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SU University Researchers Develop Projection Lens Oscillation Process for 3D Printing Microlens Arrays

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Image of 3D printed optical lens array by Luximprint used as header image for blog post on DLP 3D Printing lens arrays

Recently, researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design and Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, announced a breakthrough in the digital fabrication of microlens arrays using oscillation-assisted Digital Light Processing (DLP) 3D printing method.

To date, producing microlens arrays has proven to be difficult, according to the researchers. The current manufacturing technologies are time- consuming, have high process complexity, have a lack of fabrication flexibility, and face difficulty in consistency control.

Now, using a novel process of projection lens oscillation, the research teams have been successfully testing an approach for producing microlens arrays with proper surface smoothness using DLP 3D printing. 

Micro Lens Arrays – A gentle Introduction

A microlens array (brief: MLA) consists of multiple micron-sized lenses with optical surface smoothness. An MLA has a supporting substrate with often individual lenses of about 10 micrometers on it. It is formed in a one-dimensional or two-dimensional direction. Today, MLA’s have become an important micro-optics device used in various compact imaging, sensing, and optical communication applications.

With the exception of Netherlands based Luximprint, a global leader in Additive Optics Fabrication, most traditional 3D printing methodologies have been unsuccessful in fabricating any optical component thus far, due to the presence of coarse surface roughness in 3D printed objects.

Projection Lens Oscillation

In this new approach, the computationally designed grayscale patterns are employed to realize microlens profiles upon one single UV exposure which removes the staircase effect existing in the traditional layer-by-layer 3D printing method, and the projection lens oscillation is applied to further eliminate the jagged surface formed due to the gaps between discrete pixels.

Optically smooth microlens array is fabricated by an oscillation assisted 3D printing method. Image via SUTD.
An optically smooth microlens array fabricated by a Projection Lens Oscillation process.
Image courtesy of SUTD.

Digital Light Processing for Details

DLP 3D printing is a process that uses a digital projector to cure photopolymer resin and produce 3D printed parts. It is often used for highly detailed 3D printing, and is considered a faster method than Stereolithography, a similar 3D printing process. Although DLP 3D printing offers great flexibility in the fabrication of microlens arrays with different sizes, geometries, and profiles, it has been unable to produce parts with optically smooth surfaces. 

Oscillation DLP Printing: Ultrafast & Flexible Fabrication Method

To overcome this, the SUTD and SUSTech researchers suggested integrating DLP 3D printing with mechanical oscillation and grayscale UV exposure. Oscillation helps to remove the jagged surface formed by discrete pixels in a 3D printed part, whereas the grayscale UV exposure removes the staircase effect common to 3D printing, where layer marks are visible. The result is an ultrafast and flexible fabrication method for microlens arrays with optical surface smoothness. 

3D Printing Smooth Microlenses

Although the research team has specifically adapted DLP for producing microlens arrays, various other 3D printing technologies are already suited towards its production. 

A microlens array 3D printed on a Quantum X machine. Image via Nanoscribe.
A microlens array 3D printed on a Quantum X machine. Image courtesy of Nanoscribe.

For example, Germany-based Nanoscribe manufactures two-photon additive manufacturing systems that are capable of producing microlens arrays.

Also, for larger types of lens arrays, Dutch service provider for printed optics Luximprint offers optical quality lenses straight from the printer with zero need for post-processing.

Image or 3D printed microlenses by Luximprint
A gradient of 3D printed microlenses. Picture courtesy of Luximprint.

Economic Viability & Effectiveness

To prove the viability and effectiveness of the approach, the research team has conducted detailed morphology characterizations, including scanning electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy. Results suggested that the integration of projection lens oscillation with DLP 3D printing reduces surface roughness from 200 nm to about 1 nm.

Wrapping it all up, we may fairly conclude that, although the new DLP 3D process is still under investigation and not commercially available yet, the initial results are promising, and we can’t wait to see the first 3D printing devices entering the market.

NOTE: The SUTD + SUSTech Study, Ultrafast Three-Dimensional Printing of Optically Smooth Microlens Arrays by Oscillation-Assisted Digital Light Processing, was initially published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Signify 3D Printing: Launch of Services for Tailor-made Luminaires in Professional and Consumer Applications

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Image of a 3D printed decorative luminaire by Signify used as header for blogpost at 3DPrinting.Lighting

Signify, the world leader in lighting recently unveiled its facilities to 3D print light shades and luminaires in the Netherlands and plans to establish Signify 3D printing factories in the US, India and Indonesia. Over recent years, the company has perfected this highly flexible, more sustainable form of manufacturing, using a 100% recyclable polycarbonate material. It allows luminaires to be bespoke designed or tailored to customer’s exact needs and recycled at the end of their life, supporting a circular economy.

