Ever-evolving, 3D printing is fast, efficient and can offer the ultimate in bespoke styling.
Call it the disruptor of the frame-production business. Develoing collections using 3D printers and special software has been around for at least eight years, but each season the technology becomes increasingly
accessible—and more affordable. “What we are seeing in the industry is a continuing decrease in price in software and hardware, as well as easier front-end use of the technology,” explained David Friedfeld, president of ClearVision Optical, Co. (CVO).
Each brand in the CVO portfolio uses 3D printing in some capacity, including its Dilli Dalli pediatric eyewear, Steve Madden line and the new OP (Ocean Pacific) Pogo Track camera-ready eyewear. The company has embraced both FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling, for fast and easy uses) and SLA (Stereolithography, for more precise and tight designs). (See sidebar, “How It Works.”) Over the next six to 18 months, the company is focusing on ways to replicate acetate on 3D printers and develop special hinges, according to Friedfeld.
Denmark-based Monoqool, which has been using 3D-printed technology since the company started in 2009, in January launched its Slider collection that’s super thin and weighs only four grams. The company is also beta testing customized eyewear where customers will have their face scanned by the optician, who will then help them select a frame, according to CEO Allan G. Petersen. Mykita is also on board with bespoke fitting via facial scanning with its “My Very Own” line of 3D-printed, digital eyewear.
Eyenavision and Roger Bacon Eyewear teamed up to produce 3D-printed (SLS), made-to-measure, eyewear that will be available in the U.S. this summer. Using proprietary, iPad-based biometric scanning software, each pair of 3D glasses is designed to accommodate a wearer’s precise facial measurements, ensuring a perfect fit, according to Caitlin Northup, director of products and marketing.
HOW IT WORKS
Four commonly used techniques in 3D-printed eyewear:
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) Plastic material is heated to a near-liquid state in the print nozzle and
deposited in layers to create the cross section of a printed part. The print bed lowers as each layer of material is deposited or printed.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) A laser heats a powdered material to near melting to bind the material together and create a solid structure.
Stereolithography (SLA) A laser placed below a transparent tank cures a light-activated resin in a process called photo-polymerization.
Multijet Technology (MJM or Polyjet) Layers of a liquid plastic are printed on a build tray and instantly cured with a UV light. Several different materials with different properties can all be printed at the same time.
Adaptable, exceptionally light and durable, Mykita’s Mylon is made from fine polyamide powder fused into solids using SLS. (See sidebar, “How It Works.”) Formed layer by layer using a digital data set, the high-tech material allows for freedom in design. Despite its high-tech origins, the pigmented, matte surface has an organic quality, according to Olga Schlosser, brand communications manager.
Ic! Berlin’s Plotic eyewear also uses SLS with a hypoallergenic plastic that has a molecular structure similar to natural silk. It is extremely strong and lightweight (30% lighter than cellulose acetate). The new Urban Collection, inspired by brutalist architecture, features a 3D-printed temple tip that is adjustable by 10mm. “We are having fun challenging ourselves to incorporate 3D printing in new ways, and we plan to continue to push ourselves further to give our customers new optical experiences,” said Katie Murphy, director of marketing and communication.
The Oxydo brand from Safilo has certainly pushed some fashion boundaries with 3D designs. Its spring/summer ’17 collection with four styles, one in conjunction with New York artist Francis Bitonti, are framed with 3D print structures that resemble lattices.
Safilo also uses Polyjet technology in the development of its Oxydo styles. According to Vladimiro Baldin, chief product design and creation officer, the company can produce prototypes with color gradients and graphic textures with the same level of accuracy and realism in-house—and without secondary processing. “Now we can respond more quickly to market trends and changes in customer taste and begin generating revenue from new products much faster than before,” Baldin said.
THE NEXT DECADE
As new technologies emerge, more design possibilities will present themselves to the industry. “I
estimate that it will be between five to 10 years until we are 3D- printing eyewear with materials we currently use, like acetates and metals,” said Pia Taveras, product engineer at CVO. “Once 3D printing is more mainstream, fashion experts will find a way to use it as well.” Sooner rather than later, she said, “Every frame will be touched by 3D printing.”
Michael Tanzi has been a licensed optician in Massachusetts and is the immediate past president of the Opticians Association of Massachusetts.
WHERE TO FIND IT: ClearVision Optical, Co. 800.645.3733 • CVOptical.com • CService@CVOptical.com // ic! berlin America 866.634.8990 • ic-berlin.de // Monoqool distributed by Studio Optyx 8314.241.9410 • StudioOptyx.com • JackErker@Hotmail.com // Mykita 973.669.0063 • Mykita.com • NorthAmerica@Mykita.com // Safilo USA 800.631.1188 • Safilo.com • Info@Safilo.com