Brief history of development
Malawi, 2007 | © Martin Aufmuth

Brief history of development

Looking back, Martin Aufmuth, inventor of OneDollarGlasses, tells how it all started:


09/06/2009: Start of a Vision

In the book "Out of Poverty " by Paul Polak I read for the first time of an idea that would change my life and that of my family permanently. Polak writes about an important invention that does not yet exist: A cheap pair of glasses affordable by people who live on 1 US-$ per day. I think about what a shame it is that such spectacles does not yet exist… and continue reading.

A few days later I happen to see glasses for 1 Euro in the 1-Euro-store! I wonder: Why can glasses for 1 Euro be bought in a rich country like Germany whilst in poor countries it is not possible?


14/11/2009: My researcher and inventor spirit is aroused

For months I have been collecting information about different types of glasses, experimenting with different materials. One pair of glasses has a bicycle brake cable as a nose bridge, fully flexible, inexpensive to manufacture, but I need screws to fix the glasses. And these can be easily lost. I reject the model. Other models follow, I'm going through about a 1000 patents, search the internet and various department stores for different types of glasses and then ...


11/04/2010: The first pair of OneDollarGlasses are created!

The frame of bent spring steel wire with hardened polycarbonate lenses is as stable as any expensive glasses made of titanium flex. As a first stress test I put the glasses on my chair and sit down on it - it holds. The lenses can be clicked into the frame with a single movement. Tools are not required. Two coloured glass beads give the glasses a nice, individual design (even poor people deserve pretty glasses). And the most important: The total cost of the material used amounts to only 0.80 US-Dollars per pair of glasses.


20/04/2010: In our laundry room

(For Bill Gates the garage did it), I spent months of painstaking work to develop the first hand bending machine for producing my eyeglasses. It is still somewhat awkward to use and not very precise but the first spectacle frames can be bent. Now I am ready for the test the machine in real life ...


31/03/2012 : The crucial test in Africa

It is night. I leave the airport building in Entebbe/Uganda. Tropical, moist air strikes me. Inside the two heavy boxes I am carrying, there are three bending machines, several kilos of spring steel wire, heat shrink tubing and beads. I am a little nervous and my mind races: What am I doing here? Will anybody be interested in my invention at all? Is my concept practicable?

Next morning, there are about 800 people camping in front the gates of Kasana`s hospital doors. Five trainees are awaiting my arrival, eager to learn. For the next 14 days, I will teach them how to produce OneDollarGlasses on my machine. At the same time, we can supply about 500 children, adults and old people with glasses. After two weeks, I myself have learned ever so much and I know: my idea will work!


21/06/2012 : Club Foundation                   

Together with six colleagues from my school, we are founding the association OneDollarGlasses. Short time later, we are recognized as a charity by the Inland Revenue.


28/10/2012 : Second Training in Africa

A total of 14 trainees work from dawn to dusk on the machines. I have simplified the bending machines due to my experiences in spring. For producing a complete pair of glasses I now need only 12 minutes. After 10 days of hard training the two best graduates get a bending machine. Eversince they are working as independent OneDollarGlasses opticians and have themselves trained new opticians.

As a mobile bicycle optician they go from village to village, in a their luggage a handful of frames and a box with lenses of different diopters. The patients are tested for their vision on the spot and receive customized glasses. A seamstress with her new glasses is overjoyed that she can now put the thread back into the needle by herself. A sixty year old man can actually see his village clearly for the first time in his life! Apparently disabled children suddenly can attend classes all of a sudden, as they are able to see the writing on the blackboard.


02/02/2013 : A vision could come true

Meanwhile we get many mails from representatives of organizations from different countries in the world because they would like to integrate my concept into their work. In Germany I offer regular courses for learning how to produce OneDollarGlasses and I am always looking for partners who then carry out my machines into the world.

Individual engineering companies have offered to manufacture parts for the bending machine for free. A start has been made! I am now confident that if we continue to get people interested in our concept and if we get many, many  more supporters, we will solve one global problem: provide 150 million people worldwide with glasses permanently.