Student, 22, Founds Company Selling On-Demand, 3-D Printed Eyewear

Can’t find the perfect pair of glasses? Design your own on Make, a website that boasts "infinitely customizable eyewear."

A couple years ago, industrial-design student David Minich went shopping for eyeglasses, but couldn’t find anything he liked. So he vowed to design his own. "I had already used 3-D printing at school," he tells Co.Design. "So I just decided to combine those two things and see what came of it."

Thus was born Make Eyewear, a website that sells eyeglasses hot off of a Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) machine. Launched Monday, the site offers "Infinitely Customizable Eyewear" through two services: pre-designed frames with showy shapes (and names like Molten and Fusion to match), available for $150 in assorted colors and sizes; and frames you design yourself for $450. Want a pair of Buddy Holly glasses, crossed with a dash of Eartha Kitt? Done. The beauty of rapid prototyping is that you can design just about whatever you want, then print it on demand.

The frames are sintered, one layer at a time, in nylon, through the 3-D printing service Shapeways, then coated in a special material for water resistance. (Make sources springs and lenses separately; as Minich tells it, 3-D printing isn’t advanced enough to spit out such complex structures, at least not yet.) A complete pair of glasses arrives in the mail two to four weeks later. For those who want to customize their own specs, the company pairs them with a flesh-and-blood designer to help rough out their idea. "The customer says, 'I want something that looks like this,' then on our side, we come up with more refined sketches," Minich, 22, says. "We build it in 3-D so we can take into account lens curvature and all that stuff."

A catch: The customizable glasses can’t be returned. And $450 is a lot of money to drop on something you’ve never tried on. "It is a little risky for that," Minich admits, adding, "We do have a return policy for the other glasses." Eventually, Make plans to adopt some sort of browser-based software that lets customers draw their own glasses and, presumably, get a better sense of how they’ll actually look.

In the meantime, Minich hopes that the limitless design possibilities that 3-D printing affords will be enough to lure customers away from the Cohen’s and Lens Crafters of the world. "At Lens Crafters, they have a few styles, but they’re really not unique," Minich says. "They tend to be low quality. They’re manufactured for a couple dollars, maybe in China. They’re run of the mill glasses. And there are a lot of people who’d rather stick to those. This is more for people who want to branch out. We’re targeting people below the age of 40—and anybody who’s interested in experiencing something new."

[Images courtesy of David Minich]

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