3D Printing for a Lower Carbon Footprint

Signify’s investment in 3D printing further illustrates the company’s commitment to better serving its customers while reducing their, and its own, carbon footprint. A typical manufactured luminaire (excl. electronics and optics) has a 47% lower carbon footprint than a conventionally manufactured metal luminaire. Nearly every component may be reused or recycled, supporting the concept of a circular economy.

“A typical manufactured luminaire has a 47% lower carbon footprint than a conventionally manufactured metal luminaire”.

Signify is the first lighting manufacturer to produce 3D printed luminaires on an industrial scale, reinforcing our position at the forefront of lighting and sustainable innovation. Printing luminaires provide a more flexible, fast and more environmentally friendly way to manufacture.

Fashion and food retailer Marks and Spencer (M&S) announced it is in the first phase of rolling out thousands of 3D printed luminaires across stores in the UK.

It is now possible to create new, or customize existing designs, that fulfill customer needs quickly without huge investments and long development cycles. Users can have their ideas brought to life in a matter of days rather than months and printing requires less energy.

Signify 3D Printing Facilities – Global Expansion

Signify already has a 3D printing facility at Maarheeze in the Netherlands. It aims to have up to 500 3D printers of different sizes with the ability to create luminaires up to 60 cm height and width. In January 2020, new Signify 3D printing facilities will be operational in Burlington, Massachusetts, US, serving both professional and consumer markets. Additional facilities in Noida, India and Jakarta, Indonesia will follow quickly after. LED lights will be integrated into the luminaires at all these sites.

Reduce carbon footprint and material waste – Signify’s contribution of its 3D printed
luminaires to its users sustainability goal. Infographic by Signify.

Lighting for a Circular Economy

3D printing has been around for a while, but these range of 3D printed luminaires are the first real retail lighting application that improves the sustainability of our stores and are extremely complementary to corporate sustainability strategies. The potential for the printed fittings is enormous, both from an energy and cost-efficiency perspective. They are printed on demand to fit perfectly without need for adjustment or cutting into our ceilings. Users can also return them to have them recycled and new designs printed, enabling us to be current and topical.

Albert Heijn, the Dutch supermarket chain, started using bespoke decorative pendants in its fresh food sections back in 2017.

Albert Heijn, the Dutch supermarket chain, started using bespoke decorative pendants to enhance the atmosphere in its fresh food sections in over 100 stores in the Netherlands in 2017. Luminaires were printed in the style of fruit. In the meantime, other designs were deployed in multiple stores, in sections such as frozen food and coffee areas. The supermarket is able to refresh the designs by simply returning the shades to Signify which shreds them and prints new designs.

Consumers can now online design, tailor and order decorative luminaires.

Online Tailor, Print and Deliver Fast Service for Consumers

Yesterday, Signify also announced the rollout across Europe of the world’s first online service to enable consumers to tailor decorative luminaires. Included in the range is a customizable Philips LED table lamp made from 24 recycled CDs.

In 2018, 79% of Signify’s sales comprised sustainable revenues. The company is committed to be carbon neutral in 2020 and was recently named Industry Leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the third year in a row.

Optographix by Luximprint to be launched at Trends in Lighting 2019 Bregenz

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Header image for blogposta bout Luximprint Optographix launch at TIL 2019

Trends in Lighting, the international show for Architects, Lighting Designers, Planners and Investors, is running in parallel with the established LED professional Symposium and Expo in Bregenz, Austria, at the heart of the European Lighting Industry. Luximprint, Dutch service provider for additively fabricated custom optics, decided to use the event as a launching platform for one of its latest technology advancements: Optographix by Luximprint.

Optographix by Luximprint

In addition to its primary business of optically functional 3D printed optics, Luximprint offers now 3D printed optical graphics: Optographix. The novel solutions enable interior and lighting designers and anyone involved in branding and interior design the possibility to start working with the ‘medium of light’ in a different way.

‘Northern Lights’ is a stunning lighting installation by Dutch Creative Design Firm Luminous Concepts utilizing the power of 3D Printed Optics and Optographix. Image courtesy of Luminous Concepts.

Marco de Visser, Co-Founder of Luximprint explains: “Optographix offer the international design community new ways of engaging with light. By using novel 3D printing technologies, translucent media and optically clear or colored resins and combine them with day and artificial lighting, surfaces are brought to life and start to create compelling and stunning light effects“.

Trends in Lighting vs. LED professional Symposium

For Luximprint, both leading lighting events in Bregenz are of great relevance. This year, Luximprint will be presenting printed LED optics at the LED professional Symposium. An interactive lecture will teach an audience of industry professionals how ‘Additive Optics Design and Fabrication Pave the Path to Novel System Design and Lighting Applications’. Seen from a purely functional perspective, the messaging is most relevant to engineers and designers of functional lighting systems.

