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Old 10-25-2011, 04:36 PM #1
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Cool Profit margins on goggles

I have this suspicion that for most laser eyewear, the profit margins are huge. I also have a theory about why retailers can get away with it. I'm a chemist and have tossed dozens of polycarbonate glasses over the years becuase they cost about a dollar each. Having worked at an optometrist's office, I know that tinting a polycarb lens is cheap (we often didnt even charge for "blue blockers"). A quick dip in a chemical bath, most of which is reused for each batch, will tint your lenses to your hearts' content. Surely tinting a $1 pair of lenses doesnt cost $199.

So it seems the cost arises from the necessity to be CERTAIN that your goggles absorb a given amount at a given wavelength. This is where economies of scale come in. The equipment necessary to test lenses to the low %T needed would cost about $10,000. I am seriously tempted to use the equipment to which I have access to make and test tinted lenses. The devil is in the details of course.

Does anyone have any knowledge of wholesale prices or success at making their own?


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Old 10-25-2011, 05:10 PM #2
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Default Re: Profit margins on goggles

A thin chemical coating on a cheapo polycarbonate lens would burn off very quickly. Many of the crappy ones from China are made that way. The certified goggles are made with specific absorptive dyes embedded into the polycarbonate itself and certified to provide their stated level of protection.

I've tried cheap yellow filter goggles and they melted quickly and did not provide much protection. What you can try and do is make your own goggles through the methods you've described and see how they fare. In the end, if they protect you that's what matters right? You'll probably start charging about the same prices as the other places after dropping $10k on the machinery to test it with.
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Old 10-25-2011, 05:16 PM #3
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Default Re: Profit margins on goggles

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Originally Posted by Bionic-Badger View Post
A thin chemical coating on a cheapo polycarbonate lens would burn off very quickly. Many of the crappy ones from China are made that way. The certified goggles are made with specific absorptive dyes embedded into the polycarbonate itself and certified to provide their stated level of protection.

I've tried cheap yellow filter goggles and they melted quickly and did not provide much protection. What you can try and do is make your own goggles through the methods you've described and see how they fare. In the end, if they protect you that's what matters right? You'll probably start charging about the same prices as the other places after dropping $10k on the machinery to test it with.
If he has access to the equipment for free than why not... Someone else already dropped the $10k on it and are probably recouping it in whatever business they are in selling overpriced whatever...

The same way that glasses frames companies can charge $300 for 50 cents worth of twisted copper wire and a bit of plastic.

What it costs to make it is irrelevant.
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Old 10-25-2011, 07:18 PM #4
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Default Re: Profit margins on goggles

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Originally Posted by Guyfromhe View Post
If he has access to the equipment for free than why not... Someone else already dropped the $10k on it and are probably recouping it in whatever business they are in selling overpriced whatever...

The same way that glasses frames companies can charge $300 for 50 cents worth of twisted copper wire and a bit of plastic.

What it costs to make it is irrelevant.
And the same way Apple can charge us 1999$ for a computer equivalent to a 500$ PC.
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Old 10-25-2011, 08:08 PM #5
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Default Re: Profit margins on goggles

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Originally Posted by Bionic-Badger View Post
A thin chemical coating on a cheapo polycarbonate lens would burn off very quickly. Many of the crappy ones from China are made that way. The certified goggles are made with specific absorptive dyes embedded into the polycarbonate itself and certified to provide their stated level of protection.
Are you sure?

I've got a number of really cheap goggles, and I could swear the filter/dye/tint is inherent in the plastic itself, not just something on the surface.
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SAFETY & IMPORTANT READING (threads authored and contributed to by various members of LPF):
- Federal Aviation Administration - Laser Safety Initiative (link)
- Info release from Laserglow - Default Canadian restrictions on portable lasers (link)
- The Necessity of Safety Goggles (link)

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Old 10-25-2011, 08:39 PM #6
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Default Re: Profit margins on goggles

Quote:
Originally Posted by sdistin View Post
I have this suspicion that for most laser eyewear, the profit margins are huge. I also have a theory about why retailers can get away with it. I'm a chemist and have tossed dozens of polycarbonate glasses over the years becuase they cost about a dollar each. Having worked at an optometrist's office, I know that tinting a polycarb lens is cheap (we often didnt even charge for "blue blockers"). A quick dip in a chemical bath, most of which is reused for each batch, will tint your lenses to your hearts' content. Surely tinting a $1 pair of lenses doesnt cost $199.

