As part of the deal, Optiswiss has installed Luxexcel’s VisionPlatform 7 at its Swiss lab, allowing the firms to bring 3D printed lenses to glasses manufacturers en-masse, whether they be for regular frames or advanced ‘smart’ devices.
“We found a partner in Optiswiss that shares our vision to be at the forefront of innovation in the smart eyewear industry,” explains Fabio Esposito, CEO of Luxexcel. “The combination of our technology and the experience of Optiswiss as a lens manufacturer ensures that smart eyewear producers can bring smart devices to market that address the needs of those with prescriptions.”
“This shared strategy will accelerate the delivery of ‘Swiss-made’ prescription lenses that are ideal for smart eyewear devices.”
Luxexcel’s optical drive
Based in Eindhoven, Netherlands, Luxexcel specializes in manufacturing the machines, software and materials needed to 3D print prescription lenses. The firm’s systems revolve around its proprietary ‘Vision Engine’ technology, which effectively involves jetting tiny resin droplets onto a build plate layer-by-layer, before UV curing them into a lens shape.
Unlike conventional lenses, Luxexcel says that those produced via its printers don’t require grinding or polishing, removing around 30 steps from their manufacturing process. Using the company’s technology, it’s also possible to print directly onto glass or polymer, making it compatible with commercial frames, while adding films or LCD screens into such frames lends them Augmented Reality (AR) capabilities.
Over the last six months, Luxexcel has made significant advances in its AR-related offering, unveiling a partnership with WaveOptics in February, which has seen it begin 3D printing AR prescription smart glasses. Since then, the firm has launched VisionPlatform 7, a machine that’s specifically designed to enable the integration of 3D printed lenses directly into smart glasses, during the production process.
In terms of throughput, the company has celebrated a number of recent milestones as well, reflecting the improved pace with which it’s able to manufacture lenses. After reaching the 5,000 print per year landmark in 2019, Luxexcel passed the overall 50,000 milestone less than two years later, thus with its new Optiswiss deal, the firm is now aiming to better market its advancing technologies to frame manufacturers.
Commercializing smart lenses
Already, Luxexcel and Optiswiss’ deal has seen the latter install a VisionPlatform 7 at its ophthalmic facility in Basel. Moving forwards, the machine is set to be used by eyewear manufacturers as a production facility, with which they’ll be able to create AR lenses at scale, and accelerate the launch of their various optical smart devices.
According to Optiswiss, the platform’s simplicity makes installing it an attractive prospect, as it turns lens production into a “one-step” process, while “efficiencies” like the 3D printing of coatings, could also prove beneficial to product quality.
“We’re excited to join Luxexcel in their journey to deliver prescription lenses for smart eyewear,” said Samuel Frei, CEO of Optiswiss. “We now have a digital manufacturing platform to combine prescription lenses with smart technology today, including a clear path towards large-volume manufacturing of prescription smart glasses.”
For Luxexcel, meanwhile, the partnership sees its machine enter production at one of Europe’s largest optical manufacturing labs, which shipped out 2.5 million lenses last year, putting its system to the test (and in the shop window) like never before.
“Together with Luxexcel, we will develop pioneering products and bring them to market quickly,” adds Frei. “By adopting innovative technologies such as the VisionPlatform 7, we can provide our customers with solutions for prescription smart eyewear, giving them an edge over the competition.”
Customized 3D printed eyewear
3D printing’s inherent flexibility opens up plenty of opportunities for customization, thus it potentially represents an ideal technology for manufacturing tailor-made glasses frames. Just like Luxexcel, Materialise has also made inroads into optical 3D printing recently, after acquiring software developer Ditto to develop an online eyewear try-on service.
On a more athletic note, Adidas revealed last month that it had partnered with the Marcolin Group, to 3D print the ‘3D CMPT’ sports sunglasses. Weighing just 20g, the eyewear’s design features a unified nylon structure, that is said to provide users with breathability, while its integrated rubberized coating is designed to have a shock-absorbing effect.
In the past, French eyewear brand MOREL has also worked with service provider INITIAL to 3D print glasses for consumers at scale. Using SLS, alongside a polyamide-based nylon and the common orthodontic material, beta-titanium, the firms have since been able to produce frames with a unique velvety texture in their thousands.
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Featured image shows Luxexcel’s VisionPlatform 7 installed at Optiswiss’ Basel facility. Photo via Luxexcel.