MILAN — From the simple production of prototypes, the precision and material range of 3D printing techniques have evolved to the point of being used in industrial production, allowing manufacturers to deliver increasingly complex shapes, while being perceived as more sustainable.
These facts are not lost on eyewear leaders.
Carlo Roni, director of product development and R&D at Thélios, said 3D printing technology is increasingly being used in the eyewear company.
Case in point: Givenchy’s Giv Cut model, first seen on singer Rosalía at the 2022 Met Gala. This bold new unisex style is fully 3D printed in nylon and features dramatic angles and extravagant volumes, revealing “G’s” neat in the front and on the temples. Roni praised the success of this model and the “outstanding results” that can be achieved with 3D printing.
The 3D technique allows Thélios “to keep pace with the rhythms of fashion and very quickly deliver new models to the houses to wear during the parades”, explains Roni. “They also allow us to bring our eyewear to market faster and allow certain models to have the see now, buy now approach, which allows the end consumer to find the models that have just been presented in the shop.”
Thélios is controlled by a luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and produces eyewear collections for brands ranging from Dior, Fendi, Celine and Loewe to Stella McCartney, Kenzo, Fred, Berluti and Rimowa, in addition to Givenchy. Led by Managing Director Alessandro Zanardo, the Thélios factory is based in Longarone, an hour’s drive from Venice, and was inaugurated in 2018.
In fact, 3D printing also allows manufacturers to achieve specific styles that could not be achieved with traditional molds, respecting and reproducing the distinctive elements of the fashion brands manufactured by Thélios.
3D printing also helps manufacturers anticipate technical and style evaluations on new designs, components or entire frames before they go into production, Roni continued. “For certain types of nylon frames, on the other hand, 3D printing can be used for products to be brought to market quickly, especially in the case of limited editions.”
“The limitations are mostly about the material that can be used in 3D printing,” Roni said. “For example, excellent quality materials with glossy, glossy and transparent finishes are not yet available. Thélios, by vocation, fuses innovation and craftsmanship in its work, and the best results are obtained precisely when these two components are also applied in the creation of the collections.
Aiming to increasingly reduce manufacturing time, time to market and use materials that are “aesthetically different but at the same time of high quality, 3D printing is proving to be a strategic asset in our industry”, said Roni. “It allows us to experiment and create glasses with more flexibility and responsiveness in order to offer increasingly sophisticated and excellent models.”
EssilorLuxottica has also invested in and experimented with 3D printing techniques, and Matteo Battiston, global director of design and market research at the eyewear giant, said 3D printing is a manufacturing process “that, over time, has evolved into a completely integrated technology. in our daily activities. We use it throughout our process, starting with design, where the study of shape, size and detail can be executed seamlessly, continuing into prototyping, where it offers incredible acceleration in the production and evaluation of samples and, finally, in the final production phase. , where specific techniques – especially on metal deposition – allow complicated geometries on embellishments and functional details.
He noted that 3D-printed parts are already a standard process in the production of EssilorLuxottica’s in-house frame brands, including Ray-Ban, Oakley, Arnette and Vogue Eyewear, as well as the group’s licensed luxury frame brands. , which range from Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren to Bulgari and Prada. “Our commitment to smart glasses, which we launched in 2021 with Ray-Ban Stories, has accelerated our use of 3D printing techniques,” Battiston said.
The benefits of 3D techniques include extreme customization, user-generated products, new business models, and last-mile productions. “Additionally, manufacturing constraints such as undercuts can be easily overcome,” Battiston continued. “In large-scale production and distribution businesses, it’s also a tremendous asset when specific projects require lower volumes and cutting-edge technology.”
3D printing allows manufacturers to take a “bolder approach in the early stages, being able to assess whether a crazy idea could really turn into a solid product proposition,” he said, citing Oakley Kato’s innovative free-form geometry as an example. But he noted that “although 3D printing has revolutionized the way the industry operates across the value chain, the overall market impact is still small, and we continue to explore it further.” a commercial point of view”.
