Luxottica, Innovation : 3D Printing
3D printing, which allows you to create real objects by "printing" digital models, could revolutionize design and manufacturing in the eyewear sector. Luxottica who's brands include Oakley, Tiffany, Vogue, Ray-Ban, Prada etc is at the forefront of this disruptive technology, ready to seize the opportunity.
Unique glasses, tailor-made and manufactured for the customer in real time. Possible? Potentially yes. Following its invention 30 years ago, 3D printing languished for a long time before reaching the current levels of development, efficiency and accessibility. Today it is used in many industries - aerospace, automotive, biomedical, electronics, food and the eyewear sector.
As a pioneer in its industry, Luxottica has been testing 3D printing technologies for over a decade to speed up the manufacturing processes in the prototyping phase. Since 2011, with the introduction of new materials, the technology has been used to produce certain frame components that support the final product through lost wax casting.
"If we want to make a prediction, it will not take long: in three years we may already have a few parts of the frames made by a 3D printer, for example the nose pads”
Engineering & Product Development Director
So what exactly is 3D printing? 3D printing allows you to create a real object by "printing" its digital representation. A model is divided into horizontal sections that are read and reproduced by a printer which deposits special "ink" (in the form of plastic, metal and alloys, ceramics, glass or resins). Layer by layer, the device builds the finished object by adding material, as opposed to removing it as in the traditional “subtractive” production.
Advantages include greater speed and simplicity in developing the prototype or mold in wax from a digital model and transferring files between different plants and offices. 3D printing also offers flexibility and increased customization as the digital model can be easily edited, updated and adapted. This frees designers of creative restrictions, allowing them to imagine and print very unique objects and complex shapes, which were previously difficult to produce using traditional techniques.
3D printing technology is still evolving and improving and there are limitations to overcome, including production scalability and the finishing process, which do not yet meet the standards required to create an entire pair of frames at Luxottica’s level of quality. But experimentation and enthusiasm in this area continues. Will 3D printing spark a revolution in eyewear manufacturing? If so, Luxottica will be leading it.