October 19, 2020
Allan Petersen, Founder
Denmark-based eyewear brand Monoqool is challenging the way glasses are made. Their combination of revolutionary 3D printing technology and intelligent design has opened up a world of possibilities in shapes, styles, functionality and customisation. Curious to learn more, we reached out to the company’s founder, Allan Petersen, to get a closer look into their innovative way of working, sustainability efforts and future ambitions.
Q: Monoqool is a pioneer in the eyewear 3D printing field. What did the brand’s state-of-the-art craftsmanship look like in the early days compared to today?
A: We founded the company while I was living in Japan in the 00s. Therefore, it was very natural for me to work with Japanese factories at first. I spoke the language and knew the culture very well. But after 4-5 years of making glasses in the ‘old-fashioned way’, we decided to try out 3D printing as our preferred way of manufacturing. Today, we 3D print our glasses in Denmark, and we are much more directly involved in the manufacturing than ever before. It allows us to always work on refining what we do, and to improve on things which are not as good as we want them to be. And at a substantially faster pace compared with the time when we made our glasses in Japan.
Q: What are the opportunities and challenges of working with this revolutionary technology?
A: The first experiments with 3D printing took place already in 2009, and we went ‘all-in’ on 3D printing around 2012 as some of the first in the eyewear field. At that time the knowledge of 3D printing of consumer-grade products was very low or non-existent. There was a lot of ‘trial and error’ and no manual existed on how to make long-lasting high-quality glasses in a nice finish. We just had to experiment until we got it right. In regards to opportunities, 3D printing allows us to make some clever technical solutions for hinges, which are not possible in other technologies. Our glasses are all made without any screws, and the frames are ultra light-weight and comfortable. Other great – more internal - advantages of 3D printing is the speed in which we can bring new glasses to the market, and the flexibility of making glasses in small or big quantities as we wish, instead of mass-production in great quantities, which is often required by factories in the Far East.
\\ The America AR48 in the Wire Series by MONOQOOL
Q: By principle, 3D-printed glasses are predestined to be customised to individual wearers. What is your offering in this respect?
A: When we started using 3D printing technology, it was one of our visions to make customised glasses. We worked already from 2014 on such a solution with an external partner, but after several years of hard work, we had to conclude that tailor-made glasses would not be part of our destiny. One of our core-thinking is to keep things as simple as possible – from a minimalistic design approach, to how we work with digital solutions to simplify our operations and over to the logistical side of the business. Using 3D print and customisation is highly complex, both in regards to the IT programming side, but also in regards to production, logistics and customer support. We decided a couple of years ago that customisation would not be part of our journey. I don’t think any eyewear brand has entirely ‘cracked the code’ when it comes to customisation and 3D printing. The systems available for customisation are in my opinion way too complex to be really successful. The key is ‘simplicity’.
Q: An increasing number of new and existing eyewear companies are turning their attention to 3D printing. What makes Monoqool stand out from the crowd?
A: A lot has happened in the last 3-4 years, and the number of companies working with 3D print technology is mind-boggling. But we don’t define ourselves as a company specialised in 3D printed glasses. We see ourselves as a company of innovation, whatever direction it will take us in. Our main ambition is to make the most innovative and comfortable glasses in the world. Right now, we just love to work with 3D printing because of its many advantages for the consumer, in regards to product development, production and logistics. But we always study new and old technologies to make great glasses. With 3D printing, it is so easy to get excited about the technology, but in reality it is what you do with the technology that matters. How to utilize the benefits of any technology to bring advantages to the consumer, optician and to your company.
\\ The America AR48 in the Wire Series by MONOQOOL
Q: Monoqool spectacles reflect minimalism in style and design. How would you describe the creative direction of your latest collection?
A: Every season, when we bring out new glasses, we do our best to identify general trends in the eyewear field around the world. In recent years there seems to be a number of different trends appearing at the same time. Certainly, one of the trends is towards an 80s vibe. For this season we are launching several double bridge frames with metal detailing built around a 70-80s feel, but maybe not as extremely oversized as in the past. A direction we have been exploring for several years now is mixing materials. For example, combining 3D printing with decorative or functional metal details like in our Wire collection, our latest series based on wires running around the 3D printed fronts.
Q: What inspired Monoqool to take a stand for sustainability?
A: In 2019, we launched our Sustain sunglasses made in 3D printing from a biomaterial. As the first in the world to work in this new exciting material, this was the first result of a collaboration with a sustainability team from Deloitte Strategy Partners, who helped us with ideas for how we could reduce our carbon footprint in general. Producing glasses in a sustainable way and using sustainable materials is naturally one important area we work in, but we are also overhauling our packaging and other areas to do what we can in regards to sustainability. Manufacturing using 3D print technology here in Denmark versus making the glasses in the Far East definitely has a positive impact on the CO2 consumption. With 3D printing we are also to a great extent able to reduce the ‘dead stock’ that many eyewear brands are fighting with. With more of a kind of ‘just-in-time’ approach to production and logistics we are able to greatly reduce the number of obsolete glasses.
\\ Weekend WK21 glasses by MONOQOOL
Q: The ‘Sustain’ sunglasses were produced using a special biomaterial derived from castor seed oil. How much will you be exploring this material and other plant-based alternatives in future lines?
A: For sure this is part of our agenda to explore biomaterial. Not only the castor seed oil solution, but we follow new potential materials which come to the market. Whether they are for 3D printing or not. There are still big limitations in regards to suitable new materials for 3D printing. A lot is under development, but for glasses we really need the best high-performance materials. You often wear your glasses for up to 16 hours a day. Day in day out. You really put your glasses to the test, so we are careful to make sure that new sustainable materials can live up to these demands. Making high-quality glasses that lasts for years is probably the best impact we as an eyewear brand can have on the environment.
Q: What future hopes do you have for Monoqool? How do you see the label developing in the years to come?
A: Our core belief is to make great looking cool glasses that are both innovative and comfortable. Under that ‘umbrella’ we can take Monoqool in several new directions. We are a very experimenting kind of company, and we always have a host of new ideas we are working on. New materials, new technologies are always high on the agenda. But we like to test and try a lot of ideas at the same time, and we work pretty fast through a lot of ideas. Looking back, I can see that for every 50 ideas we test, only 1 idea will survive and make it into production. Crazy. Very frustrating for the designers. But I am a strong believer in doing lots of tests and prototypes instead of judging ideas based on only drawings. From failed ideas, new ideas are growing. Another important area for me is to strengthen our collaboration with our retail partners. We must stand together. I dream of developing a stronger partnership concept with independent opticians, to help us strive and be successful together as partners.
\\ Ghost Buster GH11 glasses in the Slider Series by MONOQOOL