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THE WAY TO NEW DIMENSIONS
Story by Sven Götti
In 2008, we were able to register the patent for SPIN & STOW. It is a technology we developed that enables you to spin the temples around and fold the glasses flat. A few years ago, we had the idea that this technology could be used very well for sports glasses. However, the production types used up until then, such as acetate and titanium, were not suitable for this because these are manufactured in two dimensions. Thus, a new type of production needed to be invented in which data programmed in 3D could be realized. Since practically all sports glasses are manufactured using injection moulding, we started working with this production – we traveled to Italy and had prototypes manufactured. However, nothing really impressed me – neither the programming nor the feel of the materials.
First Steps in 3D
In order to enable us to monitor the 3D programming of the glasses and optimize them according to our ideas, we founded a new department with the corresponding expertise. So that we could assess the results, we manufactured prototypes made using 3D printing, first in our workshop using small printers that we organized over the Internet and later on more professional printers that work using laser sintering technology. One day when we were examining another sample, it became clear to me that we should try to directly manufacture the glasses using 3D printing. Not only did the feel of the basic material excite me, but also the possibility of producing smaller series in a much wider variety of models since no moulds needed to be manufactured. This flexibility corresponds to us and we were quickly set on taking this route.
As easy as this may sound today, we had a lot of hurdles to overcome along the way. The basic material is a pulverized polyamide that is melted by a laser. We had to find a solution for how to dye the glasses, one in which the color would not dissolve, fade, was friendly on the skin, and that is reproducible. In addition, we had to completely redesign the SPIN & STOW hinge and study the technology that was new to us.
Up until this time, we were a purely development and trade company. The glasses are developed by us and our long-standing producers in Germany and Japan supply the completed glasses to us. Of course, I insist on doing the design for the new projects as well. However, with this new technology, we could not simply rely on our trusted network of producers because they simply lacked the experience. Everything that was needed for the production had to be purchased and learned from the ground up. Thus, we currently have a whole arsenal of machines on our premises that is closely monitored by Stephan, our new production manager. From the 3D printer the size of a closet, sandblasting machines, a dye machine, up to a laser for the label on the temples. And most importantly: the giant compressor in the basement – because practically every machine in production moves their parts using air pressure.
Innovation – yes, please!
When I look at everything that has changed here in the last year alone, and how much we learned about it, I sometimes feel amazed. It gives me a sense of confidence in our ability to reinvent ourselves over and over again and thus also meet the needs of our customers throughout the world. What I also learned is that innovation is always positive and other projects benefit from it as well. For example, some of our new expertise can also be found in our acetate and titanium collection…