How It's Made

How are Sunglasses Made?

We use sunglasses nearly every day from our commute to work to weekend hikes. Have you ever stopped to think about how your favorite pair of shades were made? Whether your go-to pair was a birthday gift or a giveaway at a sporting event, your sunglasses were made by a brand or manufacturer just for you. From the lenses to the frames, sunglasses are made in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be used as a fashion accessory or for protection.

What are the steps to make a pair of sunglasses? What materials are used? Let’s dive in to discover how your favorite pair of shades came to fruition!

What are the Different Parts of Sunglasses?

Sunglasses are made up of three different parts: frame, temples, and lenses. The frame includes several elements like the nose pad, bridge, and part of the hinge. The temples include the other half of the hinge which is then fastened to the frame using a screw, glue, or heat. Each part is made individually and then assembled to create a finished pair.

What are the Different Parts of Sunglasses?
What are the Different Parts of Sunglasses?

After a design is created, the frames are the first to be manufactured, followed by the temples. Once the frames and temples are assembled, the lenses are created and then inserted into the frames to make a completed pair.

How are Sunglass Frames Made?

Sunglasses are made beginning with the frames, the piece that hold the lenses. First, the size and shape of the desired frames is made using a computer before production can begin. After a design is created, the frames are made following these six steps:

  1. Step 1: Create Steel Mold
  2. Step 2: Sheets of Plastic
  3. Step 3: Punch Blank Frames
  4. Step 4: Remove Excess Plastic
  5. Step 5: Carve Groove for Lens
  6. Step 6: Smooth Edges
  1. Step 1
    Step 1

    Create Steel Mold

    A steel mold, or die, is created to match the desired shape of the frames. The die has sharp edges and acts like a cookie cutter for blank frames.

  2. Step 2
    Step 2

    Sheets of Plastic

    Plastic material called cellulose-acetate is produced into thin sheets slightly wider than the frames.

  3. Step 3
    Step 3

    Punch Blank Frames

    The sheets of plastic are heated in an oven until they become malleable and then punched with the die to create blank frames.

  4. Step 4
    Step 4

    Remove Excess Plastic

    The blank frames are removed from the sheet, and the lens portions are removed and scrapped.

  5. Step 5
    Step 5

    Carve Groove for Lens

    The frames are held by an aluminum holding fixture and grooves for the lenses are cut using a router blade.

  6. Step 6
    Step 6

    Smooth Edges

    The frames are smoothed to remove rough edges using two machines. The first smooths the part that rests on the cheek, the second gets the area around the nose.

Sunglass frames come in a wide variety of styles that are designed for fashion, protection, or sports. It is important to have a well-made frame to ensure the durability, fit, and comfort of your sunglasses. In addition to different styles, frames are also made from several different materials. If you’ve found a pair of sunglasses that look great but don’t fit properly, you can always adjust them!

What Material are Sunglass Frames Made from?

Sunglass frames can be made from various materials that are durable, eco-friendly, or extra comfortable. While most sunglass frames are made from plastic, metal and wood are also common!

Plastic

Plastic

Plastic is the most popular and most cost-effective material for sunglass frames. The most common type of plastic is called zylonite, which can be easily adjusted for the perfect fit.

Metal

Metal

Higher-end sunglasses will have metal frames because they are durable and lightweight. Metal frames can be made from nickel, stainless steel, aluminum, or titanium.

Wood

Wood

Planks of wood can be cut with a laser to make sunglass frames that are non-toxic and typically allergy-free. Wood is also an eco-friendly material.

Rubber

Rubber

Durable and great for kids, rubber sunglasses are more flexible than wood, metal, or plastic. Rubber comes in a variety of colors and can provide excellent comfort.

Depending on what you plan to use your sunglasses for, you should consider choosing a material that fits your lifestyle best. If you’re heading to the beach, take a pair of durable rubber sunglasses so you won’t have to worry about them breaking in your bag. If you have sensitive skin, consider a pair of wood sunglasses to prevent irritation. There isn’t one frame material that is better than others, but rather materials that are better suited for different uses.

How are Sunglass Temples Made?

After the frames have been made, the next phase is to make the temples. Sunglass temples are the two arms that go around your ears. These can be a different color or material than the frames, and they typically include a brand or logo. Check out how temples are made step-by-step.

