2/24/2020 | 14 MINUTE READ

3D Printed Custom Glasses: The Cool Parts Show S2E2

Fitz Frames has reimagined glasses, from the frames to the ordering process. See how the company manufactures glasses customized to every face in this episode of The Cool Parts Show

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Fitz Frames is out to “solve” kids eyewear. The problems? The ordering process for glasses is too long and complicated. Options are limited. Frames don’t always fit. Complete pairs are too expensive. And kids outgrow them too quickly.  

The California-based company is establishing a better model, one where parents and kids can order better glasses in an easier way. An augmented reality iPhone app makes it possible to try on styles and colors virtually, and then order frames of exactly the right size. Fitz Frames 3D prints each pair to order at its Youngstown, Ohio, facility and ships them directly to consumers. See the process in action in this episode. | Season 2 of The Cool Parts Show brought to you by Carpenter Additive.


The Cool Parts Show presented by AM

The Cool Parts Show is a video series from Additive Manufacturing Media that explores the what, how and why of unusual 3D printed parts. Watch more here.

Have a cool part to share? Email us.


 

Transcript

Stephanie Hendrixson

We don't know all the different ways that 3D printing is going to influence our daily lives. The next great application could be right in front of our faces. We'll talk about it in this episode.

Pete Zelinski

Thank you to Carpenter Additive, our Season 2 sponsor. We are touring their emerging technology center in Athens, Alabama. Stick around to the end of the episode to learn what this giant furnace does. Now back to the show.

Pete Zelinski

I'm Pete.

Stephanie Hendrixson

I'm Stephanie.

Pete Zelinski

We're with AdditiveManufacturing.Media and this is The Cool Parts Show.

Stephanie Hendrixson

This is our series where we talk about cool 3D printed parts made by viewers like you. So I think it's your turn to bring a cool 3-D printed part. Do you have something?

Stephanie Hendrixson

So I have a part that I'm really excited to talk about today. We're going to talk about mass customization, design freedom, digital inventory, all kinds of things that we love to talk about on this show.

Pete Zelinski

OK. Super intrigued. That's a lot. Let's see your part.

Stephanie Hendrixson

OK. So I am actually wearing it.

Pete Zelinski

Oh, that is so stealthy.

Stephanie Hendrixson

So today I'm going to put my old glasses back on because today we're going to talk about those 3D printed glasses.

Pete Zelinski

OK. Glasses frames are 3D printed. Talk about that.

Stephanie Hendrixson

Yeah, so conventional lenses, but the frames themselves have been 3D printed. These are made by a company called Fitz Frames. They're headquartered in California, but they do all of their production and manufacturing in Youngstown, Ohio. So part of that Youngstown Business Incubator group. And these glasses are 3D printed for each individual person to their specific size. And the whole mission of this company is to solve the problems with glasses.

Pete Zelinski

So solve glasses. Like, I'm not aware glasses have a problem. So what does that mean?

Stephanie Hendrixson

So that was kind of my reaction, too. But when the whole thing started it wasn't really about the glasses themselves, it was about the process of getting glasses. So the company founder, Heidi Hertel, has kids who wear glasses and she wanted to find a better way to buy glasses.

If you think about the conventional experience, like you've got to go to the eye doctor, you've got to try on a bunch of different frames, order them, and then you have to wait. And if you're a kid, you've got to go through all that and then you have this really expensive thing that you've got to keep track of and take care of. And even if you don't break them or lose them, you're going to outgrow them pretty soon and you've got to do this whole process all over again.

So I want to introduce you to Gabe Schlumberger. He is the CEO of Fitz Frames. And here's what he had to say about the whole mission of the company.

Gabe Schlumberger

We did not set out to be a manufacturer. We sort of came to that slightly out of desperation. And neither Heidi or I came with a manufacturing background and we really looked for all the solutions that were available in the marketplace. And really, we we saw that there was a huge strategic advantage in actually manufacturing our own glasses, particularly doing it domestically so that we can hit both speed and really in the purpose of solving glasses, being able to get glasses, great glasses into parents’ and kids’ hands in as short time as possible.

Pete Zelinski

OK, so they didn't set out to be a manufacturer, but now they are a manufacturer. 3D printing is how they're doing this. But what particular 3D printing process do they use?

Stephanie Hendrixson

So they are using selective laser sintering, SLS. That's a powder bed fusion process where you've got a bed of polymer powder and the laser is just sort of selectively sintering layer by layer and you end up with a block of parts kind of in this bed of powder. There's no support structures or anything like that and so you can just kind of break them out and clean them off. And that's how you get your parts. So to do that, they are using two EOS 3D printers.