Fabio Borsoi, Global R&D Director for Frames at EssilorLuxottica, also highlighted sustainability benefits like 3D printing, which “minimizes the materials used in the product development process,” thereby reducing overall environmental impact of the group.
He noted that each 3D printing technique used at EssilorLuxottica plays a specific role in the company’s R&D process and in the eyewear industry at large. “There are no winners or losers, just more solutions to enable creativity and consumer value,” Borsoi said.
Battiston said 3D printing processes “have evolved significantly” over the past 10 years, from fusion deposition modeling to selective laser sintering, direct metal laser sintering and stereolithography. “From a design and prototyping perspective, we expected a mature development of a multi-material, multi-color technique. Now the time has come, and it helps a lot too on [the] hardware prototyping and development side. Prototyping an acetate wet block is no longer a mirage and designers can let their creativity run free. 3D printing of lenses is the next frontier we are looking at.
Borsoi added that EssilorLuxottica’s R&D team is exploring 3D printing for lenses, “but we don’t have a specific timeline for when this technology will come to market. One of the benefits we see, especially with lenses, is the ability to integrate an optical combiner into a more complex optical system like a lens. 3D printing has proven to be very effective with this.
Safilo Group CEO Angelo Trocchia said he believes 3D technology has “great development potential for both eyewear and lenses. In addition to the technological aspect, also at the environmental level, if accompanied by the use of sustainable materials, this type of production could surely become key. For this reason, we are working on an implementation of this technology on our models which we hope to be able to communicate soon.
Trocchia claimed that to date, the use of 3D printing is “not yet mainstream in the eyewear market. At the end of 2021, Safilo launched the Smith I/O Mag Imprint 3D glasses in the United States, which, according to Trocchia, were the first personalized glasses designed to conform to the individual characteristics of a person’s face, thanks to printing techniques. 3D. Customization, he explained, can greatly increase line of sight, in addition to comfort.
Safilo introduced Imprint 3D technology through its proprietary Smith brand to cater to the wide range of facial shapes and features while eliminating the one-size-fits-all approach to sports gear.
Using Smith’s custom app, users scan their face to capture their unique details and contours, allowing an individualized frame to be automatically generated, 3D printed – using the platform. -industrial form Multi Jet Fusion from HP – and, finally, to assemble it by hand.
3D printing is widely used at Marcolin in all phases of development and prototyping of the collection, as it allows “to quickly verify aesthetic and technical solutions such as the movement of fittings and hinges”, said Alessandro Beccarini, director of styling and product development.
He explained that 3D printing is also part of Marcolin’s ESG path – in addition to speeding up responsiveness in the manufacturing process, it uses environmentally friendly materials, and the technique “means producing better, more quickly, responding quickly to market demand, thus generating less obsolete product.”
Marcolin launched Adidas Sport sunglasses last year, featuring the limited-edition CMPT 3D frame that was achieved through the use of 3D printing in the production process. “We created something unique that intrigued consumers, not only for the design but also for the details and the materials used,” Beccarini said.
The CMPT 3D frame, launched last year, is produced with a new generation of 3D printers and has a flexible nylon structure treated with a special coating that creates a rubberized effect on the entire surface of the texture. The one-piece frame weighs just 20 grams and features a spherical lens cap with integrated mirror. The non-slip contact points on the nose pads and tips give the frame an extremely comfortable fit, ensuring stability and dynamism during any type of training or competition.
Beccarini said that 3D printing techniques are developing today and there are two main machines, one to print with plastic materials and another with metal or titanium powder.
“Printers now available on the market that use nylon and rubber allow [production of] perfect sunglasses to be marketed. On the other hand, for printers that use metallic powders, we are still in a development phase for which there are aesthetic and technical compromises to be accepted,” said Beccarini.