Donal Reddington on mass customization, crowdsourcing and digital manufacturing


The Digital Optician

In a post titled ‘3D Printer Brings Vision to the Poor‘, Mark Proffitt looks at how digital manufacturing technology is being used to provide eyeglasses to people in low-income countries, where the conventional optician service would be far too expensive for those that need it.

Mark Proffitt notes that:

There are two obstacles to providing eye glasses to people in developing countries. The first is determining their prescription and the second is providing them with affordable glasses.

He describes how Saul Griffith, a student at MIT, solved both obstacles with novel but cheap technology. To solve the problem of not enough doctors to issue prescriptions, he made a fully automated device that calculates the prescription. To solve the problem of providing affordable glasses, he used a 3D printer to make the prototype and 3D printer techniques to make the glasses. The result is glasses in 10 minutes for $10 anywhere in the world.

Uses of 3D technology such as this illustrate its potential to improve the lives of people in low-income countries, by revolutionising many expensive products into something much more affordable. Digital manufacturing isn’t just for hobbyists in rich countries. If anyone involved in developing digital manufacturing systems is reading this, I’d like to say the following:

“Keep going. You’re needed.”

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