Horizons Optical & HP: Custom 3D printed eyewear

Exclusive interview with Emilio Juarez, HP’s EMEA Head of 3D Printing Sales

Horizons Optical is not your typical eyewear company. The company doesn’t simply produce glasses, rather, it develops innovative technologies and services for ophthalmic laboratories, optical chains and the optical sector on the whole. One of its most cutting edge projects is the Made4U concept, which utilizes imaging and 3D printing technologies to create fully customized frames.

On the manufacturing end of the Made4U project, Horizons Optical has turned to emerging 3D printing leader HP to leverage its Multi Jet Fusion technology. We recently caught up with HP’s EMEA Head of 3D Printing Sales, Emilio Juarez, who not only provided some insight into the Horizons Optical partnership but also testified to the quality of the 3D printed frames—which he wears every day.

3dpbm: Could you give some background on how Horizons Optical and HP started to work together?

Emilio Juarez: Horizons Optical is working with one of HP’s Service Bureau partners, World Tooling, which uses HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology. From there we connected to learn more about their interesting project.

What was the process to obtain the custom 3D printed glasses? How does the Horizons Optical customization work?

Juarez: The process begins by scanning each customer’s face utilizing 3D scanning technology called made4U and then creating a 3D model in a computer. Horizons Optical uses the 3D model to design the glasses, changing the shape of the frame in a way to suit each unique face shape. Then, the designs are sent to be manufactured with Multi Jet Fusion to the manufacturing partner. Because each design is custom-made to suit each customer’s face, Horizons Optical can produce frames which require no fitting.

What material are the frames made from?

Juarez: The material used is polyamide, a type of powder plastic that enables the geometry each patient needs.

What sets the custom products apart from other 3D printed eyewear on the market?

Juarez: The custom-made glasses ensure the perfect fit for the consumer, adapting the shape of the frame to the consumer’s unique facial features, bringing along other benefits such as optimum vision, because the lens are held in the exact right position for each person. Horizon Optical is a spin off from a larger company with years of experience in the fabrication of graduated lenses so they have a deep understanding of how to correct vision beyond providing a perfect comfort with personalized frame. 

What is HP’s value proposition in 3D printed eyewear? And the cost effectiveness of MJF in eyewear production?

Juarez: Additive manufacturing has been used for some years now to produce glasses. The big advantage that Multi Jet Fusion technology brings to the industry is the possibility make fully custom-made glasses at a lower cost. Our value proposition is to boost productivity to enable full customization at an affordable price. In addition, our Multi Jet Fusion technology has the capacity to reproduce very fine details, providing even more freedom when designing new eyewear models.

If I understood correctly, you have a pair of custom 3D printed glasses – how are they in terms of comfort/style/fit compared to more traditional frames?

Juarez: Yes, I had the opportunity to get a custom made pair of glasses by Horizons Optical. I am still amazed by how fast the process was compared to the traditional process: in just one visit, they scanned my face and I chose the style of the frames I wanted.

After they were manufactured, I was able to wear them immediately, requiring no adjustments at all. The fact that they are tailor made for my facial features makes them way more comfortable than other glasses, in part because they don’t slip down my face and I don’t have to go around pulling my glasses back to the right position again. I could also choose the colour and shape I wanted, a combo that is not always possible with traditional frames. Finally, Horizon Optical software and workflow ensured that the glasses are positioned at the perfect distance and height from my eyes, providing a perfect correction.

Horizons Optical HP eyewear

What are the expectations for the future of Horizons 3D printed eyewear and 3D printed eyewear more generally?

Juarez: Additive manufacturing combined with scanning software brings many benefits to the optical sector in general: superior vision by ensuring the lens is held in the right position, reduction of excess waste since frames are made-to-order, reducing the unsold frame inventory and potential weight reduction. We’ll see consumers start to really benefit and shift toward fully-tailored glasses, especially as they become more affordable.

In the past, consumers would go to the eye doctor and pick out a pair of frames, which would then be measured for fit, marking where the centre of the eye is. They’d then ship the frames off to be fitted with the correct lenses. Weeks later you’d come back in for a fitting, during which they’d adjust the arms of the frame, the nose pieces and make sure the glasses sat straight on the face.

Now, consumers are able to get their face scanned on the first visit, which is then used to design glasses that won’t need to be adjusted. We all know the struggle of an ill-fitting pair of glasses: they slip down, your eyes strain and your ears start to hurt from tensing up in order to keep your glasses in the right spot. Thanks to 3D printing, we can avoid all that by getting the fit right on the first try.