3D Printed Contact Lenses are Coming | What Consumers Need to Know


Optical, head-mounted display offers a world of possibility. Imagine a world where you navigate based on maps that highlight directions you can see in the real world. Imagine if you could view a restaurant’s menu, or see reviews and pictures of its food as you stroll past. These possibilities, along with improved visual acuity, are coming with the creation of 3D printing contact lenses. 

Combined with other apps and wearables, 3D printed contacts can help us gain insight into our health and daily exercise habits. In the case of Google’s upcoming Smart Lens project, they may even track blood-sugar levels.

The fact is this revolution is coming, so here’s what you need to know. 

Contact Lenses Plus

You can think of 3D printed contact lenses as a contact lens “plus”. These units will be packed full of the kinds of features promised by eye glasses like Google Glass. In the long term, they will conform to your prescription. Google’s project was specifically designed for farsightedness, for example.

However, these new features that function like a real life heads-up display aren’t easy to create. They come from small LEDs embedded onto the polymer contact lens, a process possible only with recent developments in manufacturing. In some cases, the challenge came from creating parts small enough to fit onto a contact lens.

Ultimately, these new lenses promise to digitize our world while they improve our health and vision. 

3D Printing

In theory, 3D printing of lenses involves taking your prescription and using an existing design to fabricate a lens that fits those specifications. 3D printing is already used by some companies to create lenses in mass quantities, but it’s no simple matter. 

Be careful with mass 3D printed lenses from a 3D printing shop. The challenge comes from creating specific and consistent lenses. 3d printing can do this work, but the prescription requires advanced design and manufacturing capabilities not present in the average print shop. If your lens isn’t to specification, or prescription, it could create unnecessary complications in your everyday use.

The Future of Lenses

One fun fact about the future of lenses is that not all lens wearers may need prescription contacts in the future. Lenses will offer so many features that even users with 20/20 eyesight may wish to own them. One example includes Anti-epilepsy lenses, which use a polar filter to protect photosensitive users from seizures.

However, these incredible changes won’t happen overnight. Expect mass production to take some time thanks to the extreme precision required to bend light. However, 3D printing would also reduce manufacturing waste associated with eye or contact lens manufacture in a traditional setting

Although the optics is already a light contributor, further reduction with cost benefit to the manufacturer and consumer is always a welcome sight.