Canadian Company Disrupting Optical Industry with 3D Printed Custom Glasses

By Mario Toneguzzi

Toronto-based fashion technology company Specsy is redefining the experience of how people are selecting frames for glasses as it is providing optical retailers with a turnkey solution to sell custom frames.

Ashley Barby, co-founder of Specsy and its chief operating officer, said the company was started with a belief that glasses are one of the most intimate items people share with the world as they give others insight into your style, personality and ultimately your personality.

“So why, in a land full of curated coffees, personalized playlists, and customizable everythings, are we still mass producing glasses?,” she said. “Using our expertise for 3D printing in the field of healthcare, we decided that it was time for a shift. Our goal is simple: craft 3D printed, one-of-a-kind glasses that are the perfect fit for your style and shape. That’s why each Specsy frame is made to order, and made just for you.”

SPECSY available at The Eye Gallery in Saskatoon. Photo: Specsy Facebook

SPECSY available at The Eye Gallery in Saskatoon. Photo: Specsy Facebook

Specsy was founded in November 2016.

“We operate as a wholesale manufacturer. We provide optical retailers with a hardware and software platform,” said Barby.

This is how Specsy works for the consumer. Its cloud-based platform allows opticians to design custom frames in stores as Specsy provides the hardware to capture a 30-second 3D scan of someone. That scan is then used to design and size custom frames. The Specsy product line is always growing and evolving and every frame is crafted to order.

Specsy manufactures the frames in-house.

“When we started, it was basically an idea,” said Barby. “We had this idea for Specsy . . . In that first year we did a lot of R&D (research and development) taking this platform with this software and kind of retro-fitting it to optical, figuring out how we could make a frame from 3D printing . . . That was the first year.

“Then last year we launched our first account with a store in Saskatchewan actually called SPEX by Ryan. And since then we’ve grown and operate accounts all across North America. We’re in every province in Canada all the way down to Miami. We’ve seen great growth. We do lots of large industry trade shows. We’re one of the first to market in the industry. So there’s a lot of excitement from the optical field that was waiting for the technology to evolve and for somebody to deliver it which we have and now we’re looking at expanding it into the EU (European Union) in the next six to eight months.”

The company has thought about having its own physical stores but Barby said optical legislation in Canada is very interesting. All prescription frames need to be dispensed by a licenced optician.

“It just didn’t make sense for us to bring all of that operational overhead in-house but we could very realistically operate as a wholesaler and work with existing opticians who know the business, have an established customer base and are just looking for that new product to differentiate themselves,” said Barby.

“But never say never. You never know. But it’s not (on the radar) right now.”

Barby said the company has two customer profiles. The first is driven by practicality for customers who are having a tough time finding a frame that fits and is comfortable.

“Our second customer profile is one that’s driven by uniqueness and who has a design and wants to create their own custom creation and that’s something we’re able to deliver on,” added Barby.

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Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com

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