Absolutely stunning sunglasses created using Stratasys’ cutting-edge 3D printing technology are sadly not for sale

Constraints form a major part of a designer’s process. Whether it’s constraints based on materials, manufacturing capabilities, technology, or even just budget constraints, designers work well within those boundaries to create the best solutions possible… but what if there were absolutely no constraints? What if there were no constraints? That’s what designer and educator John Mauriello shows with this video, where the sky is practically the limit. Relying on $200,000 printers from Stratasys, and technology that’s so cutting edge that consumers can barely afford it, Mauriello created the wildest set of sunglasses we’ve ever seen. Ergonomics, aesthetics, and design guidelines be damned, Mauriello’s sunglasses are absolute statement pieces, showcasing the themes of earth, wind, fire, and water. Moreover, they explore a set of circumstances that most designers don’t get to explore – a highly elusive ‘what-if’ scenario where money, material, and manufacturing are all open-ended.

Designer: John Mauriello
Prototyper Stratasys

These glasses are not intended for mass consumption. In fact, they’re experiments that aren’t for sale… but instead, form a core part of Mauriello’s design exploration and education approach. You can follow John’s YouTube page “Design Theory” to learn more… and if you want to design and print your own frames without shelling out $20,000 for a fancy top-of-the-line printer, scroll to the bottom of the article to learn more about Xometry – a website that 3D prints your designs and delivers them to your doorstep.

A lot of a person’s emotions get expressed through their eyes, and sunglasses hide that. It’s why people wearing sunglasses look mysterious to the extent of appearing ‘cool’. That became the starting point for Mauriello’s ideation. “That’s actually why I came up with the four elements idea,” he said. “I liked the idea of a natural disaster happening around your face, but you still look cool and calm and collected to the outside world. Plus I really liked Captain Planet as a kid…”

To design these outlandish sunglasses, Mauriello resorted to an unconventional design direction that he just wouldn’t get to explore with a paying client. This involved creating templates in VR, using Gravity Sketch. These were then imported into Houdini, where they could be used to simulate fire, water, wind, and earth. Mauriello tried out a variety of flames, sparks and embers for Fire before settling on the combination of red flames enclosed within clear flames. It looks as if a fire is melting the clear glasses.

Earth sunglasses have a surface with cracks that looks like rock formations. Unlike the Fire sunglasses that have an almost sinister aesthetic (the kind you’d see on a supervillain), the Earth glasses have a stable, grounded, rectangular form factor that’s made a tad bit more interesting by the cracks in its surface.

Water sunglasses feature a bubble aesthetic, with many rounded corners and forms. They also use AI-generated artwork, rather than relying solely on simulations. The splashes inside the clear frames were made in Houdini itself, but the colors and textures on the splashes were generated using OpenAI’s DALL-E 2. Mauriello created his own images rather than using stock photos, which gave the glasses a unique touch.

The Wind sunglasses also use AI-generated texture in the colored frames. The colored elements that look like smoke wisps are trapped inside an aerodynamic frame. Ribs run along the front of the frame, giving it a life-like appearance. Inside, you’ll see these amazing wispy forms that look just like the marbles we used to make as children. It seems impossible to create this without 3D printers.

Stratasys approached Mauriello and let him use the J55 printers for building out designs. The J55 is the company’s high-end full-color multi-material printer that prints in ‘voxels’ instead of sliced layers. This allows the printers to meticulously build designs with multiple materials, finishes, textures, and colors all in one stretch – a feature that was integral to Mauriello’s project.

Mauriello was able to create multiple samples on the J55 in one go, allowing him to experiment with colors, finishes and other details. Mauriello tested out multiple versions of each element to see how colors, transparency and the overall finish would affect his models. “You can experiment with a huge range of ideas and one of them is likely to be what you want,” he explained.

Mauriello then had the lenses fitted to each pair of sunglasses once they were complete. The glasses don’t have hinges on them, and are unibody (so they can’t be folded), but they are absolutely wearable, and Mauriello even got feedback from a pro eyewear designer on the forms and the overall design language of each elemental sunglass.

Mauriello and Stratasys worked together to create this project. They were generous enough to lend him one of their latest multi-material 3D printers in order to show off their capabilities. If you want to make designs just like these, Stratasys does offer a ‘Manufacturing On-Demand’ option that lets you generate an instant quote based on your parts. Alternatively, Xometry has a global network with over 10,000 CNC manufacturers and 3D printers. They also have molders and other equipment. You can use this for anything from 3D printing, CNC machining, or even mold-making. Xometry’s Instant Quoting Engine allows you to upload your 3D model and receive a quote within a few days. Click here for more information!