What Does 3D Printing Have To Do with Contact Lenses?
3D Printing & the Future of Contact Lenses
I am dumbfounded by the amazing capabilities of 3D printing machines. They’ve been used to make everything from prosthetic limbs to household items and even food! Though it sounds like it’s straight out of a science fiction cartoon, 3D printers have the capacity to change the world of manufacturing and change our lives.
According to 3Dprint.com, one recent development in the world of 3D printing is the 100-year-old chemical manufacturing company Wacker discovering how to utilize silicone 3D printing materials. This silicone material has the potential to manufacture anything from medical implements, automotive parts and even contact lenses!
Unlike metal and plastic, silicone isn’t as easy to use in a 3D printer because it doesn’t melt and change shape when heated. Silicone doesn’t conform to the traditional process of 3D printing, making prototyping and product development extremely expensive.
In order to make silicone a viable 3D printing material, WACKER partnered with a German product development company to create something like an inkjet printer that operates on a specially designed operating program. The program instructs the printing machine to release tiny drops of silicone onto a glass printing bed a layer at a time. Each layer is hardened by a quick flash of UV light, less than a second. The process is repeated over and over until the object is complete. “The final objects have virtually smooth surfaces and just like traditionally manufactured silicone parts, are completely bio-compatible, heat resistant and transparent.”
WACKER is excited about the potential applications of this silicone printing process. Not only will WACKER explore printing custom contact lenses, they have also explained that rubber masks, eyeglass nose pads, hearing aids, and even silicone baking tools could be created through this new 3D printing process. One day you might even be able to create a specialized silicone insert for your athletic shoes, printed specifically for your foot size and instep. For now, you can always buy your contacts from America’s Best!