This website has been archived and is no longer updated.

The content featured is no longer current and is being made available to the general public for research and historical information purposes only.
About Students and teacherslinks and references Australia Innovates
A century of innovationThe Innovation cycleThe innovation game
The best of the century What is innovation? Overview Timeline Test your AIQ
Sola plastic lenses
scratch-resistant plastic lens for glasses

Sola Optical, based in Adelaide, is the world's largest producer of prescription plastic spectacle lenses. Their success is based on an important innovation that began in the 1950s. After much experimenting, scientists at Adelaide University discovered ways of casting a new thermosetting plastic resin called CR39 into an accurate shape and then how to cure the plastic to make it resistant to scratches.

Based on this work the company developed the first plastic bifocal, trifocal and progressive focus lenses. (Bifocals have two focal lengths, for looking at objects at different distances away. Progressive lenses are similar, except that they provide a smooth transition between different focal lengths).

There was soon a worldwide trend to plastic spectacle lenses as people realised how light and safe their glasses could be.

In 1968 Sola Optical expanded into Japan, followed by UK, Italy, the USA and Brazil. Between 1967 and 1976, Sola won three export awards and joined an elite group of only five companies to hold this honour.

Sola Optical was sold to British interests in 1979 and to AEA Investors Inc. in 1993. The company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1995. One of the two research and development centres for the company operates in South Australia.

At the end of the century Sola International had 20 manufacturing facilities in countries all around the globe and was one of the world?s largest manufacturers of optical lenses.

Who Did It?
Key Organisations
Sola Optical Laboratories of Australia : R&D, manufacture
Key People
Tom Kuraschef : researcher
Donald Schultz : research leader
Ron Ewer : researcher
Noel Roscrow, AM : managing director, Sola Optical

Further Reading
'Business leader of the year: John Bastian --- Sola Optical'
Tony Thomas
Business Review Weekly, 30 November 1990, pp 52-53.

Sola Optical Australia
Sola International

Questions & Activities
Sola plastic lenses

Sola lenses are being removed from the oven. They are baked in the oven to make the resin set. Courtesy Sola Optical Australia.
Staff are trained to make sure that each lens is up to standard. Courtesy Sola Optical Australia.
ATSE Powerhouse Museum