When custom glasses manufacturer Fitz Frames learned that front-line healthcare workers didn’t have ready access to the protective eyewear they needed to combat COVID-19, the company saw an opportunity to help.
The Fitz Protect, a 3D-printed frame designed specifically for doctors and nurses, was developed by Katie Brandeau, Fitz Frames head of product, and Nate Sawyer, head of 3D rigging. Not only are the frames designed to be easy to sterilize, but they provide the required additional facial coverage around the eyebrows and lack the gapping found in traditional eyewear.
The company moved quickly to get a test frame designed, altered and shipped to doctors and nurses in just two weeks.
Medical personnel can order glasses through a smartphone app, undergoing a measuring process said to take less than five minutes. A “virtual try-on” displays how the glasses look on the wearer’s face; they can even select the color.
“It was important that the new design be comfortable and not feel too heavy as doctors and nurses are often wearing them for as many as 14 hours straight,” Fitz Frames CEO Heidi Hertel explained to CGT.
Fitz Frames’ facial-mapping technology takes several thousand points of facial measurement, the details of which are sent as a digital file to the company’s manufacturing facility in Youngstown, Ohio. The frames are 3D printed and processed for each face, taking such details as the bridge of a nose and forehead temples into consideration.
Frames can be created with prescription or non-prescription lenses, as well as with bluelight filtering or sunglasses. Orders are shipped directly to the consumer.
“A high percentage of doctors wear prescription glasses and have been advised to forgo contact lenses to prevent eye infection, so this solution is very helpful in that regard,” noted Hertel. “We used this information to develop our design, sent glasses to doctors to get feedback, made additional refinements and got them into healthcare workers hands as quickly as we could, while still taking the time we needed to get the product right.”
The company is taking steps to make the glasses free to doctors and nurses at various hospitals around the United States.
“We are fortunate to have donors who have underwritten glasses for healthcare workers and enacted a GoFundMe campaign with our partner the Loving Eyes Foundation for individuals that want to help us get as many free glasses to healthcare workers as possible at no charge,” Hertel said.
Feedback has been positive thus far, Hertel said, with comfort levels meeting or exceeding standard eyewear.
She said the project has reminded the company of the benefits of 3D printing’s ability to quickly solve problems. “We have a small team and have learned that we have the knowledge and manufacturing capabilities to pivot when needed,” said Hertel, adding, “It's a good lesson that even small, start-ups can be effective when called upon to solve a problem!”
The company intends to make the Fitz Protect frames for as long as they’re needed during the health crisis.