As a company whose very name means ‘precision’ in Japanese, SEIKO Optical has built a strong reputation on its ability to deliver high-performance eyewear. At the Silmo 2015 optical fair in Paris, where SEIKO announced the new Xchanger sports eyewear collection, the design won the Silmo d’Or award for excellence in optical innovation. The collection, the result of SEIKO’s collaboration with Materialise and Hoet Design Studio, demonstrates yet again the added value that 3D Printing brings to the eyewear industry.

Precision and Certified Manufacturing: A Snap Fit

Manufacturing eyewear has always been on the junction of craftsmanship and technology. It demands technical know-how, combined with a careful attention to quality and precision. That is no different today, when 3D Printing has become a mature production technology. Laser sintering is already a highly precise 3D printing technology, noted for the high degree of design freedom that it offers and the possibility of printing complex, intricate geometries without needing support structures. But not all machines are tuned alike, and for eyewear Materialise works to minimize any variance that could impact repeatability.

Edwin Van Gijzen, SEIKO Sales Manager for Benelux, says, “Xchanger is a unique concept in the market at the moment. We also asked opticians what they think of it, and they find the complete product not only beautiful, but also new in the market. That makes it a winner for them.”



Traceability and Machine Control: Keeping an Eye on Your Glasses

The SEIKO Xchanger collection is 3D printed on dedicated laser sintering machines, which are tuned specifically for 3D printing eyewear. Mastering the machines and the processes is the only way to reach the standards and quality needed for high-end consumer products. It’s crucial to be able to trace any possible failure to its root. Doing so for an entire manufacturing range of an eyewear collection is the kind of challenge Materialise engineers are fond of. They streamlined the entire process, from design, printing, production, all the way to finishing in a controlled and certified flow. Extensive knowledge of both hardware and software for Additive Manufacturing proved again to be of the utmost importance.

Materialise software package Materialise Streamics provides a software-driven overview of the entire production process from design to finishing, ensuring that each set of frames is traceable through each step of manufacturing. Concurrently, the proprietary Materialise Control Platform connects as a hardware attachment to the printing machines to give additional control over and insight into the machines’ settings.


The Finishing Touch: When Your Eyewear Leaves the Printer

SEIKO Xchanger frames let you choose between nine color options for each of four frame components. Each of those vibrant, long-lasting colors is applied soon after the frames leave the 3D printers, by the in-house finishing team at Materialise. And that’s only one stage of a multi-stage post-production process which each set of frames undergoes. Sports eyewear will inevitably be exposed to factors that challenge its performance, such as UV and sweat. Newly developed post-production processes protect the frames from these elements, prevent wear and tear, and ensure the best possible performance over time.



“SEIKO’s focus on precision is a perfect fit for Materialise: we announced earlier this year that we had have achieved certifications for the manufacturing of end-use parts, suitable for the aeronautics and aerospace industries. And now we’re taking the same degree of precision and high quality to our Additive Manufacturing for eyewear,”
says Alireza Parandian, Materialise, who facilitated the co-creation between Materialise and SEIKO.