Younger, one of the three companies that are using PPG Industries' new Trivex material for lenses, is beginning to introduce it in Europe gradually. The US company, which manufactures semi-finished blanks in the new material under the Trilogy brand name at its large facility in California, has signed up two labs in France and Germany and it's conducting tests with about 20 others in Europe.

The first French partner is Novacel, a large independent lab that has been working with the US firm for one and a half years already. Novacel, which also has a large facility of its own in Asia, started selling Trilogy lenses on Oct. 1 after 3 months of tests which showed that none of the lenses broke when they were adapted for 3-piece drill mounts, unlike those using other organic materials. The tests also showed that lenses made out of Trivex were better suited for dip-coating, making them more abrasion-resistant than spin-coated lenses.

Novacel, an 8-year-old lab that processes and sells more than 2 million lenses annually to some 2,500 French opticians, believes that Trivex will become a strong alternative to regular polycarbonate, which is already well-established in France thanks to Essilor's sales efforts in this domain. The lab is offering now in France the same Trivex-based aspheric single-vision lenses with a 9-base curve that Younger has been selling in the USA, semi-finished, since last July. Like Younger, it's proposing also a progressive design, called Image in the USA, and the photochromic Transitions variant, starting this month.

In Germany, where polycarbonate lens are a rare commodity, Younger's new European sales manager, Angelika Fällgren, has also signed up an unidentified German lab, said to be based in Berlin, on a non-exclusive basis for Trivex lenses. Germany is the only European country where Hoya has started to sell its own version of Trivex, called Phoenix, but it's not clear whether the Japanese firm is going to extend the distribution to other parts of the continent anytime soon.

Hoya began using Trivex on progressive lenses in Japan in early 2001, with its own US labs following in mid-2001. In both countries, Hoya added the Transitions version of Phoenix last May and it's going to introduce bifocals at the end of this year. Apparently, the demand for these products has been higher than expected for Hoya in the USA, in spite of a 15 percent price premium over polycarbonate, making it difficult to allocate extra capacity for Europe.

PPG's deliveries of Trivex are growing monthly, and the new material has come to represent already well over 1 percent of the total American organic lens market. A new major client with a big OEM production capacity, Thai Polymers, should be announced very shortly. PPG's only other client for Trivex at the moment is Summit ECP, a US company with a Thai factory for blanks that introduced the material on its own progressive lenses at the beginning of this year.