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Frame creation using 3D printing marks the next design wave of the industry.

 

 IN THE WORKS
ClearVision Dilli Dalli comes together

THE FUTURE IS NOW
3D Frame Solutions

 

Just a few years ago, the idea of 3D printing sounded like pure science fiction to most people. However, this technology is grounded in solid science and engineering. The implications for 3D printing are huge and the technology is slowly moving into the optical world.

THE PROCESS

3D printing is a way to take a digital file and turn it into a product. In order to make something, you first have to create a 3D image of it using appropriate software. You can design your creation from scratch or you can scan an image of an existing product and upload it into the software. You can also download an existing design from the Internet. No matter how you do it, once you have the image in the design software, it’s time to print it.

The software instructs the printer to slice your object into layers-many, many layers. In the printing process, the printer builds your object layer by layer until it’s completed. The print head of the printer deposits
microscopic particles of the material selected in layers in
accordance with the design software’s instructions. After countless layers have been deposited, the product is complete.

There is a surprisingly broad spectrum of materials that can be manipulated by a 3D printer, including metals like stainless steel, bronze, gold, nickel, steel, aluminum, and titanium; carbon fiber and other composites; plastics; paper; wood; concrete; and more. (The list will surely grow as demand increases.)


LARGE-SCALE PRODUCTION

ClearVision Optical has been using 3D printing for a couple of years and company execs rave about the technology and its capabilities. Its entire Aspire collection, introduced earlier this year, was designed using 3D technology prior to prototype creation, significantly reducing sample development time. For more on Aspire, see “Dare to Aspire,” p. 70. Similarly, Dilli Dalli with IntelliFlex™ Soft Touch was also designed using this technology.

With its BCBGMAXAZRIA line, ClearVision uses 3D printing to design and create Tagus lizard and python leather looks in bilaminate material for the temples. This environmentally friendly and sustainable process leads to the same exotic look as the real thing, but without involving any actual animals. The 3D printing process also enables the company to
create rich, vibrant colors and patterns that traditional
manufacturing processes don’t provide. “ClearVision began using 3D printing in our design and prototyping processes in 2013,” says David Friedfeld, president, ClearVision. “Since then, we’ve fully embraced this rapidly evolving technology and expanded our 3D printing capabilities. 3D printing now plays a pivotal role in our overall design and production philosophy and has significantly improved our efficiency.”


IN-HOUSE PRODUCTION

For eyewear retailers, the potential is just as great. While frame manufacturers will use large-scale, commercial-size 3D printers, small retailers will use smaller models, like the ones by 3D Frame Solutions.

“While most emerging technology tends to help industries at the high end, 3D Frame Solution’s main goal is to provide our technology as a scalable solution to everyone within the eyecare profession,” says Brandon Baker, chief application officer, 3D Frame Solutions. “Independent and fresh practices will be able to provide patients with a custom-fit solution that has never been available to them, while reducing their physical inventory costs at the same time. Imagine being able to show your patient a virtual library of countless frames, with every one of them fitting perfectly.”

While 3D printing is in its infancy in the optical world, it’s an approach with the potential to be a true game changer.


Ed De Gennaro is Director, Professional Content of First Vision Media Group.

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