Dec 8, 2015 | By Kira

The rebels, the glamorati, the powerful and the iconic alike all have one must-have accessory in common: a sweet pair of shades. From James Bond’s understated aviators to Victoria Beckhams’ over-the-top ‘bug’ eyes, well-made, designer sunglasses add an air of mystique and undeniable style, no matter what look you’re going for. Now, using 3D printing technology, companies are able to create unique shapes and styles for their eyewear collections using materials with special construction properties not previously seen using traditional methods and materials.

That is the case for German fashionable eyewear manufacturers ic! berlin, who have just launched their second line of 3D printed eyeglasses (which includes both sunglasses and corrective-lens glasses) made with SLS 3D printing technology and the polyamide 3D printing material, plotic. ‘I See Exoskeleton’ features an intricate, scaffold like construction, a prominent oversized brow, and most interestingly, an innovative new 3D printed screwless hinge that connects organically, without the need for brackets, clips or screws.

ic! berlin has made a reputation for itself for its patented, screwless hinge system. As eyeglass-wearers such as myself know, it can be incredibly frustrating to have those tiny screws fall out of your glasses. They require special screwdrivers to put back in, meaning a trip to the optician and most likely a bill. However with ic! berlin’s design, there is no screwing, soldering, or welding involved—the stainless steel temple connects to the front of the polyamide frame organically, forming a hinge that is smooth to operate and easy to dismantle or assemble by hand. According to the company, the construction of the ‘I See Exoskeleton’ collection’s hinge relies heavily on layer-by-layer 3D printing technology, and would be impossible to achieve with traditional methods and materials such as acetate.

one of many variations of ic! berlin's patented interlocking hinge

As for the style of these bold, modernist frames, the inspiration came from an unlikely source: the molecular structure of the raw, 3D printing material, itself. Plotic is a hypoallergenic plastic in the Polyamide 12 group that has a molecular structure similar to silk, is extremely strong and lightweight (30% lighter than cellulose acetate), and highly heat resistant. In order to create the intricate, scaffold-like ‘exoskeleton’ design of the frames, ic! berlin chose to leverage the extreme precision afforded by selective laser sintering 3D printing technology. As with the screwless hinge design, the ornate, hollowed-out design would not be possible to achieve with traditional manufacturing techniques.

“Plotic frames grow layer by layer,” explain the designers. “A 3D plot file of the frame is loaded into our printer and broken down into approximately 0.1mm cross-sections. A laser traces each cross-section onto the surface of a bed of polyamide powder, heating and fusing the particles together. As each layer is finished, the bed lowers by one layer thickness and a new layer of powder is rolled on top. The process is then repeated layer by layer until the frame is finished.”

ic! berlin chose the name ‘exoskeleton’ due to the way the frames’ interweaving shell resembles the exoskeleton of an insect, however from the company’s point of view, they’re reclaiming the German word, Außenskelett, to refer to their “kick-ass glasses”.

While the bold, modernist frames might be a little more Kanye West than Steve McQueen in terms of iconic celebrity styles, those looking for an instant update to their sunglass game will be able to find the ‘I See Exoskeleton’ 3D printed eyewear collection in stores as of February 2016.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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