Specsy's Ashley Barby at Vision Expo
Three-dimensional printed eyewear manufacturer Specsy’s operations/marketing executive Ashley Barby came perfectly accessorized to her presentation last week at Vision Expo at the Javits Center, perfect in that her eyeglass frames perfectly matched the floral pattern of her long-sleeve top.
That’s because the frame style was an exact photocopy of the garment, taken with her iPhone and transferred to the frame via the Toronto company’s 3D multicolor printing process.
An outgrowth of Toronto-based oral radiology/digital dental firm Canaray, Specsy has developed 3D printed custom eyewear frame manufacturing by refashioning the cutting-edge 3D printing technology of its dental business for the fashion eyewear industry. The frames will be designed at retail via an augmented reality app utilizing 3D facial scans allowing patients to design frames on a live image of their face, the imagery obtained then crafted into custom frames, tailored to the patient’s aesthetic preferences and technical requirements, through 3D printing.
Demonstrating the app at its Vision Expo U.S. product launch by way of a 30-second scan on an iPad, Specsy’s chief technology officer Milan Madhavji pointed to the custom bridge fit on the 3D printed eyewear samples on hand, and Barby’s in particular. Sure enough, because of the 3D scan and eyewear print, the bridge was customized to her face and fit her perfectly.
The possibility of printing such one-of-a-kind frames is really what led to Specsy, thanks to its CFO Monica Sokolowski’s difficulty in finding frames that fit her.
“I mentioned to Milan how I struggle to buy glasses that fit,” said Sokolowski. “It’s usually one size fits all—which doesn’t work for my head—and I couldn’t find a style I wanted. But I don’t want to spend a thousand dollars on glasses I don’t love, so I drew a picture of what I wanted and he said he could print them.”
But after Madhavji posted on Facebook that he was 3D-printing custom eyewear, “people went crazy!” continued Sokolowski. “He got 10 messages from friends that night, offering to pay for their own custom glasses.”
At Vision Expo, however, Madhavji was equally excited about forthcoming 3D printing capability at Specsy.
“We’ve climbed the Mt. Everest of 3D printing!” he exulted, holding up a pair of translucent tortoise shell frames.
Sure enough, instead of the solid color typical of 3D plastic printing, these frames showed different color gradations as well as translucency.
“We want people not to recognize that it’s a 3D print frame—that the process is secondary to the product,” said Madhavji. Noting that Specsy did in fact start with a “core collection” of plastic resin frames, he announced that it would not end there, that later this year custom metal frames in stainless steel and titanium would be offered, with new materials added in the future.
And returning to Barby’s frames, Madhavji added that Specsy frames can be likewise customized with any photograph that is not copyright protected.