The 3D-printing technology revolution amazes us daily with stories of artificial limbs being printed for those who have lost theirs, houses that can be produced quickly and easily with less effort and at a lower cost than ever before, and a host of other products that until just recently had to be manufactured in more traditional ways. This technology is so user-friendly that these developments have sometimes been accomplished simply by students equipped with only a computer, the necessary software and an off-the-shelf 3D printer.

Quickly advancing from research and development to practical application, 3D printing will surely become a ubiquitous, disruptive force throughout many professions.

In the world of eyewear, after first being used to speed up the frame design prototyping process, 3D printing has quickly graduated to the point where now a number of companies are already using the technology to actually print final products for sale to end users (see page 30). It’s become so advanced that some companies can even use a tablet to capture three-dimensional images of a patient’s face, electronically deliver that information to the manufacturer and automatically print out a perfectly customized frame.

Now, the eyewear business is leaping forward into a new dimension by 3D printing lenses. This latest development in 3D printing technology allows for the automated manufacturing of specialty lenses (see Noteworthy page 22). Using a printer head that deposits about a billion droplets of a proprietary UV-curable acrylic material, operators can print Rx lenses.

The customization capable when using 3D printing to produce frames and lenses will surely lead to this technology one day becoming the norm rather than the exception.

I remain convinced that as technology advances exponentially and new developments reach end users increasingly faster, that someday there will be Rx eyeglass vending kiosks in public places that will refract you automatically, allow you to select a flattering frame using 3D virtual try-on imagery, then implement 3D printing to produce a complete pair of eyeglasses. That day will be here sooner than we know it.

email me at JS@VisionCareProducts.com


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