Apr 7, 2016 | By Alec

All market experts agree that 3D printing is at the brink of commercial, mainstream success, with 3D printed and customizable wearables and accessories just around the corner. While speculation always quickly drifts towards sensors and things like that, one Dutch startup has found success by combining a customizable 3D scanning and 3D printing process with a very fashion-sensitive niche: eyewear. Called Roger Bacon Eyewear, this startup is already selling custom-made 3D printed glasses at 14 opticians throughout the Netherlands, and are now coming to the US as well. Most importantly, the glasses are stylish, fashionable and fit perfectly.

Founded in 2014 by Pieter Jonckheer and Jan-Berend Zweerts, the startup wasn’t named after a certain tasty meat, but after one of the most important scholars of medieval Europe: Roger Bacon (1214-1292). “[The English scholar] was a pioneer in the field of optics – and thus one of the earliest developers of glasses. This pioneering attitude can also be found in the brand Roger Bacon,” the company’s founders say.

Their 3D printing approach was actually born out of frustrations familiar to any wearer of glasses. “Our kids wear glasses, and we experienced exactly how frustrating badly-fitting glasses are. We became convinced that the frames could be improved through digital production techniques, to ensure a beautiful design that is also shaped to match your individual biometric characteristics,” they say. Every face is unique, why not every pair of glasses?

And that, in a nutshell, is what Roger Bacon Eyewear provides. A client can simply walk into an optician’s shop and have his or her face scanned. That scan is immediately transferred to an interactive holographic display in the store, through which they can virtually try on every single possible frame in 3D. The 3D scan simultaneously captures the exact facial geometries, enabling the makers to adjust every frame to ensure a perfect fit. Using the in-house sales tablet, they can then even choose what material, color and design they want. As a result, every single pair is unique and fits perfectly. Frames are then 3D printed by Roger Bacon and delivered to the independent retailer, who installs the actual lenses – just like they do for every other pair.

It’s a clever solution that seems to provide both the customer and the optician with numerous advantages. Unsure about what frame to choose? Through the Roger Bacon app, you can even ask friends and family for their opinion. Opticians, meanwhile, won’t have to buy frames in bulk anymore, as fitting takes place completely digital. “Costly inventory will be a thing of the past; every frame won’t be manufactured until after the purchase,” they say. Right now, more than 20 different frame designs are available, with 10 color options for each of them. More designs are expected in the near future.

While the company has already found modest success in the Netherlands, they have just revealed that they are about to enter the US market as well. To do so, they have signed a deal with Eyenavision, a tech-based eyewear company whose products include the patented Chemistrie Lens Layering System. Eyenavision will act as a reseller and service provider for Roger Bacon Eyewear glasses, and will perform the final inspection and assembly for 3D printed glasses sold in the US. They will also provide training to opticians who adopt this unique service.

Eyenavision CEO Joseph Zewe believes this will add a revolutionary impulse to the eyewear industry. “Retailers will be truly amazed at the Roger Bacon Eyewear system. Not only is the in store experience unique, but the fit and quality of the frames is exceptional,” he said. “Roger Bacon represents a whole new category of eyewear and an opportunity for early adopters to differentiate their practice from the competition.” Roger Bacon’s CEO Jonckheer was also very happy with this partnership. “We are pleased to partner with Eyenavision to rollout Roger Bacon Eyewear in the United States. We look forward to additional products and features that will reinforce our belief that our customers should feel one with their eyewear,” he said.

Roger Bacon Eyewear will first come to the US next week, for the Vision Expo East in NYC. There, founders Jonckheer and Zweerts will be demonstrating their technology Eyenavision’s booth (#4474). At the event, pre-orders can be made already, though the system won’t be officially available until July 1, 2016 – when store display units will be shipped and frame orders can be placed. Could this be the future of eyewear?



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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