They 3D Printed Hands for Children in Syria; Now They’re 3D Printing Eyewear for Children in Los Angeles

| December 20, 2016

3D printed projects by students get ready to go from lab to market, including one ‘Spectacles Squad’.

3D printed eyeglass frames made by students from 3D4E, USC’s premiere student-run 3D printing club. Photo courtesy of Spectacles Squad

3D4E, aka “3D for Everyone,” the student-run organization that brings together students from all academic backgrounds and disciplines to work with the latest 3D printing technology showcased its semester-long projects on November, 30, 2016. No project was quite like the other.

“Club members had a chance to use 3D printing, many for the first time, to try to make something cool,” said 3D4E president Nikita Dhesikan, a junior majoring in biomedical engineering.

True to the club’s motto “if you can think it, you can print it,” projects ranged from robotic candy dispensers to improved helmet gear, to mechanical prosthetic hands for Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles (CHLA) and a 3D printed map of USC campus. Nothing was quite like the other. Design team members were also on hand to demo their creations and explain the process to enthusiasts.


3D4E made headlines last year when they teamed up with non-profit organization e-NABLE and Baltimore area Girl and Boy Scout troops to send 3D printed prosthetic hands made at USC to children wounded in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

With the fall semester coming to a productive end, 3D4E is working to push new 3D printing projects to the next level in the semesters to come.

“Many of these projects have the potential to become successful businesses in the near future,” said Dhesikan, pointing to a customizable eyewear for children piloted by a design team that calls itself Spectacles Squad.

A 3D printed prosthetic made by 3D4E’s Freehand Project Team Photo/ Daniel Druhora

Imagine having the ability to design and 3D print your own frames from the comfort of your desktop. A pair of frames so cool, as to make Lady Gaga jealous. The glasses would sit on your nose perfectly because they’re built to the exact measurements of your face using extremely flexible and durable 3D printing filament. Oh, and it would cost you less than a pair of Converse tennis shoes. That’s what the students behind Spectacles Squad are creating.

“The idea came from a brainstorming session at the beginning of the semester,” said Raghav Maheshwari, an undergraduate in the Department of Computer Science. “As an eyeglass wearer myself, I remember how much I hated wearing them as a kid. They were clunky, uncomfortable, they kept breaking on me and were not very cool.”

Maheshwari, along with fellow computer science classmate Sid Kucheria and Harrison Knapp – a GeoDesign student from USC Dornsife’s Spatial Sciences Institute and Jose Hernandez and Steven Hau – both from the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, went to work on modeling a cheap 3D printed set of frames that was both cool and unbreakable. What followed was a lot of trial and error.

“All of us were new to 3D printing and computer modeling,” Maheshwari said. “We had to learn how to model in Autodesk Fusion 360 quickly. Thankfully, 3D4E organized a workshop for beginners. They even invited someone from Autodesk to come in one night and give us a tutorial. That was very helpful to get us started.”

Given that designer frames can quickly cost hundreds of dollars, the team sees personalized 3D printed eyewear as a fun alternative for children, especially those who can’t afford them. And while 3D printed frames are not exactly a novelty, Maheshwari said their concept is unique because it puts the design power in the hands of the end user without drilling a hole in their wallet. More importantly, it empowers children to unleash their creativity while getting the added benefit of experimenting with some pretty cool tech.

Next semester, Spectacles Squad is perfecting their design templates and processes while looking for a method to acquire, or even to manufacture their own adjustable lenses. They also plan to reach out to children from Los Angeles inner-city schools and invite them to design their own frames.

Said Maheshwari: “We’re imagining kids will want to engrave their own names or choose whatever color they like. If someone wanted to have the Batman logo engraved on the sides, it could totally work.”