So it seems the cost arises from the necessity to be CERTAIN that your goggles absorb a given amount at a given wavelength. This is where economies of scale come in. The equipment necessary to test lenses to the low %T needed would cost about $10,000. I am seriously tempted to use the equipment to which I have access to make and test tinted lenses. The devil is in the details of course.

Does anyone have any knowledge of wholesale prices or success at making their own?
What equipment do you have to test these "homemade Safety
Goggles
" in the wavelengths that are needed... say from 300nm
to 1200nm... and from 100mW to 2Watts...

Quote:
Originally Posted by rhd View Post
Are you sure?

I've got a number of really cheap goggles, and I could swear the filter/dye/tint is inherent in the plastic itself, not just something on the surface.
That's exactly what BB said... while responding to the
OP's tinting speculations...


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Old 10-26-2011, 12:04 AM #7
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Default Re: Profit margins on goggles

The pigment is all the way through the plastic, even on $20 o-like safety goggles. Just having a protective coating on the surface would be downright mad - one scratch in that would leave a gaping hole though which you could shoot your eye blind with any laser of serious power.

As far as profit margins go, however, prices for goggles of equal performance vary wildly.

I'm sure these things dont cost more than $1 in materials to make, but the market is much smaller than that for impact/chemical protective goggles. Those can be bought as disposables, and even the most flimsy ones will probably stop a splat from a chemical experiment from reaching your eye.
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Old 10-26-2011, 12:48 AM #8
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Default Re: Profit margins on goggles

when i have looked into testing of laser safety eyewear, i have found a few things. To get it certified asni or ce (europe etc) a company has to use a third party that has the certification/license to test glasses and certify them. I think having one company make and test their product can be a conflict of interest. How many car specs are exactly right when comes to fuel mileage, 0-60 speed, etc.? One such company that does this required 15 pairs of glasses at least, and mucho dinero i think they quoted me $15 grand. Also, there are tinted glasses made out of glass and poss. polycarbonate, that are quite expensive, i believe more of reflective than abortive protection (something i dont think you can scratch with a finger nail). So one way to sell cheaper goggles is not to get certified even if they are great, though i dont have as much confidence in them.

I am curious what equipment you can use? I would imagine all together the testing equipment would be well over $10k. tell me and laserbee what you got. i am interested in this subject.

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Old 10-26-2011, 03:15 AM #9
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Default Re: Profit margins on goggles

There are certain costs associated with running a business. Everyone is familiar with the common business costs. There are other costs that must be factored in when working with safety equipment. For laser protective eyewear there are the initial costs of dye development by someone like sdistin. If you have an in-house chemist then you really have very high initial development costs that get recouped over time. If you use commercially available photo dyes that are patented you pay a good fee for purchasing them or a licensing fee to produce the dyes. Next you purchase the filter molds so you can injection mold your lenses. Generally these run about $75000 each. Don't forget the actual injection mold machines. The molds are spec'd to meet specific engineered curvatures (optical engineering costs) that eliminate distortion across the curvature of the filter. You also have to cover the costs of the molds if you mold your own frames and frame components. You now have the capability produce eye wear but now you have to have every single combination of filter and frame tested to meet EN207/208 standards. You are given a report and tweak and have retested to meet your goal for the eye wear. You then need to etch the specifications onto the lenses with a laser etching system or ink marking system. These are just some of the costs for real protective eye wear. For moderate distribution you can figure salaries and benefits to about 2-3 injection mold operators, 3-5 marking and packaging personnel, a staff chemist for new filters, a couple of managers, 5 sales staff, 1-2 inventory specialists, plus other support employees. Now you have to cover potential costs from law suits because they are safety equipment so insurance costs are built into each pair. That's just a small amount of the costs associated with REAL SAFETY equipment.

