Titanium Glasses using Metal Additive Manufacturing
The construction principles for manufacturing eyewear have changed little in the last 100 years, so the Directors of Eye Venture Ltd developed the ZYclip system which has the potential to redefine the way prescription eyewear and sunglass frames are made. Its unique screw less design can be applied to all materials including plastics and metals, reducing the average number of components required to make a pair of glasses from 12 to as little as six.
Fundamentally the ZYclip system allows these six components to be assembled and disassembled without the use of any tools; providing manufacturers, retailers and consumers the freedom to easily change eyewear frame designs and lenses in a way previously considered inconceivable.
To take full advantage of the interchangeable components; upper frame, lower frame and temples, Solidworks CAD models were developed for the two most popular and most recognised classic frame shapes in the world, Aviator and Navigator styles.
Eye Venture then created The Lensman® Titanium Collection comprising four different sunglass styles. It comes with a fully assembled pair of Aviator sunglasses together with the components to interchange them to configure Navigator sunglasses, as well as a range of interchangeable Carl Zeiss Vision lenses. They decided to market the ZYclip system using Titanium as the frame medium due to its strength and lightweight properties.
Traditional manufacturing methods for the Titanium frames would require tooling which can be time consuming as well as expensive, and machining the parts out of a solid block of Titanium would result in 95% of the material being wasted, so Eye Venture needed to source an alternative method of manufacture.
Eye Venture decided to look into the possibility of using 3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing [AM]) in Titanium as this eliminated the need for tooling and also allowed flexibility in future interchangeable designs of the frames, as small modifications could be made to the CAD data, and the parts re-built quickly and cost-effectively.
Having found local expertise in Titanium AM unsuitable for their needs due to both the lack of experience and the right sintering machinery, they decided to look for expertise internationally. Following a search on the internet they approached 3T RPD Ltd with their design.
3T’s R&D Team developed the concept with Eye Venture, who quickly discovered that they were the right partner to work with, as 3T has extensive knowledge and experience in Titanium AM.
One major advantage of using AM technology is that it exactly replicates the CAD design, so each piece can be unique or have slight modifications made to it, without having to re-make expensive tooling. This has given Eye Venture the flexibility to design eyewear frames to almost any shape or size and offers a real cost benefit over conventional manufacturing methods.
Furthermore, each set of frames has the company name inscribed on one arm and ‘Made in England’ on the other. This is incorporated into the CAD design so that it’s created as part of the build process, so no additional post-processing work is required.
Paul Austin, Sales and Marketing Director of Eye Venture Ltd, says “We now have a solid platform and partner for our Titanium range of eyewear with 3T manufacturing all our Aviator and Navigator style frames. We are proud to have our parts ‘Made in England’ using 3T’s expertise, and combined with the resilience of Titanium, we can produce sunglasses which offer unparalleled longevity and comfort.”
New Zealand based Eye Venture Ltd was incorporated in 2010 and owns a number of international patents relating to the ZYclip mechanism. The worldwide eyewear market is worth in excess of US$100bn with global eyewear frame sales exceeding 2bn units annually.
The Lensman® Titanium Collection was released in Australia and New Zealand in December 2014 and is scheduled for release in the Northern Hemisphere in March 2015.