  1. Step 1: Plastic Melted Down into Sheets
  2. Step 2: Punch Blank Temples
  3. Step 3: (Optional): Insert Core Wire
  4. Step 4: Cut Hinge Slots
  5. Step 5: Secure Hinges
  1. Step 1
    Step 1

    Melt Plastic

    Plastic material called cellulose-acetate is melted down into thin sheets in an oven. This can be the same material or complimentary material to the frames.

  2. Step 2
    Step 2

    Punch Blank Temples

    Another steel die punches blank temples from the sheets.

  3. Step 3
    Step 3

    Insert Core Wire

    The blank temples are heated, and a strip of steel called a core wire is inserted in the center of the softened plastic as reinforcement.

  4. Step 4
    Step 4

    Cut Hinge Slots

    Slots are cut into the upper corners of the temples for hinges.

  5. Step 5
    Step 5

    Secure Hinges

    Hinges are placed and secured using heat to melt the hinge to the frame.

After the temples have been secured to the frames, the pair of sunglasses is almost complete! The final step is crafting and installing the lenses.

How are Sunglass Lenses Made?

Once the sunglass frames and temples are made, it is time to create the lenses! Sunglass lenses are made in six simple steps beginning with molten plastic and ending with a fully assembled pair of sunglasses!

  1. Step 1: Add Colorant
  2. Step 2: Create Lens Shape
  3. Step 3: Create Curve
  4. Step 4: Trim Lenses
  5. Step 5: Coat Lenses
  6. Step 6: Insert Lenses into Frames
  1. Step 1
    Step 1

    Add Colorant

    Colorant is added in one of two ways, by adding color to molten lens material, or by chemically coating finished lenses.

  2. Step 2
    Step 2

    Create Lens Shape

    Molten plastic is cast into a mold to create a general lens shape such as round, square, or cat eye.

  3. Step 3
    Step 3

    Create Curve

    The lens is put in a curve generator that grinds out the back of the lens.

  4. Step 4
    Step 4

    Trim Lenses

    An edge grinder is used to shave the lenses into the shape of the frames.

  5. Step 5
    Step 5

    Coat Lenses

    Lenses are coated with anti-reflective material using a vacuum.

  6. Step 6
    Step 6

    Insert Lenses into Frames

    Finished lenses are snapped into the grooves of the frames.

Lenses are the most important part of sunglasses because they protect your eyes from UV rays. Made in different colors and shapes, sunglass lenses play a vital role in preventing long and short term damage to your eyes from sunlight.

What Material are Sunglass Lenses Made From?

Sunglasses lenses are most popularly made from plastic or polycarbonate. Plastic is the most used lens material because it is thin and lightweight. While polycarbonate is technically a type of plastic, it is far more durable than regular organic plastic. Check out the key differences between these two lens materials below:

Plastic Pros

  • Cost-effective
  • Not likely to fog

Plastic Cons

  • Can scratch easily
  • Can snap and break easily
  • Can be flimsy

Polycarbonate Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Impact resistant
  • Stronger than plastic

Plastic Cons

  • Can scratch easily
  • Can snap and break easily
  • Can be flimsy

Polycarbonate Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Impact resistant
  • Stronger than plastic

Polycarbonate Cons

  • Can scratch easily

Deciding which lens material is best for your sunglasses is ultimately a personal choice. Be sure to consider all factors like what you’ll be doing while wearing your sunglasses to ensure you make the best decision.

See how sunglasses are made firsthand in this video

The Bottom Line

You probably never thought much about how your sunglasses are made. There are several steps that go into creating the perfect pair of shades from raw material to the finished product. Sunglasses are an item we utilize nearly every day, so next time you put a pair on before heading outside, appreciate the work that went into creating them!

References

Bedinghaus, T. (2018, September 4). Sunglasses Frame Materials and Styles. Retrieved May 10, 2019, from
https://www.verywellhealth.com/sunglass-frames-3422125

Heiting, G. (2018, August 20). How to Choose the Best Lenses for Your Glasses. May 13, 2019, from
https://www.allaboutvision.com/lenses/how-to-choose.htm

How Products are Made (2019). Eyeglass Frame. Retrieved May 13, 2019, from
http://www.madehow.com/Volume-5/Eyeglass-Frame.html

How Products are Made (2019). Sunglasses. Retrieved May 15, 2019, from
http://www.madehow.com/Volume-3/Sunglasses.html