If you don't want a real pair don't buy a real pair. Buy a pair from someone claiming they work with no real testing behind them. LPMs do not count. You should see the equipment they use for real testing. When a pair fails you because the manufacturing consistency of the dyes change because what you have is designed for Z87 protection, not Z136 who are you going to go after? The manufacturer? The person who claimed they work for the laser? Real companies have to worry about safety liability because they have real safety equipment. Individuals don't worry until they are in the middle of the lawsuit. That is why REAL eye protection is expensive. The lasers you guys play with are tinker toys compared to the lasers the big boys play with. The filters are engineered for real laser applications not for hobby lasers.

What bothers me most about safety equipment is that lasers are willfully imported against the law with every customs trick in the book utilized to get them through to the buyer. If the laser manufacturer is willing to lie, cheat and steal to make an illegal sale to you what makes you think their laser eye protection meets any standards they claim or will protect you to any degree? Who are you going to complain to? Who are you going to sue? Once the damage is done it's too late.
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Old 10-26-2011, 07:48 AM #10
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Default Re: Profit margins on goggles

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Originally Posted by rhd View Post
Are you sure?

I've got a number of really cheap goggles, and I could swear the filter/dye/tint is inherent in the plastic itself, not just something on the surface.
Not all of them. It used to be just those red laser enhancement goggles, and then some "coated" goggles that just didn't cut the mustard. Now there are more of those dye-based lenses.

It still holds that just dumping some goggles in some chemical bath will just put a thin layer on the goggles, not inherently embedded into the plastic.
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Old 10-26-2011, 02:39 PM #11
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Default Re: Profit margins on goggles

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lots of text
Agreed!

EN207 isn't just some standard that says it should have a high enough OD, you need to do damage testing in various ways. The list of required properties for laser safety eyewear is quite long, and every aspect needs to be checked. All lot it needed to get laser safety eyewear properly certified. Ususally every batch of filters is traceable down to the manufactor of the material. A lot of quality checking is necessary to be able to guarantee consistent results.
And designing it would be an even bigger challenge or you would end up with nothing working.

Nice example: at my university I used 700 euro goggles, rated at 800nm M L10 (Laservision 018.T0048.00). Damage testing those requires a 150 J/cm^2 femtosecond laser.
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Old 10-29-2011, 03:31 PM #12
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Default Re: Profit margins on goggles

I wonder the same thing. Especially as the red coloured goggles are for sale for €1 where I live. Other colours (yellow and dark blue) too but I am not sure wether they block lasers too

They look identical to the ones Focalprice sells, and they let no visible green pass (when I shine through the goggles on a surface, I see no dot and when I'm wearing it a very dim, yellowish dot. Camera only shows some IR). Not sure about 405nm.
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Old 10-29-2011, 04:06 PM #13
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Default Re: Profit margins on goggles

The thicker red laser enhancement goggles do work for 532nm and to some extent 445nm, but that's more by mistake than by design. They also block a lot of light in general that makes it hard to see things (I prefer other goggles for that reason). No IR blocking. Even though they work for green, I don't like those red goggles for the reasons above and a pair of goggles is only good if you want to wear them.
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Old 10-31-2011, 08:20 AM #14
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Default Re: Profit margins on goggles

@ stekelzak: where could you get them for 1 euro?

I have a pair from focalprice, I'm going to do a review about a series of safety goggles including damage testing. I'm currently building a 4W 445nm laser for that. My initial impression of the focal price goggles is that they are extremely cheap made, I don't think they will last long.
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Last edited by Bluefan; 10-31-2011 at 08:21 AM.
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Old 10-31-2011, 11:49 AM #15
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Default Re: Profit margins on goggles

@Bluefan; At van Cranenbroek (Dongen, if it matters). They are near the welding equipment/goggles.
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Old 11-01-2011, 01:30 PM #16
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Default Re: Profit margins on goggles

Quote:
Originally Posted by FrothyChimp View Post
If you don't want a real pair don't buy a real pair.
I guess that sums up the entire issue with certification.

Also, just selling something as certified increases the price, since the vendor will be liable when the product malfunctions. If someone ends up blind due to some defect, this will be a pretty expensive ordeal, and corporate insurance premiums reflect those risks.

I'm not totally sure what the expected lifetime of safety glasses is, but i can imagine it is decades. So for every pair of certified goggles sold, there are decades of potential liability for the vendor.

I'd be interested to see how much of the price of a certified pair is actually insurance - i wouldnt be surprised if this is the majority of the product cost.
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