New for October, Oakley will debut three frames—seen first here at PM—aimed to appeal to those who love everything tech. The company is creating its first sunglasses with a screwless hinge, molding new frames from carbon fiber, and playing with flat metal design to create new processes for manufacturing.
"The guys who appreciate science or tech or are into materials or cars will see the detail," says Declan Lonergan, Oakley's men's sun manager.
The new TinCan Carbon and TinFoil Carbon offerings show off these new features, none more dramatic than the hollow-point hinge. The hubless hinge looks like a halo, pivoting on itself, with the pressure and movement spread over 360 degrees. Without a pin, the hubless hinge moves smoothly and the cam action rotating mechanism embedded in the hinge never loosens or wears out. (Think of the Tron: Legacy hubless design where the wheels of the bike are hollow.)
"When you look at a hubless hinge on a motorcycle, it is very large," Lonergan says. "To actually replicate that in a hinge in millimeters—not even centimeters or inches—it is extremely difficult to do. It gives engineers an enormous amount of challenges because it is so small."
To showcase the hinge, Oakley went away from its traditional wire frames made from a combination of five metals and instead used flat metals and carbon fiber to enhance the look. Both the TinCan and TinFoil use stainless steel—a first for Oakley—and pure carbon fiber. Traditional Oakley stems have a rounded 3D sculpture effect, but to keep up with the effort to challenge engineers, the steel's more streamlined, flat style has "twists and turns and some design detail."
While carbon fiber has grown in popularity in performance products for years, it has proved sparse in the eyewear industry. This is Oakley's third sortie into the product as the company embraces the lightweight and flexible material while enjoying the premium looks fiber offers.
"Carbon fiber is a new direction, a new platform," Lonergan says. "[But] it is very, very difficult to put on glasses," Lonergan says. The carbon versions TinCan and TinFoil were projects more than 18 months in the making, and a new carbon-fiber piece for 2015 is already well in the works.
As carbon fiber has evolved at Oakley, so has the manufacturing process. The first effort, a limited-edition release, was a CNC block of carbon fiber. The second, called Jupiter Carbon, launched this April with sculpted carbon fiber that was then heated and molded to form a frame. The carbon TinCan and TinFoil efforts for October offer layers of carbon laid flat and then cut, bonded, and sealed.
Another October release, the new Sliver F, is Oakley's first foldable frame. The stems fold in on themselves with a spring-loaded piston hinge instead of folding into the middle, so as to not compromise the optical alignment.
But more than folding, Oakley wanted to go light (thus the name sliver). The nylon-based NanOmatter material comes out 30 percent lighter than a traditional Oakley frame because engineers used a higher temperature and much heavier pressure during the injection molding process. "The outcome is basically a much thinner cross section of material," Lonergan says.
Come October Oakley's celebration of engineering comes fully designed. And shaded.
Tim Newcomb covers sports and infrastructure for Seniorhelpline. Follow him on Twitter at .