3D Printed Eyewear

The idea of introducing elements of 3D printing in eyewear manufacturing—beyond its use in prototyping and lost wax casting or injection molding—began to take form after 2011. As low-cost 3D printing technologies entered the market and “B2C” online 3D printing services such as Shapeways, Sculpteo and iMaterialise began to target individual designers and small studios, eyewear became increasingly seen as one of the first viable consumer applications for 3D printing processes.

Today, a little over five years later, the segment has grown into a relevant and accelerating market segment, with more and more operators entering the field every year. However, it still remains a niche segment with significant medium- and long-term potential.

Unlike more consolidated end-use applications of 3D printing in dentistry and healthcare, eyewear products generally carry a significantly lower end-price and offer fewer direct benefits in terms of customization. The higher costs of customized, additive production thus find fewer justifications in the eye of the eyewear consumer.

In the eyewear segment, 3D printing is used to make not only end-use parts but for complete end-use products that are sold through consumer targeted stores and studios. In this sense, 3D printing in the eyewear business is more similar to the dental segment, where 3D printing of end-user parts is often carried out by dental practices serving the end-user directly, as well as orthodontic labs. Thus, the primary end-user for eyewear is not an aerospace or automotive company but rather a single consumer. The price that a consumer is able and willing to spend on a customization of an eyewear product is lower than the price that an aerospace company can pay for 3D printed parts or the price that people are willing to spend on dentistry and implants. In addition, the market for luxury eyewear is not nearly as large as the market for luxury automobiles.

Nevertheless, the trend for mass customization is strong and growing. Among consumer products, eyewear could be the category that most stands to benefit from customization. The lower costs of accessibility to AM technologies and materials, coupled with much wider availability of 3D capturing and 3D scanning devices and software (some 3D capture capabilities are now integrated into most high-end mobile devices), all contribute to making custom, 3D-printed eyewear into what could be the first truly mass customized product.

Other clear limitations and benefits are dependent on materials and design possibilities. The increased geometric capabilities of 3D printing are not always beneficial in eyewear design. At the same time, the generally more porous and rougher surface, that results from most powder-based 3D printing processes, the most common in eyewear production, is not always appreciated by the end user.

In this new AM Focus, we will present an analysis of 3D printing opportunities in the eyewear industry, leveraging exclusive data from SmarTech Publishing’s recent report on 3D printed eyewear and unique contributions from some of the eyewear AM segment’s most relevant pioneers and leaders.

  • 3D printing sustainable

    Sustainability has been a major trending topic in AM recently. When manufacturing professionals from diversified industrial segments began to understand the possible uses of AM in mass production, using AM for sustainability was indicated as one of the key drivers for this transition. How real is this concept? Is it…

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  •  Materialise, a global leader in 3D printing solutions, paves the way toward a sustainable eyewear industry by expanding its range of materials to include Polyamide 11 (PA11). The 100% bio-based polymer is made from sustainably farmed castor beans and offers excellent properties for eyewear. By addressing overproduction, the fashion industry’s…

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  • Luxexcel, the technology leader for 3D printed prescription lenses and Lumus, the pioneering innovator of reflective waveguide displays for Augmented Reality (AR), have co-developed a demonstrator of an Augmented Reality prescription lens solution that enables OEMs to address users’ prescription requirements in their smart eyewear products and make the lens…

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  • Swiss lens manufacturer Optiswiss partnered with Luxexcel to bring commercial 3D printed lenses to market for use in regular eyewear and smart eyewear. Under the partnership, Luxexcel will provide its breakthrough 3D printing lens technology, and Optiswiss will 3D print prescription lenses for the smart eyewear market. Optiswiss will also…

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  • Kornit Digital Ltd., a worldwide market leader in digital textile production technologies, acquired all associated assets of Somerville, Massachusetts-based Voxel8. Evolving over the past few years from electronics extrusion 3D printing to hybrid inkjetting of polyurethanes, Voxel8’s advanced additive manufacturing technology for textiles allows for digital fabrication of functional features…

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  • After teaming up with Milan-based eyewear manufacturer Marcolin in 2019, adidas is stepping up its sunglasses game with the first pair of 3D printed sunglasses. The new adidas 3D CMPT clearly show that the company intends to make 3D printing a core manufacturing process on a number of products beyond…

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  • Luxexcel VisionPlatform 7

    Despite the advancements in smart eyewear over the past decade or so, a couple of challenges have hindered adoption greatly. For one, the question of making smartglasses for people requiring prescription lenses (a significant portion of adult populations) has not found a truly innovative answer. For another, smartglasses have not…

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  • YOU MAWO 3D printed eyewear

    3D printed eyewear is a real opportunity in the consumer AM space, with a growing number of players bringing unique solutions to market. In Germany, YOU MAWO is leveraging the technology to inject a greater degree of individualism into eyewear. The company, whose name stands for “Your Magic World”, uses…

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  • Welcome to our third eBook of 2021 and our second edition exploring the world of consumer applications for additive manufacturing. Download From shoes, to eyewear, to sports equipment, to jewelry: the possibilities for consumer 3D printing continue to grow, especially as high-volume technologies gain prominence and new materials hit the…

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  • Ok, it’s gossip. But Oprah’s interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry was one of the events that will go down in interview history. And Oprah thought that 3D printed glasses looked good enough to wear for the occasion. The US queen of talk shows wore a pair of glasses…

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