Want to print your own spectacles?

Today I'm going to talk a little about a future technology that most optometrists and dispensing opticians won't have heard about, but its a major issue, that is 3D printing..

Much how home photocopiers were very pricey to start with so it is with 3D printing, however its becoming more and more cost effective. This is bringing it into the realm of business use and ultimately home use.

The basis of 3D printing, also called rapid prototyping, has been around for a long time now and was until very recently the sole preserve of engineering firms and architects who needed models/prototypes made. In the past 12 months there has been a drive to create compact, home suited 3D printers. Currently these are only capable of printing smaller parts.

The user has to make a 3D CAD (computer aided design) impression of what they want, including any moving parts. This is then sent to the printer which makes it out of layers of various coloured molten plastic materials. The printing process used to take days, but that is now down to a few hours and coming down further still at a rapid pace.

There are user websites full of pre-drawn, copyright free objects already. These range from lego-type play bricks to hangers and washing machine parts! However, one obvious application is printing a patients frame, you could truly bespoke it for them and even email them the CAD for them to print at home! Spare parts will become a thing of the past. Have a look at this video to get a better idea:

When you start to look at the application of this technology you realise how much it can affect our profession, especially as 3D print materials advance. With a technology like 3D printing it's not a matter of if it happens to spectacles (and goes mass market) but when.

Are you going to take the plunge?

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