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Wires Glasses: 3D printing gives eco-friendly edge to London-based luxury eyewear brand

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Wires Glasses, a London-based eyewear brand, is breaking the mold with its innovative and fashion-forward glasses designs. The company, founded in 2016 by designer Yair Neuman, model/actor/entrepreneur Lily Cole and entrepreneur Kwame Ferreira, deftly combines handcrafting techniques, modern technologies and an ecological sensibility in the creation of its unique wireframe eyewear.

The glasses themselves were conceived of when Neuman crafted himself a pair of sunglasses while on holiday using the materials he had on hand. With a little bit of design ingenuity, Neuman successfully constructed a pair of frames using a single piece of wire. This prototype alone inspired Neuman and his close friends Cole and Ferreira to pursue the design project further through the founding of Wires Glasses.

The brand’s first collection, Wires 1.0, was launched in 2017 and consisted of a collection of frames handcrafted by an expert team in Harare, Zimbabwe. With its more recent collection, Wires 2.0, the brand has taken a step towards the technological by integrating 3D printed elements into the frames. “For Wires, 3D printing has enabled us to minimise the waste we produce in our glasses,” the brand explained. “It has also given us the flexibility to produce unique shapes without having to produce the tooling for it.”

Wires

Additive manufacturing has been employed for the production of “rims,” which fit over the foundational wire frame of the glasses and hold the lenses in place. By having a sort of intermediary piece between the frame and the lenses, Wires Glasses has added a modular element to its design by making it possible to swap out different rim styles.

“All seven designs for our lens rims fit onto the single foundational wire frame,” said Wires Glasses. “You simply clip on the lens rims onto the wire to switch your look, without needing a whole new pair of glasses.” In other words, you can easily switch from a half-moon spectacle to a cat-eye shaped lens without needing to buy a new pair of the (admittedly expensive) glasses. In terms of cost, a first pair will cost £270 ($385), but additional 3D printed rims will only set you back £50 ($70) a piece.

The Wires 2.0 collection also introduces a patented hinge mechanism that makes it possible to fold the arms of the specs inwards without detracting from the overall design. “The new hinge mechanism is patented and allows our glasses to fold through geometry, not screws,” the company told us. “It was crucial for Yair to create a mechanism that was fully functional and enabled the temples to fold, but didn’t compromise the flow of the single piece of wire. It doesn’t have screws so they can’t go loose and get lost and it wouldn’t get trapped in anything or collect dirt as it’s completely smooth.”

Importantly, 3D printing has been a critical tool in preserving the environmental ethos that Neuman, Cole and Ferreira believe in. That is, by using additive manufacturing to construct the lens rims layer-by-layer, the designers have circumvented the more traditional method of cutting lens rims from sheets of plastic—a process which inevitably produces plastic waste. 

Wires

Designed with additive manufacturing in mind, the rims are currently being printed using an SLS process and Nylon material, though the brand says that it plans to introduce a wider range of materials soon. In keeping with waste reduction, some of the frames are produced on a made-to-order basis and can reportedly be manufactured and shipped within a 2-4 week period. “The short lead time of 3D printing gives us a greater degree of flexibility, and the ability to quickly translate vision into reality,” Wires added.

And while Wires 1.0 production remains in Zimbabwe, the new Wires 2.0 collection is being produced in the Dolomites, in the heart of Italy’s historical eyewear manufacturing industry. The brand explains the geographical move saying: “We decided to produce the second collection in Italy because we required the expertise and precision of an established eyewear industry to create Wires 2.0 with its invisible hinge mechanism and other technical aspects.”

Wires Glasses recently secured an investment from True Ventures which it says will enable to hone in on its direct-to-consumer strategy through its e-commerce platform and by retailing its unisex 3D printed eyewear at boutiques in the U.S. and Europe.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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