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Newcastle manufacturer on frontline after Defence grant

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Newcastle manufacturer Frontline Safety Australia is the first to produce an Aussie-made batch of protective eyewear that will be worn by defence personnel. 

The Carrington-based business has produced 6,000 units of its Ballistic Laser Ocular Protection System (BLOPS) eyewear, manufactured at its Fitzroy Street address. 

A team of 18 are behind the hi-tech production equipment and safety testing systems that secured the Australian Defence industry contract in 2023. 

“Ballistic eyewear is around four times stronger than normal safety eyewear and protects the wearer from high velocity fragments and projectiles,” says director product development John Hoffman.

“Our hi-tech lens cutting machine is the only one in Australia capable of cutting ballistic eyewear.

“The current in-service BLOPS model is the Wiley X Vapor Three Lens System which features polarised lenses, custom laser lenses, helmet-eyewear integration, and capability for prescription lenses.”

CEO Jenny Hoffman says government backing enabled the family-run firm to upgrade its design, production, quality and testing systems, to produce the specialist product. 

Last year Frontline was awarded a $500,000 grant under the federal government’s Sovereign Industrial Capability Priority program which funded an investment in machinery for precision lens cutting, high velocity and high mass ballistic testing, and optical clarity and conformance testing. 

“We have had an opportunity to do what hasn’t been done before, allowing us to develop considerable capability and know-how that’s resulted in a world-class manufacturing practice,” Jenny says. 

“Up until now we have had to import the complete product, risking supply and timing disruptions.  

 “This recent investment means we’ll be able to fully manufacture 100% of the protective eyewear components in Australia before the end of year.” 

 In 2024 Frontline marks 25 years since Jenny, and husband and co-founder John Hoffman, identified a need to supply quality protective gear for police officers, first responders and other safety and rescue personnel needing specific products and workwear. 

The company started its supply operation in 2000 before becoming the exclusive Australian importer and distributor for Wiley X protective eyewear in 2004.  

Jenny and John Hoffman – founders of Frontline Safety Australia

Frontline also supplies products to the United Nations, Australian Border Force, Australian Federal Police, NSW, VIC, QLD and WA Police, Australian Defence Apparel, and other defence and industry contractors.  

“Despite having a number of opportunities over the years to relocate our company, we’ve stayed committed to keeping Frontline’s supply, and now manufacturing, operations here in Newcastle,” says Jenny. 

“Although only a small set-up we proudly demonstrate that not only can Aussie made be successful, but our products can be world-class when it comes to serving the country’s Defence needs.” 

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