by Guido Groet – Chief Strategy Officer Luxexcel
Prescription eyeglasses have been part of the human experience since the 13th century. The art of making traditional lenses has been refined throughout the ages, and legacy lens-making methods produce good quality lenses. The question is: in the age of technology, are legacy lens-making methods still adequate to produce high-tech prescription lenses for smart glasses?
The short answer is: No.
3D printing technology exists today that enables OEMs to manufacture better lenses designed especially for smart glasses, which are thinner, lightweight, and fit into normal-looking eyeglasses.
Don’t get me wrong. It is quite possible to manufacture prescription solutions for smart glasses with legacy lens-making technologies. That’s how the majority of the prescription requirements for smart glasses users have been addressed so far. These solutions, however, don’t give users a device that they’re familiar or comfortable with.
Let me explain. Vision correction in smart glasses has been addressed by providing consumers with customized prescription inserts manufactured with legacy technologies. These inserts are typically worn underneath smart glasses. Alternatively, display technologies are glued onto traditional prescription lenses. Both these options increase the weight of the device, making it difficult to wear throughout the day. The device also looks like a helmet or sci-fi goggles – it’s certainly doesn’t look like fashionable glasses that consumers have become accustomed to wearing.
When I speak to potential customers, I’m always amazed when they’re not aware that the technology exists today to 3D print customized prescription lens solutions for their smart glasses. I always use the example that just like with the adoption of digital music or smartphones, 3D printing will become the preferred manufacturing method of Augmented Reality prescription lenses soon – we’re not even talking years away. Read more about Augmented Reality prescription lenses here.
The success of 3D printed Augmented Reality prescription lenses, however, relies on the fact that OEMs need to take into account the basic principles of traditional eyewear. 3D printing technology gives consumers the same functionality in smart glasses that they’ve become accustomed to with traditional eyewear combined with the smart functions they know from their phones.
3 Basic principles of conventional eyewear OEMs need to apply to smart glasses
1. Vision Correction: giving consumers the ability to see their best
Glasses are seen as a medical device and it’s estimated that 70% of the world’s adult population requires prescription lenses. 3D printing combines the user’s prescription requirements and smart technology into a single lens that looks like normal eyewear. OEMs can now use Luxexcel’s technology to meet the needs of their customers who need vision correction to see their best. What’s more, the lenses can now be volume manufactured on a scalable platform to ensure quick rollout to customers.
2. Comfort: allowing consumers to wear the device throughout the day
Consumers want physical comfort when they’re wearing glasses (just like with traditional eyewear). A smart glasses device that weighs, for example, more than 100 grams, will be difficult to wear throughout the day without discomfort. By integrating smart technologies into a 3D printed lens, the eyewear lens becomes thinner with an estimated 50 percent reduction in overall weight compared with legacy lenses. Additionally, 3D printing not only provides for physical but also for optical comfort. It’s possible to print many different lens designs and customize lenses to reduce UV light, include anti-reflective coating, or integrate blue light or sun filters into 3D printed prescription lenses.
3. Looking good: consumers consider eyeglasses as a fashion statement
There are many challenges for OEMs to get smart glasses to the masses. 3D printing technology solves not only the prescription but also form factor issues. Consumers certainly don’t want to be viewed as “glassholes” or wear bulky sci-fi goggles in public. Glasses have become a fashion accessory and a way for wearers to express their identities. For smart glasses to be adopted by consumers, it needs to be no different. Smart glasses should remain a fashionable item that consumers are proud to wear. 3D lens printing technology enables OEMs to meet the demands of the consumer market.
Join SPIE’s Fireside Chat on March 17th, 2021
Do you want to manufacture Augmented Reality prescription lenses for your smart glasses solution? We’ve partnered with several waveguide companies to showcase a demonstration of a waveguide integrated into a 3D printed lens. Register here to join Luxexcel together with WaveOptics for an online demonstration. We will reveal a module that combines waveguide technology and prescription lenses to create a unique Augmented Reality prescription eyewear solution.