Last year, Mtbr visited the global headquarters of French eyewear brand Julbo to learn what differentiates them from competitors. In the process, they almost killed us. We also had the opportunity to tour one their two factories and learn more about how sunglasses are made.
The first step in designing a new pair of sunglasses is inspiration. Julbo looks to their team of professional athletes, employees, and brand ambassadors to learn what users need. Once an idea is born, the art department makes a prototype. The original starts off looking rough with multiple pieces of material layered together, but the end result is surprisingly polished.
After the shape is approved, the prototype is examined by a coordinate measurement machine. This device slowly circles the frame while taking thousands of data points, which are then uploaded to a computer.
From these coordinates, 3D printed models are created. The first model (pictured in white) is crude, but the second (grey) and third iterations (green) are much closer to production. These models often feature different material types to better replicate what the finished product will resemble.
When the product design has been finalized, software is used to program tool paths for the CNC work required to make molds.
The files are then sent from the offices to a CNC shop down the hall. This five-axis machine operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As molds are completed, the machine deposits them into an adjacent cage, grabs a blank, and begins working on whatever project is cued up next.
Above the mold is storage for different tools. Depending on the operation, the machine can select different bits.
Julbo also uses electrical discharge machining to machine complex shapes into mold such as this CE certification stamp. The process works by generating a spark that melts and vaporizes material. It’s commonly used when close tolerances are required or in places where a conventional cutting tool could cause damage.
Once finished, each of the molds are inspected.
The bulk of Julbo’s manufacturing is conducted in Romania, but they keep several injection molding machines in France to ensure that tooling is working properly. The also use this facility to produce samples and first production runs.