Stratasys' VeroFlex 3D printing material can put new sunglasses on shelves 'in 8 weeks or less'

Sep 26, 2017 | By Benedict

Stratasys has introduced a new eyewear 3D printing solution. The VeroFlex Rapid Prototyping Eyewear Solution can be used to greatly reduce the time-to-market of eyewear—from up to 15 months to as little as eight weeks.

There are many reasons why eyewear makers would want to reduce their time-to-market. For starters, there’s the small matter of ever-changing trends: getting the hottest style on the shelves in the shortest time possible ensures that customers are getting the specs or shades they want, when they want them.

But being able to iterate new eyewear has other advantages too. As with other areas of apparel, including footwear, consumers are getting the taste for customization. And with a solution that enables manufacturers to create and fabricate new eyewear designs like sunglasses and eyeglasses in a very short space of time, customers are able to order bespoke products in the blink of an eye.

Fortunately for the eyewear market, solutions like that really do exist, the latest being Stratasys’ VeroFlex Rapid Prototyping Eyewear Solution. VeroFlex, Stratasys says, is a new 3D printing material—a PolyJet rigid photopolymer designed for 3D printing on the Stratasys J750 3D Printer—that enables eyewear manufacturers to reduce the time it takes them to put glasses on the shelf by an entire year.

“The eyewear market continues to expand, driven by new technologies, demand for customization, and growing addressable markets,” commented Mike Vasquez, founder and CEO at digital manufacturing consultancy 3Degrees, who believes that the ability to drastically cut the time-to-market for new eyewear products could be a hugely appealing draw for businesses.

Typically, a new eyeglass-frame design takes around 18 months to bring to market, from conception to production. But with the Stratasys VeroFlex Rapid Prototyping Eyewear Solution, that timescale can be shortened by a whopping 12 months, meaning eyewear can be made available to consumers just eight weeks after the first designs are being sketched out.

According to Stratasys, VeroFlex is specially formulated for eyewear, offering “a unique combination of stiffness and flexibility” that is essential for a wide range of prototyping requirements. It can be used to produce anything from initial concept iterations to complex multi-color and advanced texture models, and even precise functional models for performance testing.

In other words, the solution is ideal for making eyewear models that look and function a lot like the real thing. For most businesses, actually selling these 3D printed glasses as the end product isn’t feasible—it would simply take too long to churn out each individual product—but given the purported quality of the 3D prints, it’s possible that some companies would be interested in selling the 3D printed specs as a kind of boutique item.

“As the industry seeks to maximize its opportunity, Stratasys’ prototyping solutions for frames and eyewear accessories—which can cut time-to-market by upwards of 80 percent—will be an attractive solution that is able to deliver immediate value for users looking to make parts with a high degree of mechanical function and appearance,” Vasquez added.

VeroFlex has, of course, already been put through its paces by eyewear experts, being subjected to drop tests, lens-mounting, stress tests, and wearability tests.

It’s not just some rugged matter for making crash test frames though—it can also be used to make seriously beautiful items. By combining six new VeroFlex materials (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, White, Black, and Clear), and by mixing solid, opaque, transparent, and color shades, users can create eyewear products in a diverse range of styles.

And with true-to-life textures such as wood grains, leather, stitching, bone, carbon-fiber, and photo-realistic images, you’ll hardly recognize the items as being 3D printed.

Potential customers are encouraged to contact Stratasys for a quote. Unsurprisingly, the material will also be on display at this week’s TCT show in Birmingham, UK.

Posted in 3D Printing Materials

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