Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Materialise Invests in Ditto’s 3D Printed Eyewear Technology Platform

ST Medical Devices

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Just as the use of 3D printing to mass manufacture hearing aids brought about changes to the entire industry, it looks like the same could be in the cards someday soon for eyewear. Advanced digital fabrication technologies, like 3D printing, have made it possible to create custom eyeglasses that any visually challenged person would be happy to wear, even children. But on top of that, 3D printing means you can cost-effectively mass produce glasses, and not just the boring ones normally cluttering up the inventory area. It’s possible to be even more customer-focused by using digital manufacturing to create individualized products. That’s what 3D printing solutions provider Materialise is hoping to advance by working with Ditto, a California-based developer of virtual eyewear trial and recommendation.

Materialise, which already has plenty of experience with custom 3D printed eyewear, announced that it has made a strategic investment in Ditto.

“3D printing holds the potential to transform industries by making it possible to create unique designs, manufacture in small batches and offer levels of personalization never seen before. With three decades of 3D printing experience, Materialise is ideally positioned to drive these industry transformations. Our collaboration with Ditto confirms our commitment to create an end-to-end digital platform for the eyewear industry,” stated Alireza Parandian, Global Head of Business Strategy for Wearables at Materialise, in a press release.

Ditto works with eye care professionals, eyewear brands, and retailers around the world to develop personalized shopping experiences for customers looking for their next pair of glasses. Its mission is to make eyewear more personal for the wearer, and and more accessible for everyone who needs it.

“Our collaboration with Materialise will help us deliver on our goal of making eyewear more personal,” said Ditto’s CEO and Co-Founder Kate Doerksen. “The shift towards eCommerce, digitally enabled smart stores, and digital manufacturing is inevitable. We are excited to bring combined solutions to our clients to create a differentiated, personalized customer experience and product offering.”

When pairing augmented reality visualization and artificial intelligence-based personalization with 3D printing, like Ditto does, the manufacturing of eyeglasses can really become an end-to-end platform. For its eCommerce, in-store, and omnichannel options, Ditto claims to capture a precise map of the customer’s face by quickly scanning it. Then, the customer has to watch the scanning animation, and provide information about their face shape, measurements, and prescription, before they get to see some of the platform’s recommended frame shapes through Ditto’s virtual try-on technology.

Customers are treated to 180° views of the frames on their face, and, if they’re in-store, they can try on (sanitized) pairs of glasses as well. You can also send images of you wearing the virtual glasses to friends and family, so you can get a second opinion. Then, the glasses can be purchased online, or saved as favorites, in which case the customer would then try them on in-store. Make your selection, and a pair of new, custom eyeglasses are 3D printed just for you. It sounds like a simple, painless process to me, and it’s especially helpful, during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, that it can all be done virtually.

“We believe a great pair of glasses can help you see the best version of yourself. We celebrate what makes you unique and make it easy for you to discover and buy glasses that work for your vision needs, personal style, and unique face,” Ditto’s website states. “We are also leaders in a change that’s much bigger than eyewear; one where advanced technologies like AI-based personalization and AR visualizations will transform every aspect of how people shop.”

On top of the investment, Materialise will also be collaborating directly with Ditto in order to expand the eyewear industry’s digital transformation, and support more updated and personalized shopping experiences.

(Source/Images: Ditto)

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