Pete Zelinski

In a block of parts and these parts are all different because they're all tailored to individual.

Stephanie Hendrixson

Right.

Pete Zelinski

So the enabling technology here is additive manufacturing 3D printing.

Stephanie Hendrixson

Yes. But there's also another really important part to this. So the way that you order your Fitz frames is through a smartphone app. And it's actually only been in the last couple of years, so like the iPhone 10 and above, that the front facing camera has the depth capability to capture the measurements that you need for that. So it's printing, but it's also smartphone technology.

Pete Zelinski

So talk me through the process of ordering these glasses.

Stephanie Hendrixson

All right. So it's this really cool augmented reality shopping experience. So you're looking at the screen of your phone and you're seeing all the different frame styles kind of superimposed on your face. Once you've decided on one, if you're getting prescription glasses, then you would upload a photo of your prescription. And then all of that information goes to Fitz Frames. Their software takes the style that you've chosen, adjust the measurements based on your face. And that's what generates a file that goes to the 3D printer. But the really interesting thing about their process is that once these are printed, that's not the end of the line. What happens after printing, the postprocessing, is actually pretty significant. So this is Katie Bassett. She's the VP of product and operations, talking about what happens after the printing.

Katie Bassett

Once we print our Fitz Frames, they're not quite done, they're not quite ready to go out to the customer. We do some light post-processing afterwards and primarily it's to smooth the surface to get rid of any sort of, you know, tiny little artifacts from printing and also just to get down to like a really nice, comfortable surface that you actually wear on your face all day. The last thing we do is we dye them because they get printed in white, in a white powder. And then after that it's ready to go and get fitted with lenses and get sent out to the customer.

Stephanie Hendrixson

All right. So as the customer, once you receive your Fitz Frames, they come in a box like this. If I open this up, there’s a label with my name, the style that I ordered, the color that I ordered. And right now out of the box, these things fit. Like you can just tell by putting them on, like the bridge of the nose is just the right size and the temples are just the right length.

Pete Zelinski

So different styles, but you're talking about how you just pick it out of the box and it just fits. And that doesn't add up to me exactly, because I've shopped for glasses and you put on different styles and some styles just don't work. So how does that work?

Stephanie Hendrixson

Right. So the styles that Fitz Frames offers, they're not really styles in the way that we understand them because they're not static. It's not like there's one design that goes to everybody. So what they kind of had to do is figure out different styles, they have six different ones to choose from, and figure out which measurements, which ratios, are really inherent to that style. What do you need to preserve and which things can you adjust based on the specific face and dimensions of the person who's going to wear them?

Pete Zelinski

Can I say that's really cool. Like what? So what you're saying is like style as a math problem. So which dimensions do you need to keep fixed to keep the style versus which ones are allowed to change to customize to the wearer's face?

Stephanie Hendrixson

Right. And so every pair of glasses, no matter what style, is going to fit your face because they're doing those adjustments on the back end.

Pete Zelinski

Yeah. So you listed all of these all these concepts that these glasses illustrate, and one of them was design freedom. Is that what you're talking about here?

Stephanie Hendrixson

So that's part of it. But actually, in the course of re-imagining the process of buying glasses Fitz Frames actually made some pretty cool improvements to the way that glasses are designed. So if you just take a look here at the temples, you can see like the name of the company is printed right into the side. And then on the inside, you've got the chance to customize the inside of the right temple.

But one of the other really cool features is if you think about glasses and how they break, the hinge is a real problem. That is a fail point. And what Fitz Frames has done instead, you can see there's no metal at all in these frames. What they have here is a snap fit.

Pete Zelinski

Ouch! Ouch! You can just break your glasses?

Stephanie Hendrixson

So you can break your glasses. But you can also really easily snap them back together.

Pete Zelinski

OK, so. All right. So you talk about that as a design improvement. And I look at that and I see a manufacturing process improvement. Right? Because now suddenly these are much easier to assemble. There are fewer parts. Nobody has to order fasteners or screws to put them together. All of the components that are necessary to finish the glasses come right out of the 3D printer and right out of the post-processing. The assembly part of manufacturing is much easier now.

Stephanie Hendrixson

Right. So it's easier. And this whole manufacturing process is actually faster. So here's Gabe again talking about the way that this affects their supply chain.

