Williston company manufactures high-tech eyewear for U.S. Army

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(Host) From high-tech helmets to motion-tracking devices, Vermont companies are involved in producing some of the modern equipment of war. One of the latest pieces of gear is highly durable, protective eyewear, produced in Williston.

VPR’s Lynne McCrea reports.

“You’ll hear a series of beeps. Three seconds after that, the projectile will fire…”

(McCrea) Shawn Therrien is an engineering technician at Revision Eyewear. He’s in the testing lab, with equipment that can simulate what will happen when a bullet is shot at different types of protective eyewear.

(Therrien) “What we have here is a standardized head form, it’s a hard rubber head form, that we can mount into a protective clear ballistic chamber, so to speak. It’s kind of like a cage. It also uses a series of valves, it uses compressed helium similar to what you blow up party balloons with, to actually push the projectile down the barrel.”

(McCrea) Computer software then shows what the speed of the projectile is, as it hits the eyewear.

(McCrea) “What are you going to test here?”
(Therrien) “This is a pair of our goggles called Desert Locust, and in this demo for you, we’re using a simulated 22-caliber bullet. We’ll be shooting at the U.S. army specified standard velocity, which is 560 feet per second.”

(McCrea) Therrien warns everyone in the lab of the loud noise about to come.

(Sound: “Beep… beep… beep…BANG.”)

(McCrea) As expected, these goggles pass the test. The president of Revision Eyewear, Jonathon Blanshay, says it takes a fairly complex design to meet military standards.

(Blanshay) “This is not stuff that’s designed for industrial use. This has to meet some severe ballistic testing. The lens must not shatter or deteriorate or allow penetration. So that’s a function of what the material is, how thick it is, what kind of coatings it has, how good your mold is – a whole number of things that go into making a better mousetrap.”

(McCrea) Blanshay says his company has sold about 90,000 pairs of eyewear worn by soldiers in Iraq and Aghanistan, and he knows of several instances where it saved soldiers’ eyes.

Revision Eyewear is based in Montreal and set up its operation in Vermont just over a year ago. Blanshay says that, given the amount of money the military is spending on the war in Iraq, companies like his are doing well.

(Blanshay) “And, particularly in our case or companies like us, it almost doesn’t matter what side of the debate you’re on – pro or con – we’re providing protection. And protecting soldiers can only be a good thing.”

(McCrea) That protection comes in the form of a complex design of eyewear, involving special coatings and processes that are constantly tweaked and tested.

For VPR news, I’m Lynne McCrea.

(Host) Staffing at the Williston facility is expected to expand now that the company has a new $4 million contract with the U.S. Army to produce more than 100,000 pairs of ballistic eyewear.

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