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VOL. 132 | NO. 155 | Monday, August 7, 2017

American Paper Optics, St. Jude Promote Safe Solar Eclipse

By Michael Waddell

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In anticipation of the historic solar eclipse Aug. 21, Bartlett-based American Paper Optics (APO) is partnering with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to educate the public on safe solar eclipse viewing.

APO, the world’s largest manufacturer of 3-D glasses, has created exclusive St. Jude solar eclipse glasses, and 50 percent of the proceeds of each 10-pack of glasses sold will be donated back to the hospital.

"This is an extremely rare opportunity for hundreds of millions of people to see something they’ve never seen before,” said APO president and CEO John Jerit.

Demand for the sun-safe glasses has grown so much the past two months, APO had to ramped up the staff at its Bartlett manufacturing facility from 35 employees to 75.

Employees prepare solar eclipse glasses for shipping at the American Paper Optics factory in Bartlett, Tenn., on Wednesday, June 21, 2017. Staring at the sun during an eclipse _ or anytime _ can cause eye damage. The only safe way is to protect your eyes with special filters in glasses or other devices. (AP Photo File/Adrian Sainz)

The company anticipates selling as many as 100 million pairs of the St. Jude glasses and is more than halfway to that goal. In the past few weeks, orders have increased from 100 per day to more than 600 per day.

“For the last two years, we have been engaged with large corporations and organizations across the U.S., all wanting to capitalize on the event,” said Paulo Aur, chief financial officer at APO. “This could not be a busier time for us, and we are extremely excited to be part of history.”

More than 300 million people are expected to view the eclipse, and 100 million people are estimated to be traveling to various areas across the U.S. where the total eclipse will be most pronounced, like in Nashville, Tennessee. The eclipse’s path will stretch from Salem, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina.

In the partnership with St. Jude, patients inspired the art for the exclusive solar eclipse glasses. The glasses are interactive and can be colored in, allowing children to create their own original pair of viewing glasses.

“These glasses not only support the mission of St. Jude, but the art was creatively inspired by the hospital’s amazing patients,” Jerit said. “When we received the artwork, we simply translated St. Jude’s vision into an actual pair of glasses that any child or adult can use to safely watch the upcoming eclipse. It’s so easy to give back to an institution like St. Jude that continually gives so much to others.”

While the eclipse is making all the headlines and driving demand right now at American Paper Optics, the company has come a long way since its founding in 1990.

APO has manufactured more than 2 billion paper 3-D glasses, with a variety of frame styles, specialty optics, full-color printing, and intricate die-cutting capabilities.

3-D business across the country spiked when “Avatar” was released in 2009, and toy, gaming, magazine and television companies raced to get 3-D products out into the market to capitalize on the hot trend (part of the “Avatar Effect” within the industry). Around that time, APO did a Super Bowl-related job involving the “Monsters vs. Aliens” movie for 135 million pairs of glasses.

APO also manufactured more than 60 million 3-D glasses using multiple lens technologies to be included in DVDs and Blu-rays for movies like “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” “Jonas Brothers 3-D,” “Coraline,” “My Bloody Valentine” and “Final Destination.”

In 2010, APO manufactured 14 million 3-D glasses in less than three weeks for one TV event – a 3-D Michael Jackson tribute during the Grammy Awards.

While the popularity of home 3-D use has cooled somewhat in the years since then, APO still does a large amount of business with theaters, amusement parks, magazines and other companies and organizations.

APO’s solar eclipse glasses are touted as being more than 1,000 times more protective than a pair of actual sunglasses, with two-millimeter, scratch-resistant black polymer lenses filtering out all of the harmful ultraviolet and infrared rays.

“Sunglasses are not sufficient, even double sunglasses are not sufficient, for viewing an eclipse,” said Dr. James C. Fleming with the UT Hamilton Eye Institute in Memphis. “Do not try to construct a set of glasses to watch the sun. One should be very careful to use the appropriate visual protection.

“The eye focuses light on the back of the eye and intense, continued observation of the sun causes a burn in the retina, specifically an area called the fovea. If burned long enough and hard enough there is permanent damage to the center vision of the eye,” Fleming said. “If the damage is less severe, it may cause swelling that resolves over a few days. That cannot be determined except over a period of time.”

APO has also partnered with Bill Nye the Science Guy on another pair of solar eclipse glasses (paper and plastic versions) that are available year-round.

People in 14 states will be able to see a total solar eclipse (within the “Path of Totality”), while the rest of the country will be able to see a partial eclipse. It’s the first time in 99 years that the eclipse will be viewable across the entire country.

The exclusive St. Jude solar eclipse glasses are only available at the American Paper Optics website (www.eclipseglasses.com/collections/eclipse-glasses-stock/products/st-jude-eclipse-glasses). Each 10-pack is $20.

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