When it comes time to buy a new pair of eyeglasses, you may see that many of today’s frames are constructed from acetate and wonder if it’s the same as plastic. Though acetate is a lot like plastic, it’s still a different material and offers its own unique pros and cons.
And while it’s awesome that there are so many styles, colors, and materials from which to choose, picking the right pair of glasses for you can be challenging. Not to worry! We created the following guide that discusses everything you should know about acetate glasses and how to choose a nice pair.
What are Acetate Glasses?
Acetate glasses are frames that are made from, you guessed it, acetate! So, what exactly is acetate? Among the first synthetic fibers ever created, acetate was developed in 1865 by a scientist named Paul Schutzenberge. Following years of research, cellulose acetate was first used to make eyeglass frames in 1940. It’s also known as zylonite or cellulose acetate, and it’s made from cotton and wood pulp.
This innovative and brilliant material has earned a positive reputation due to its strength and stunning colors. Yet acetate is also popular due to its ability to be easily adjusted, allowing it to be used in custom fittings. Eyewear manufacturers and opticians often favor acetate, as it’s easier to work with than other more brittle and problem-prone plastics.
One of the reasons acetate is so different from other types of plastic is due to how it’s made. The manufacturing process for this material creates the unique qualities that make it stand out as a superior material.
As it’s made, clear acetate sheets are combined with acetone and organic dyes to achieve exciting patterns and vibrant colors. This is what makes it such an excellent material for eyewear frames.
Once the colors and patterns are present, large rollers begin to press the acetate before it’s cut into small pieces and processed again using different dyes. This process creates the sheets needed to make acetate glasses frames.
The final steps of the manufacturing process require CNC milling machines to cut the sheets into a rough shape before it is then sent off to a craftsman who polishes the frame and finishes the glasses by hand.
Is Acetate the Same as Plastic?
So, are you still wondering if acetate is the same as plastic glasses frames?
With traditional plastic glass frames, colors and designs are usually sprayed or painted onto the plastic. Because the coloring is a single layer, normal use causes the coloring to fade over time. Hence, traditional plastic frames do not retain the same quality of design that you get from acetate glasses frames.
Alternatively, due to how it’s created, acetate easily holds designs as they are layered into the colored block acetate sheets. Each layer acts as a buffer and works to protect the frame’s original colors. However, acetate can also be used to achieve many more colors and finishes. In fact, by only adding hints of coloring to some layers, clear acetate glasses can be made.
At the end of the day, you’ll find that traditional plastic glasses frames are far less durable and flexible than acetate glasses, making them easier to break under smaller amounts of pressure. So, to answer your question, “Is acetate the same as plastic?” The answer is no, not exactly.
Acetate is considered a plastic-like material that’s made from nylon, making it more flexible, stronger, and longer-lasting than traditional plastic.
Are Acetate Glasses Better Than Plastic?
Acetate frames are extremely lightweight and are mostly considered higher quality and generally better than regular plastic glasses. They’re popular because they are hypoallergenic and perfect for people with sensitive skin. Unlike eyeglass frames made from other plastics or metals, they’re far less likely to cause any skin irritations.
While there are plastic frames on the market that are very high quality, they are usually viewed less favorably than acetate glasses for several reasons. These reasons include:
* The way plastic frames are manufactured makes them much more brittle than acetate glasses frames.
* Pattern choices and colors are less diverse with conventional plastics.
* Plastic eyeglass frames are very hard to adjust because they lack metal wires near the temple.
The only drawback to acetate glasses is that they are always more costly than conventional plastic frames. However, due to the higher quality and better manufacturing process, acetate glasses will last a lot longer than a traditional pair of plastic frames.
Is Acetate a Good Material for Eyeglasses?
For some, a nice pair of plastic frames will serve their purpose. However, in some cases, you need glasses that will hold up to some abuse. Though plastic frames may be a better option for some sporting events, as they are cheaper to replace, as a general rule, acetate glasses frames are the best alternative to metal frames.
Ultimately, it all comes down to personal choice. For some people, they prefer cheap plastic glasses because they are prone to losing or breaking eyewear. However, for others, cheap glasses are a no-go, so opting for a high-performance material such as acetate is ideal.