If eyeglasses can be produced one at a time through a 3-D process, it could radically change the industry, cut down on water use and wasted scrap.
That's the concept being explored at a new company Luxexcel Group BV of Goes, the Netherlands, founded by Richard van de Vrie.
“We should be more into digital manufacturing. We should be able to make one piece or 10,000 pieces using a computer so we don't manufacture what we don't need,” van de Vrie said in a telephone interview.
He said it is time for a change in optics manufacturing.
Traditionally, optic lenses are made by grinding and polishing a blank — a process that wastes water and creates plastic waste that isn't reused, he said.
His solution is to use a 3-D printer. His company is working to perfect a system whereby each lens is individually printed without need for grinding, polishing or using a mold to produce the product.
“We print with droplets like water so you don't have layering. You lose the sharp edges and the need for polishing,” he said.
Luxexcel has used the process in LED lighting and other areas and expects to be able to make ophthalmic-quality lenses soon.
Van de Vrie said the company uses acrylic materials that are safe to use, and is working to set up labs that would do the printing. The additive manufacturing process uses a CAD file instead of a mold or a blank to make the lens.
“We are almost ready to start the first trials. In 2017 we will place the first printers in labs. From there, we hope to have a system in place in 2018,” he said.
Luxexcel primarily has research and development staff. It sees the United States as a key market.
Van de Vrie's background is in the lighting industry. He founded Luxexcel in 2009, and has been developing the process, material and software to produce eye glasses ever since.
If glasses can be done for each customer, they can be tailored for each individual's use. “Every eye is different. Every eye shows a weakness and every one can be improved,” he said.