The evolution of affordable 3D printed eyewear has certainly come a long way in just one year — I’m thinking back to those of us who helped designer Asher Levine add 3D printed sunglasses to his Fall/Winter 2012 collection last winter. Take a look at Protos Eyewear, a company looking to develop a method to deliver bespoke frames using 3D printing as the production method.
While the concept of 3D printing eyewear frames isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, new company Protos is aiming to use 3D printing as a method of final manufacture on a mass market scale. For those with tiny noses, wide faces, or anything that’s overlooked in ‘stock’ eyewear designs, this just might be the next Warby Parker for all your eyewear needs.
Based in San Francisco, the Protos team (like many startups) met in college at California College of the Arts. Consisting of designers Marc Levinson, John Mauriello, Doug Ponciano, Richart Ruddie, and James Peo, the team was set on ‘doing something’ that combined all of their individual talents. In a fortunate sequence of events that would eventually become the mission of Protos, Marc noticed Doug’s glasses slipping off the bridge of his nose during one of these brainstorming sessions and…well, the rest is history.
Today the team of young designers are using 3D scanning, parametric modeling, and selective laser sintering to create their custom final products. In terms of the custom-made component, the team has developed a fitting process that isn’t too far off from the process of getting a custom-measured suit. More recently, the team has been working on a proprietary bioplastic material that is lighter than titanium and more flexible than common acetate materials. Could new material offerings mixed with custom designs be the pushover for success against $95 Warby Parkers? We do live in a time where people are increasingly paying more to have custom experiences, so they’ve come in at a good time to offer a custom product—even in the saturated eyewear industry….