Three-dimensional printed eyewear enables manufacturers to speed the prototyping process and provides practitioners and their patients with perfectly fit frames.
Additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, is not new. It’s gone from being used solely for prototyping to becoming part of the manufacturing process.
Using this technology presents the opportunity to have eyewear printed on-demand. It takes an image from a digital file and creates layers of that image, giving it three-dimensional features. Picture each layer as a very thin horizontally sliced cross-section. Each of these layers builds from the bottom up to create a three-dimensional object.
For eyewear, 3D printing can be used in two ways. First, it can be used during the prototyping of a product. Creating the product with 3D printing shortens the developmental stages and allows changes to be made more quickly. Also, faces can be scanned and eyewear can be custom designed to fit their exact contours.
ClearVision began using 3D printing in 2013 in its design and prototyping processes. ClearVision uses both FDM and SLA technology (see Glossary on p. 78 for terminology throughout this article). Introducing 3D printing into the manufacturing process has shortened the frame development time by as much as four months. ClearVision collections that use 3D technology include IZOD, Dilli Dalli, Aspire and several new BCBGMAXAZRIA styles. Benefits to the eyecare professional (ECP) as well as the consumer include being able to ensure that interlocking temples work correctly on frames or using feedback regarding specific fitting concerns for pediatric patients. In addition, 3D printing allows for depth, richness and endless color and texture possibilities using multi-layering techniques.
Safilo Group is currently using 3D printing on almost all brands’ prototypes where constructive complexity or constraints exist, especially for styles that will require injection molding or the company’s Optyl material. According to Vladimiro Baldin, chief product design & creation officer, “At Safilo, we use the high-quality PolyJet technology which can mix up to 360,000 colors and uses a UV light to crosslink a photopolymer.” The printer head shoots tiny droplets of the photopolymer in the shape of the first layer which is cured by the UV lamp before moving onto the next layer. The process is repeated until the printing is completed. This technology allows Safilo to produce a range of materials with varying translucency, rigidity, thermal resistance or color.
MYKITA’s MYLON collection is created using SLS technology. The material used is a proprietary polyamide MYLON. The collection, MY VERY OWN MYKITA, is the digital bespoke eyewear line by MYKITA. Through the use of 3D facial scanning, parametric design and additive manufacturing, MY VERY OWN takes this MYLON manufacturing method and research to the next level. According to MYKITA, “Personalization is emerging as the ultimate luxury of modern products. As nothing is more unique than a person’s face, product individualization is particularly relevant in the field of eyewear.”
Roger Bacon Eyewear by Eyenavision, Inc. uses 3D printing utilizing proprietary scanning software to ensure a perfect fit. The beginning process uses facial scanning with the use of an iPad scanning system. After adjusting for facial size, shape and anatomical considerations, the frame is printed to precise facial dimensions. According to Eyenavision, “Mass customization has been brought to the U.S. Not only can ECPs offer a custom product, but they are now able to give their customers a unique in-office experience, eliminate costly inventory and receive a rapid rollout of new frame designs.”
Innovator, optometrist, James Kim, OD, FAAO, is the owner and founder of Optoid Print3d Eyewear & Primary Eyecare in East Willamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, and is the first practice that custom designs and 3D prints its eyewear. Dr. Kim started researching how to create 3D design and 3D print about two years ago when he decided to open his office with this as its mainstay. According to Dr. Kim, “Since every 3D printed frame starts as a digital template, it can easily be adjusted and scaled to ensure a good fit after taking a few biometric measurements. We can also take their existing frame and duplicate the design as well to try to retain their lens. Being the first to do anything is always a draw, especially when it involves 3D printing.” Optoid uses SLS technology.
3D Technology Terms
Since the optical industry’s entry into
3D printing, there are a few companies that have started using this technology, of which there are several types:
FDM (fused deposition modeling) which simply means that during printing, material is deposited in single layers that fuse together to create a 3D printed object. FDM printers generally have access to more materials and colors for production.
SLA (stereolithography printing) came about in the 1980s. It works by curing resin with UV light. The UV solidifies the liquid via a process called photopolymerization and builds objects layer by layer. SLA printers generally produce greater detail, but are limited on switching materials used and are limited in color use.
SLS (selective laser sintering) A newer process for the rapidly growing rapid prototyping techniquers (RPT). This process can utilize various materials; polymers, metals, ceramics and composites. It generally uses a power material in the production process. It may require additional finishing steps to mask the powdery feel of the unfinished material.
PolyJet technology is a 3D printing technology that produces smooth, accurate parts, prototypes and tooling. With microscopic layer resolution and accuracy down to 0.1 mm, it can produce thin walls and complex geometries using a wide range of materials available with any technology.
Diane F. Drake, LDO, ABOM, NCLEM, FNAO, is a licensed optician, writer, lecturer and consultant to optical professionals in Jackson, GA.
Optoid Print3d Eyewear & Primary Eyecare • 718.388.8409 • myoptoid.com
Safilo USA • 800.631.1188 • safilo.com