words: Mike Basher

Ever wonder what the world’s most perfect-fitting goggle feels like?

In what could be considered the ultimate goggle, Smith announced the release of a bit of an upgraded version of their tried-and-true I/O MAG goggle. In what could be considered the ultimate goggle, the Smith I/O MAG Imprint 3D has a frame that is custom 3D printed, in order to perfectly fit the contours of your face, via Smith’s face-scanning app (available in the App Store).

Being the gear junkies we are, and the fact that we put as much time on our goggles as we do on our boots, we had to give the I/O MAG Imprint 3D a shot.

My 3D facial scan from the Smith Optics app, and the resulting I/O MAG 3D Imprint goggle frame.

I set a timer, hopped into the App Store, downloaded the Smith Optics app, opened it up, answered a few quick questions, and then 3D-scanned my mug. One look to the left and the right, and the app had mapped my face, saving the rendering to my profile. Then, I had to make the tough decisions: pick one of four lens options as well as a bonus flat light lens and decide between two strap colors, black or white.

In a matter of about five minutes, my order was in.

I/O MAG (left) and I/O MAG 3D Imprint (right).

Over in Portland, Oregon, a computer sliced the 3D-mapping file of my face from Smith’s app into a stereolithography (also known an STL) file [editor’s note: From the Oxford Dictionary, stereolithograpgy is “a technique or process for creating three-dimensional objects, in which a computer-controlled moving laser beam is used to build up the required structure, layer by layer, from a polymer that hardens on contact with laser light.”] which was then fed to a HP Multi Jet Fusion printer. The printer got to work, layer by layer, assembling my very own unique frame, meticulously bonding the flexible print medium into a finished piece. The front end of the resulting frame would accept a standard I/O MAG high-definition ChromaPop lens, just like every other I/O MAG frame in the world, but the back end would be an exact fit to my face.

Two weeks later, my custom goggles were at my doorstep, ready for action. 

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve worn every major brand of goggle for the past thirty-five years of my life, and have become well-versed in the world of 3D printing, making plenty of my own creations, so I was excited to see what sorcery Smith had up their sleeve.

Facial foam comparison: I/O MAG 3D Imprint (top), and I/O MAG (bottom).

But, first off, why all of this high-tech fuss? Well, when a company makes something like a boot, helmet, goggle, or anything that comes in direct contact with a very defined body part, they mold the product around a generalized version of that body part. You know, that of the average person. This is the safest measure to take when manufacturing lots of units. The resulting fit will be just fine for the vast majority of users, but it will still remain imperfect for some.

Indiscernible: I/O MAG 3D Imprint (top), and I/O MAG (bottom).

Take the interaction between Smith’s off-the-shelf I/O MAG and my face, for example. The thick, soft face foam contours well across my forehead, but the frame is a bit snug at my temples, and if I don’t crank the strap super tight, I’ll get leaks on each side of my nose. This adds more pressure to those hot spots at my temples, so that I don’t have powder blowing up into my eyes on those good, deep days. The Imprint 3D, on the other hand, since my pair is built off of a map of my own facial contours, fits every aspect of my face perfectly, even with face foam that’s only a third of the thickness as the off-the-shelf goggle.

This gives my personalized goggles a uniform feel, without pressure points or leaks anywhere, all while leaving the strap at a comfortable tension. Also, because of the thinner facial foam, the 3D version does result in more peripheral than the stock I/O MAG because the lenses are closer to my eyes, opening up the field of view. Kind of a nice bonus.

Now, it should be noted that Smith does offer a low bridge fit, which is a great ooption for faces with a lower nose bridge and/or a wide or high cheekbone shape.

We spend a lot of time in our goggles, frame pressed against our unique faces, and the fit can make all the difference between a pressure-induced headache to avoid snow-filled lenses, or an awesome day on the hill. If you’re constantly battling pressure points and/or gaps with your goggles, I’d highly recommend giving these a shot. In five minutes, they became my new daily drivers.

Check out the Smith I/O MAG Imprint 3D. $450. Smithoptics.com.