Printing in 3D is something which is slowly but surely revolutionising the manufacturing industry. Over the last year there have been many incidents of 3D printing hitting the headlines, such as when Defense Distributed printed the first, working, printed handgun and the story of the potential to print a prosthetic hand in titanium. Imagine a world where you can send your eye test results by email, and in moments have your glasses printed out and ready for you.
In fact, you don’t need to imagine, because it’s already happening. Protos Eyewear, a US based frame manufacturer, has already started printing 3D frames for glasses, and is currently seeking crowdfunding in an attempt to make the process even more customisable. The company point out, quite rightly, that people come in all shapes and sizes, and that the uniform dimensions of shop bought frames simply don’t fit everyone well. They claim a small change, sometimes just a millimetre or two, can drastically improve the fit, comfort and overall appearance of glasses, and are endeavouring to let their customers design their very own, made to measure, 3D printed glasses.
How does 3D printing work?
The process of printing in 3D is not a million miles away from regular printing that can be done on any home printer. From the end users point of view, they simply design an object on their computer, send it to the printer and then sit back and watch. The difference is that instead of printing with ink, the printer uses a solid material such as plastic to print the design, building it up in layers or slices until it forms a complete object.
The scope for 3D printing is immense. From replacement parts for broken items to entire products such as bikes, ready assembled, pretty much anything can be printed if only you own a printer big enough. If the technology does become widely adopted, it could revolutionise the way we think of products entirely. No longer would there be any need to warehouse lots of stock, and delivery trucks would be a thing of the past. Door handles could be made to fit in the palm of our hand and everything around the home could be made to measure.
The reality of customised 3D glasses
In reality, whilst there may be a few pioneering companies that are already exploring 3D printing technology, the time when 3D printed items are widely available and competitively priced is still a way off. No doubt glasses will be able to be customised and printed eventually, but until then the majority of people will be stuck with buying at the shop.
Of course, there is another alternative. With laser eye surgery the entire need to have any sort of glasses is removed, meaning you no longer need to worry about getting glasses that actually fit your face. Advances in laser eye treatment technology has been moving almost as fast as 3D printing technology, making it cheaper, faster and safer to have laser eye surgery today than ever before.