by Dan Roberts
Need a new pair of prescription glasses? Print them yourself at home. Just enter the results from your smart phone’s vision exam app into your home 3D printer, choose a frame style, and press a button. Within a few minutes, your new custom made glasses are ready to wear.
This scenario sounds futuristic, but the technology exists right now. Automatic computerized refraction systems are already being used to analyze eyesight requirements and produce lens prescriptions. The procedure is so simple that you can do it yourself, so there is no reason to not expect it to be turned into an app in the near future. Plus, inexpensive 3D printers have already come to market that can print lenses and frames to order. One issue, however, has presented a complication until very recently.
The most important part of your eyeglasses is the lens, which not only needs to correct your eyesight, but which should be absolutely clear and smooth. Until now, that has not been possible with 3D printing technology. Typical 3D printers create objects by building them one layer at a time and joining the layers with a binding (additive) material. Even though the layers are transparent, however, the additive material has been too inconsistent to allow light to flow through uninterrupted. But now one company may have solved the problem.
LUXeXcel, a 3D printing service headquartered in Goes, The Netherlands, has developed what they call Printoptical© technology. They have replaced the additive material with a liquid photopolymer that is solidified with UV light. It bonds with, and conforms to, the layers, eliminating light scattering and unwanted refraction. They have already introduced a pair of working eyeglasses with lenses and frames all created in one process.
So with this accomplished, we just have to wait for some forward thinking entrepreneur to pull it all together into an affordable package for personal use. Homemade high quality prescription eyeglasses any time for the whole family at a fraction of the current cost. Not as futuristic as it sounds, and definitely something to look forward to.