Email Print Share

Imagine That! - Eyeglass Printer

Imagine That!
Audio Play Audio

Imagine That! - Eyeglass Printer

Credit: NSF/Finger Lakes Productions International

Audio Transcript:

For the one billion people in the world who can't afford eyeglasses, there's a new invention in sight that could make their day...

Imagine That!

Former MIT doctoral student Saul Griffith had a great idea for using what he had readily available at his fingertips to help people. While working at the center for bits and atoms at MIT, where you can create computer code to "print" almost anything, he developed printable eyeglass lenses.

At about forty cents worth of materials per pair, and with a lens molding time of less than ten minutes, his invention, once it's further developed, could produce almost any lens prescription for those in less developed countries and communities worldwide. But Griffith realized that a visit to the ophthalmologist to determine the prescription needed to make those glasses might still be out of reach for those in need. So he invented eye-testing goggles as well!

When worn, a specialized sensor inside the goggles monitors the lens in the patient's eye, and establishes the correct prescription for the wearer.

Griffith's socially-conscious inventions earned him the thirty thousand dollar Lemelson MIT student prize in '04.. As he says, he simply asked himself:

Griffith: "Can one use little pieces of appropriate technology to have a broad impact on a lot of people's lives all over the world, and I'd hope that if that works, we could inspire other people to tackle tough problems like that."

Here's to an inventor with some great "insight." I'm Eric Phillips.

"Imagine That!" covers projects funded by the U.S. government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you by you! Learn more at

General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.