3D Printed Glasses

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3D Printed Glasses might be the future…

3D printing has been around a while now, but it still feels like the technology is finding its place in the world. It’s extremely useful in prototyping as you can quickly and cheaply manufacture different iterations of a design, yet there are surprisingly few mass-market finished products that are made using 3D printing.

The 3D printing process can be broken down into 4 steps.

This is likely because finished 3D printed products don’t always feel, well, finished. The term “rough around the edges” springs to mind. 3D printing, while novel, doesn’t necessarily mean better quality.

3D Printing is used in prototyping the Nike Vapor HyperAgility Cleat, but not in the manufacture.

As the first 3D printed glasses are starting to emerge, it’s interesting to ask the question – are they here to stay? Or is this just our industry riding on the bandwagon of the latest buzzword?

In our most recent video we looked at a new range of 3D printed frames from established French designer Face a Face called Alium Lab. Click the thumbnail below to watch that video.

One of the most remarkable aspects about 3D printing is the use of a material called Polyamide, which is both strong and lightweight. Because of this, designers can produce bold, stylish glasses which are incredibly comfortable to wear and durable.

3D printing allows the manufacture of unbelievably lightweight frames.

But are they better than a regular pair of glasses? It depends. They are undoubtedly superior to a cheap plastic or metal frame. But I don’t think they are necessarily better than a hand-made bespoke frame made using conventional methods at the same price point.

For example, in the video above I also looked at Porsche Design’s latest releases, and for similar money I think they are equally as good or better in some respects (they are in fact lighter than the 3D printed frames and incorporate a more innovative hinge mechanism). There’s also the question of long-term reliability – we just don’t know how Polyamide will stand up to the test of time when worn everyday on someone’s face for a number of years.

Custom-made eyewear using 3D Printing

Where 3D printing technology should find its niche is in its ability to produce one-off pieces made individually for a person. For example, hearing aids can be made using this method to fit to someone’s ear much better than a conventional one.

One of the biggest challenges in choosing new glasses can be finding ones which fit well, and often there is a compromise between the style you want and the frames which are actually the most comfortable.

That could be a thing of the past thanks to 3D printing. You could potentially have any style you like made bespoke to your size.

Yuniku was the first system to market to produce entirely bespoke 3D printed frames.

The first system to bring this idea to market was Hoya’s Yuniku technology, which also incorporated the brilliant concept of having the lenses positioned ideally in front of the eyes regardless of the style you choose (this is really important in getting the best vision with your glasses).

We passed up on the opportunity to adopt Yuniku technology as we didn’t feel the quality of the finished frames matched their price-tag. However we are looking forward to receiving our Zeiss Visufit 1000 sometime next year, which may prove to be the best solution to making bespoke glasses.

The Zeiss Visufit 1000 uses 9 different cameras simultaneously

The Zeiss Visufit 1000 is capable of performing a 3D scan of the face, and we’re hoping that frame manufacturers of the quality of Face a Face will partner with Zeiss to make either high quality or lower cost 3D printed bespoke frames a reality in the future.

Will this be the future of being fitted for new glasses?

Frustratingly, the future isn’t here yet. This technology is in its infancy still and a long way from becoming the norm. But in our fast-changing society, who knows just how quickly 3D printing will overtake conventional manufacturing methods, not only in the eyewear industry but in others as well.

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