Good practice

3D printing for next-generation eye-wear

3D printing for next-generation eye-wear
© PhPfleger, #80322078, 2018, source:
All manufacturing industries, Metal and plastic processing
High cost
Resource savings: Waste:
Almost no waste from production process, and no need for stock
Payback time:
Transition to 3D printing took 4 years in total
Total cost savings:
Potentially high as there are almost no materials going to waste and no stocks needed
Premises and operation areas:
Product and design
Size of company:
Small (less than 50)
Advancement in applying resource efficiency measures:

Eyeing off the future in glasses

  • Inspiration led to eye-wear frames made in metal and plastic using 3D printing 
  • Unique and tailored designs are possible
  • Unprecedented material efficiency; almost no waste, no stock...

A few years ago, the designer Patrick Hoet read about pioneering developments using 3D printing for false teeth. He immediately realised that the new technology offered huge potential for eye-wear frame design.

The first issue was to find a supplier capable of producing the frames designed by Hoet. It turned out a current supplier, Raytech in the Belgian city of Bruges, had vast experience in laser processes and would be prepared to invest in the digital technology – new 3D printing machines – for Hoet's pioneering eye-wear collection. Two months later, Hoet had market-ready glasses that passed all of the tests.

Patrick Hoet's daughter also has an eye-wear line 'printed' in plastic by Materialize in Leuven, which has capacity to print up to 20 000 frames a month. Capacity for metal frames is considerably lower.

Key benefits

When it comes to exploring innovative manufacturing solutions like this there are three elements to consider:

  • Material efficiency: With 3D printing, you only produce what is needed. No stock and no need to modify processes, tools or moulds... offering unprecedented material efficiency. Production can also take place entirely within the one country, offering social and ecological advantages. 
  • Comfort: Printing with titanium means that anti-allergen, stain-resistant eye-wear can be made with great accuracy. Today, customised glasses can be supplied in about three weeks. 
  • Aesthetic: Thanks to 3D printing, spectacle frames can be made in unique and elegant convex shapes and structures like honeycomb effects with cells of less than one millimetre in diameter. 

"With 3D printer technology, you can gain a great advantage in relation to the interaction between material efficiency, wear-comfort, and aesthetics."  Patrick Hoet, founder

"The future that we envisage is one where the retailer plays a role both online and offline. In a few years, the customer will employ a user-friendly design application and facial recognition software to put together a customised pair of spectacles, both online and in the store. These glasses could also perhaps be printed while they wait or go and grab a cup of coffee." Patrick Hoet, founder

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