How are you coping in Oyonnax, the castle of glasses?

It is difficult to see the acetate supply clearly in Plastic Valley. This essential ingredient for the manufacture of eyeglass frames has been difficult to find since the health crisis. However, one company decided to restart production.

Acetate shortage: How are we in Oyonnax, the stronghold of glasses? All industries have suffered from a lack of raw materials since the health crisis. Eyewear manufacturers are no exception to the trend.

Acetate lenses require manual expertise, from cutting to finishing. The leaders of this market are the French and Italians. This material is one of the components of frames and temples. Even cellulose acetate is a basic spectacle. It is a historical material used in Oyonnax since the 19th century. It is a material that is soft to the touch, but also known for its strength and flexibility. Does not cause allergies. It also does not need to be varnished.

HE IS highly valued by “handmade” professionals, especially eyeglasses. This material is used to make frames and temples. But it is rare in the market. Scarcity slows down activity. “When we start production of a model, we can’t deliver when two of the four colors are missing. When an optician orders one color, they don’t want another color. You adapt, it should manage”, Explain Fabrice Poncet, eyewear manufacturer in Oyonnax.

In Oyonnax, some companies are having trouble making deliveries. An acetate order from China may take up to 8 weeks to ship to Gex country, mainly due to the saturation of international shipping. The result: The activities of some eyeglass manufacturers are severely penalized. Another consequence of this deficiency: over global acetate marketprices continue to climb, 3% 202one and 10% in 2022nd.

So Fabrice Poncet makes reservations as soon as possible to see this coming. It even built up a real small war stock. “must be between 40 and 42 tons” explains the spectacle manufacturer.

But the professional also has a new source of supply. is local: a The company in Plastics Vallée takes over acetate production. A few kilometers from the eyewear manufacturer, still in Oyonnax territory, the last cellulose acetate factory in France was born, one of the few factories in Europe.

“In the past, acetate was made from cotton, now it is wood. We will recycle this wood pulp, mix it with a plasticizer. The latter can be of natural origin – linseed oil, castor oil – or petroleum-based.Explains Alexis Convert, Managing Director of the company “Décoracet”.

The acetate business has almost disappeared in France

Alexis Convert

General Manager “Decoracet”

According to the entrepreneur, if acetate production was abandoned in France after the war, it was mainly due to the arrival of petroleum materials. The latter had more interesting properties in terms of plasticity, being more amenable to conversion processes such as injection, thermoforming or even thermomolding. The price controversy also played a role in the dethronement of cellulose acetate in France.

Factors like acetate shortages, tensions in the eyeglasses market… so many new opportunities for this small company with less than ten employees. Alexis Convert is constantly being addressed by new customers. And the future looks pretty bright for SMB: “It’ll be useful for a while. If someone decides to remake cellulose acetate today, it’s a pretty heavy industrial process. It’s a very precise job.”. Creating a business in this industry doesn’t happen overnight, explains the executive. “Very heavy investment” it indicates. One downside: tensions in the more expensive and rarer pulp market.

The small Indian acetate producer is not ready to compete with China for now. But studies at the back of the factory show that a turnaround is being negotiated.