The TiL 2019 program, at the other hand, explores a new horizon for lighting. The show has, for the third year in a row, created an outstanding event program, dedicated to bridging the gap between architecture, application, design and technologies.

‘Butterfly’ by Luminous Concepts is an interactive lighting installation in progress utilizing Luximprint Optographix Technology. Image courtesy of Luminous Concepts.

Optographix, which are considered as a ‘first-class lighting novelty’ are basically produced with the same printing process as printed optics. The optical translucency of the structures, critical for creating optically functional textures and typography, is created by applying the same optical resin formula in the printing and combining it with unique graphical 3D design methods. It is a perfect fit with the TIL 2019 visitor profile.

De Visser continues: “Optographix are a great new tool for brand enhancement and artistry, as they open up doors to applications and design spaces that were not accessible before”. When considering light as a medium rather than a static light source, suddenly, new ways of designing with light become within the reach”.

Lightly Technologies and Physionary

During the exhibition, Luximprint will be flanked by two more interesting lighting start-ups: Lighting Technologies, inventor of the revolutionary thin and powerful LED panels and Physionary, the Dutch design collective behind the groundbreaking Faceted Lens Technology.

Hikari SQ – Building Blocks for Lighting and Fixture Design

Lightly’s Hikari SQ LED panels at the one hand, go very well together with Luximprint Optographix. The powerful yet smooth light output are excellently suited as backlighting for Optographix. The fully controllable, ultra-thin and easy-to-integrate panels are a preferred choice by todays designer community.

Image of Lightly Hikari SQ display with embedded optographix. Image by Gavriilux.
Luximprint 3D Printed Optographix embedded in a display of Lightly Technologies.
Image by Gavriilux – www.gavriilux.com

Faceted Lenses: Light Where Needed

Physionary Design Software, on the other hand, is of great interest when it’s been used in the combination with Luximprint Additive Optics Fabrication technology. Where optical 3D printing breaks down the barriers in traditional lens manufacture, such as long lead times, tooling and inventory, Physionary software does so for the optics design part of the process.
The combination of both novel technologies is extremely powerful as it is now possible to create custom optics for any particular project case in a matter of days.

The Fresnel Sunflower Optic is an example of Faceted Lens Specialty designed by Physionary and printed by Luximprint. Image courtesy of Luximprint.

We will be following the further path of those interesting lighting start-ups with great interest, and keep you posted in case of new breakthroughs!

The powerful decorative and functional ‘start-up collective’ can be visited from September 24th-26th, 2019 in the Bregenzer Festpielhaus at booth #S3 – #S5 and #S7.

3D Printed Heat Sinks Display Higher Efficiency

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_Header image for blogpost about 3D printed heat sinks by 3DPrinting.lighting

Heat sinks are a crucial part of lighting devices, dispersing the temperatures of the LED chip produced during operation. Light fixtures would simply overheat without having them. Improving heat sinks can have major benefits, for example for the airflow and thermal heat dispatching. To this end, teams of university researchers and engineers from various equipment providers have applied novel 3D printing technologies to demonstrate novel designs that can give heat sinks better efficiency for lighting applications. It comes as no surprise, that 3D printing technology significantly contributes to the development of making better, lighter and smarter heat sinks.

3D Printed Heat Sinks for Lighting

For many manufacturers of lighting equipment, natural convection of air-flows remains the preferred method for cooling the electronic components of a given light fixture. This method is cheap, simple to maintain and produces no noise or electromagnetic interference.

Natural convection, however, is limited in its scope, with medium to high power outputs tending to overwhelm the simple cooling system. Advanced 3D printing technology opens up doors to designs that could help significantly improve the efficiency of cooling bodies.

Some examples of newly invented cooling bodies by Plunkett Associates.

Heat-sinks help to guarantee a long service life of a light fixture and prevent it from early failure. Made from high thermal conductivity material such as aluminum or copper, these essential parts conduct heat from the electronic component towards the extremes of their own large surface areas. When the heat reaches these extremes, it can be convected to the air flowing overhead.

3D Printed Heat sinks: Lighter – Smaller – Better

Recently, researchers in the US, along with other European counterparts, have shown that 3D printed heatsinks could be lighter, smaller or better than conventional heatsinks. This conclusion comes from two linked projects at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

One proves that 3D printed aluminum heat sinks can at least equal and sometimes supersede the thermal conductivity of standard heatsink aluminum. The second has developed genetic algorithms that make use of the freedom of shape available from 3D printing to design heatsinks that fit in the same space as their conventional cousins but work better.

