A 15 year old aspiring maker. I’m into drones, 3D printing, design, Python and robotics.
Making new frames for my broken glasses in under 1 hour
The eyewear industry is messed up. Have you ever wondered why eyewear companies like Oakley, Ray-Ban, and Prada all sell frames with prices ranging from $100 to over $300? It turns out, the licensing and trademark rights to Ray-Ban, Oakley, Prada, Chanel, Transitions, Crizal, Coach, Michael Kors, DKNY Armani, and Tiffany Varilux are owned by a single company named Luxottica? There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of them, but they are the world’s largest company in the eyewear industry. They even own some common stores like Sunglass Hut and LensCrafters. In summary, these guys pretty much have all the control over the eyewear industry.
Last week, I accidentally broke one of the nose pads on my frame. I was initially going to be a normal person and buy a new set from the store, but then I asked myself, “Is there another way to get my vision back without paying $150 for frames?”. That’s when I stumbled upon the world of 3D-printed glasses. As it turns out, people have custom-designed and 3D-printed their own frames.
After doing some more research, I got excited. Not only were these frames 3D printed, but they were custom-designed by the wearer and cost under $2. There were also some other major perks, but I’ll get to those later in this article.
Getting to work
To get from an idea in my head to a physical pair of glasses, I had to go through three simple steps:
- Design new frames around my existing lenses
- Print, make changes, and reprint.
- Make final adjustments and assemble the frame.
I used a free (browser-based) CAD tool called OnShape to design the frames, but any other CAD software like Solidworks or Fusion 360 would also work just fine.
I first found a reference model which I could use to model my frames after. Then, I took a top-view picture of my lenses and traced them out in OnShape. After I had the lenses down, I was free to make any frame so long as I could make the frames fit. I decided to go with a more casual look as a first-test, but really any frame design could have worked. I decided to reference an existing design from here to save time.
Original CAD design on OnShape
To print the design, I ended up using a cheap FDM printer and made the frames in PLA material. Although PLA’s properties are not the best suited for this application, I decided to use it because it would be easier to make adjustments to it after printing. I used 100% infill to give it a bit more weight with a 0.1mm layer height.
If you’re planning on printing your own frames and are willing to spend more money for higher quality, I suggest using SLA or SLS. If you look at my frames, you can see some nozzle lines (which are avoidable by using SLA or SLS, or a really well-tuned printer)
Once you have a printed frame, there are some adjustments to be made. You can see that the CAD model of the frames was entirely flat. However, most market frames are very slightly curved at the nose. So, I heated mine up using a hairdryer and bent them at the nosepiece.
I also made some small errors when designing the lenses, making them too large to press-fit onto the frames. I once again used my hair drier to soften the plastic and fit the lenses on tightly.
Finally, the arm pieces were printed flat as well. To give them a more natural shape (and to prevent the glasses from slipping off my face), I heated them up slightly and pressed them to my head to mold them.
The final result was a pair of glasses that worked surprisingly well for common tasks. This design was so close to a regular pair that nobody noticed they were 3D printed until they looked closely.
You can see some of the small irregularities close up
There were some small annoyances like having too little tension in the arms of the glasses (to solve this, I used an M2 screw instead of filament and made sure to not tighten the screw too much.)
I would say that these glasses are good enough to be a permanent solution (though you would need a well-tuned printer to get it close to the same quality as regular frames). Since I’ve designed it myself, I can have any configuration of glasses styles, colors, and designs.
One improvement I would make would be to maintain the same alignment between the lenses and the eyes. I’m pretty sure the lenses are meant to be at a certain position relative to the eye, so this would need to be kept in mind when designing. Fortunately for me, the alignment was really close to the same as my old frames so I didn’t have many problems with that.
This project was really simple but super fun and cheap to make. I never thought I would end up wearing something I’ve designed and made by myself. In my eyes, this was one small win for me against the eyewear industry.
If you liked this article, check out some of my other stuff. I’m an aspiring maker trying to make a change in this world.
Got any questions? Insights? I’d love to chat
Also published on Medium’s ankur-boyed
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