3D printing made its mark on the world of fashion early on, with designers willing to incorporate it in new styles of clothing. As a result, the technology is also being used to create new eyewear. The rapid progress of 3D printing technology and a rise in accessibility means it’s easier than ever to design and create everything from lenses to contacts to frames.
As Sculpteo pointed out in a recent article on the transformative qualities 3D printing has brought to the world of eyewear design and production:
“There is a simple sentence that clearly defines the whole potential of 3D printing when it comes to creation and design: ‘The only limit is your own imagination’. Indeed, this technology allows you to create extremely complex structures, and in some cases, designs that you could not even make come true without 3D printing due to traditional manufacturing constraints.”
The introduction of 3D-printing technology to the comparatively stagnant eyewear industry has opened a broad and exciting mix of possibilities. If executed with precision, this could potentially create a rapid turnaround in the design and production process of glasses and lenses.
From the rather simple and straightforward to the more complex and nuanced, this has given the eyewear industry the power to create truly mesmerising and technologically advanced products that will help the many millions of people who are either short or longsighted.
In 2018, we are currently witnessing the rise of open platforms, like Materialise, where individuals and eyewear companies can come together to explore the myriad ways in which 3D printing technology can help in creating something that is vision-focused, yet brings design and style to the forefront as well.
The eyewear industry has effectively followed in the footsteps of the hearing aid industry, which was the first sector to truly embrace 3D printing technology. It was open platforms, like Materialise which made the concepts of customisation and sophistication the foundation of 3D printing.
These open platforms operate with a system that offers eye care professionals the ability to craft fully customized frames using additive manufacturing.
Democracy in action
Because 3D printing technology is available to consumers as well as commercial businesses, it has democratised the process of printing eyewear. A cursory glance at 3D printing forums reveals an enormous library of How-To and instructional PDFs on ways to 3D print your own eyewear at home.
This in turn has given rise to spontaneous creativity, as seen from the small German company Powder & Heat. As Sam Davies writes in TCT Magazine:
“[Powder & Heat] achieved a ‘coup’ in 3D printed eyewear by bringing to market custom frames with multi-coloured textures.”
It is fascinating to witness this ongoing revolution in an industry that was previously so slow to bring about any technological progress. The next few years will likely see more instances of creativity and design innovation.