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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  • Sid

    BongBong - check out Shoes of Prey for online customization of women's shoes. There are a few other companies doing this, and a couple which offer men's shoes too.

  • BongBong

    One more thing... let me know when the process is sufficiently advanced to manufacture shoes. Mine never fit.

  • BongBong

    For early adopters only, but this is the leading edge of a whole new generation of companies and products that will eventually be made on a person-by-person basis. I wish him luck.

  • Michael Shannon

    To address the "try before you buy" problem, you could easily design an app to let potential customers "try on" their glasses visually with images of their faces at different angles, etc.  (I just read down, and see that a "Susanna Schick" made essentially the same suggestion yesterday.)

  • KEWE

    Love the concept... Innovative, High Quality, and Domestic. Good luck to "Make Eyewear" finding enough under 40 year old customers that have the kind of money they're asking for though.  This economy is a tough launch for lofty price points. As always, congrats to Fast Co. for delivering fresh inspiring content quickly and consistently... 

  • Anna Moody

    Totally impressed! I shall follow this David Minich with young and so brilliant!

  • susannaschick

    it's about time!!! It seems most glasses/sunglasses are not designed for any human face. they should be able to tie this in with a program that lets you input a 3-D picture of yourself and you design the glasses on your own face. That would be awesome. But I still crave metal frames...

  • Chinmay Patel

    Well, you're in luck if you crave custom metal frames... I recently heard rumours about a similar custom glasses company which also sells custom metal frames. You can design the frame online and it makes the from you and the custom frames start just from 50$!!!