as well as a sales office in London.
In the past, contract manufacturers made the components and Revision assembled them. But with the new plant, Revision can make its own lenses.
``Since we got into this industry six years ago, we've always done product design and [research and development],'' Blanshay said. ``What's changed in the last year is that we are developing the missing piece in the whole chain: the ability to control manufacturing.''
Manufacturing manager Kelly Wilson said the new building has a Class 100,000 clean room and four all-electric Nissei presses with clamping forces of 180-400 tons. One machine is a two-shot, 200-tonner. The company employs 100 and also is using robotics for resin delivery and inspection. Two of the presses are set up with robotics for a dedicated cell.
Blanshay said the firm has invested in plenty of testing equipment. Key factors are ballistics and impact resistance.
Eyewear use has changed over the years, he said. In the Vietnam era, there were fewer eye injuries and eyewear was not required. However, injuries from fragmentation and explosive devices in recent years have created a need for eye protection; it's now mandatory for soldiers even as they head for the dining area.
``What has happened now [is], they are purposely built to be interchangeable, anti-scratch, anti- fog and designed to be worn eight to 10 hours a day,'' Blanshay said.
The company has designed its own custom coating line that can coat two sides of a component differently. For example, a lens can be treated for scratch resistance on its outside and fog resistance on its inside. The line should be ready by mid-November, Blanshay said.
Despite its new abilities, Revision will continue to work with custom suppliers.
``It's not our intent to go 100 percent into contract manufacturing,'' Blanshay said, noting the firm will keep suppliers with which it has long-standing arrangements.