Gabe Schlumberger

You don't necessarily have to set up a contract manufacturing line typically overseas and then ship it and put it in a warehouse and deliver it six, nine, twelve months later. In our case, we're shooting for weeks if not days, from the time somebody orders a product to the time that they actually get it. So I think that additive really does open up a whole new whole new supply chain and makes it really fast from the time somebody purchases to the time that they actually get a product that's custom custom-made just for them.

Stephanie Hendrixson

And so that turnaround time that he's talking about is actually pretty fast. So from the time that you complete your order with Fitz Frames to the time that your glasses are delivered is about 10 days and they're working to reduce that even further.

Pete Zelinski

Can I ask you a personal question? A style question?

Stephanie Hendrixson

Sure.

Pete Zelinski

So you had the choices of all these different styles. The only reason you were able to do this stealthy commando thing that you did at the start of the episode is because your new 3D printed glasses looked just like your previous glasses. So is like is your philosophy just like find a style that works and stick to it forever?

Stephanie Hendrixson

Yeah so guilty. I guess I really like this kind of like boxy square sort of style. But, you know, that kind of gets back to this idea of digital inventory. So, Fitz Frames — these designs are never going to retire. They don't have to store things in a warehouse somewhere. If I want to keep re-ordering these same glasses forever, I can keep re-ordering these same glasses forever. Which is also a huge benefit if you're a kid and you've lost your glasses or you've broken them you can just really, really easily get a new pair that's exactly what you had before.

Pete Zelinski

Yeah. So I guess that gets to my other question. You started all this by saying they solved the problem of glasses for kids. This is a product for kids. And and like, you know, you're a grown up. So talk about that.

Stephanie Hendrixson

Well so getting back to the way that the software adjusts the design, even if you're not a kid, it can still capture your measurements. They can still make glasses that fit adults.

Pete Zelinski

All right. So that's that's a lot. Let me see if I got all this. I think I do. So these 3D printed glasses, glasses made via 3D printing. They are not mass produced, they are mass customized. Your cell phone kind of taking measurements of your face is enough to get the digital data that goes to Fitz Frames and allows them to manufacture these custom glasses. There are various style selections, but the styles are formatted and constrained in such a way that they can be modified, tailored automatically to each individual face without losing the feel of the style in each individual case. And there are some steps that are needed after 3D printing. There are post-processing steps, but all of the manufacturing is efficient enough and takes place in one facility so that these glasses can pretty much be made as they're ordered. There aren't store shelves full of glasses. There aren't warehouses full of glasses.

Stephanie Hendrixson

Yeah, I think that sums it up. That's it for this...

Pete Zelinski

Hold on a second. I have one more thing to add. Austin, give me the box. I got 3D printed glasses too. I just wanna tell you, I went to Fitz Frames. I got some 3D printed glasses.

Stephanie Hendrixson

Nice shades.

Pete Zelinski

Thank you. Right?

Stephanie Hendrixson

That's it for this episode of The Cool Part Show. If you want to learn more about Fitz Frames, you can find a link to our story about them in the show notes or at additivemanufacturing.media.

Pete Zelinski

Email us. Coolparts@additivemanufacturing.media. Email us if you like the show. Email us if you want to talk about the show. Email us if you have a cool part that you might like to see featured.

Stephanie Hendrixson

Thank you for watching. Don't forget to subscribe.

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Pete Zelinski

I'm at Carpenter Additive’s Emerging Technology Center, Athens, Alabama. Contract production facility for additive parts. HIPing, hot isostatic pressing corrects tiny defects and additive builds. Temperature plus gas under pressure microscopically smushes the parts together. A part that's already ninety-nine point something percent dense becomes even more solid. Usually HIPing is done offsite. Carpenter Additive has the HIPing furnace in this specially made room to accommodate this huge furnace. The proximity creates efficiency gains, but this is also a HIPing furnace designed for production. Let's listen.

Andrew Holliday, Carpenter Additive

First of all, we have the HIP in house, which is a huge advantage. So a lot of other service bureaus or a lot of people make additive parts do have to outsource their HIPing. Now, the size of the HIP is another big advantage for us. I've used HIP units that had a diameter of about six to eight inches, and having a diameter of half a meter as well as having an extended height of about one and a half meters means large batches and multiple different shelves for putting batches on. It's a Quick HIP actually so it has an integrated quench function. It can have quench rates up to about 200°C a minute. Quick HIP is valuable because we can actually eliminate certain parts of our of our process. So if we can take out basically two birds with one stone by doing a heat treatment and a HIP cycle all in one go, we can increase our throughput as well as the efficiency of our operations here.

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