3D printed heatsink. Image showing a false-colour rendering of a heatsink designed to cool a module dissipating 2kW. Image property of ORNL

3D Printing Heatsinks – Pros & Cons

Now, with 3D printing capable of making heatsinks just as good as existing heatsinks the same shape, we may ask ourselves what benefits are available using the arbitrary shapes possible with 3D printing, and how these arbitrary shapes might be designed? Here are some insights into the benefits and challenges of the manufacturing process, as well as some practical designer tips.

Like any technology, 3D printing of metals has its advantages and disadvantages. The trick is to know both when it is appropriate to use it and find the ideal applications for the process. For example, metal printing is a good option for creating complex parts that need to be strong and lightweight. The parts are also fully dense and can include precision internal features that cannot be created using traditional machining. Printing is additive, so it generates minimal waste.

Another benefit of 3D metal printing has to do with its reliability. Although it may take a few attempts to find the best parameters, design, and orientation for building a part, once discovered, the process is tremendously consistent. It will result in the same part every time, build after build. Although this may be assumed as a given for any manufacturing process, the predictability and efficiency of metal printing should never be overlooked.

The tradeoff to 3D metal printing’s benefits is that speed and cost cannot be driving factors for those who want to pursue this technology. This is why aerospace and automotive industries have been the most committed early adopters of the technology, rather than the more conventional and highly-cost oriented lighting industry. The lightweight, strong designs translate well to their applications.

Aluminum is an excellent thermal conductor, so it was used to 3D print these intricate, one-piece heat sinks for lighting applications.

Build times for 3D metal printing are longer compared to those for plastic 3D printing. It typically requires several builds to fine-tune a part’s design for mass production through 3D metal printing.

Before committing to designing parts for metal printing, designers should consider the material that is preferred for the part. Although there are a lot of materials people claim can be used for 3D printing, there is a very limited number of metals that can be printed on the market. It takes years of research and effort to develop the process parameters for specified materials in certain machines. This is a tricky aspect of the technology.

3D Printing Materials and Finishes

Some of the most common and reliable metals for 3D printing include stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, cobalt chrome and Inconel alloy. Choosing the best material is vital for ensuring parts will perform as needed.

Another design aspect to consider before going with choosing 3D metal printing is the desired surface finish. The surface finish of 3D printed part is poor due to it being built layer by layer. It takes post-machining on printed parts to get aesthetically pleasing surface finishes. This can be done using CNC machining or manual surface grinding, sanding, or polishing.

It may seem obvious, but size is another limed parameter. Parts cannot be larger than the machine’s build platform, which varies from printer to printer. Although there is no standard Build-platform size, the most common dimensions are around 250 × 250 × 300 mm, or smaller.

Heat sinks for LED light sources:

a) Industrial design solutions; b) Topology-optimized LED heat sinks for vertical, and horizontal orientations with 1/2 and 1/8 symmetries; c) 3D printed topology-optimized design with additional support; post-processed design with removed support; and simplified interpretation manufactured by traditional techniques. 

Source: Experimental validation of additively manufactured optimized shapes for passive cooling , Research Gate.

Designing parts for Metal Printing

Generally, there is a fair amount of trial and error that goes into perfecting a design. However, there are some common design pitfalls that can be avoided to streamline the process. It’s important for designers to have the process in mind when creating CAD models. Different 3D metal printers have different limitations due to the laser spot size and melt pool. Despite this, there are some general guidelines that should be followed when designing parts for metal printing:

Wall thicknesses
Walls that are too thin will begin to collapse under their own weight. Walls should be no thinner than 0.5 mm.

Hollows and Gaps
The limitations for gaps and holes may vary widely based on the printer being used, the metals being used, and part geometry. The general rule of thumb is to not design a gap or hole under 0.5 mm. Smaller gaps run the risk of the sides merging together and filling the empty space. On the other hand, supports need to be added for holes greater than 10mm.

Overhangs
0.5 mm is the maximum length that should be used for an overhang, and all downward facing structures need to be designed to a chamfer (more than a 45-deg. angle to the horizontal), with a concave or convex shape so the part can support itself. Support structures need to be included in the part’s design to exceed these guidelines.

Support Materials
Supports are needed for two reasons. The first is to hold parts to the substrate plate. The second is for heat dissipation. Any areas below 45 deg. from horizontal need support to be added. This applies to most of the metals.

Part orientation
Unlike other manufacturing processes, 3D printing creates parts with different mechanical properties in different build directions. In the X and Y directions, for example, parts have higher tensile strength than they do in the Z direction. Hence, part orientation needs to be considered prior to printing. This is especially true if parts are for mechanical/structural purposes where a certain area will sustain some degree of pressure and stress.

There is also an aesthetic element to part orientation. Downfacing surface areas of printed parts will have a poorer surface finish compared to the top-facing surfaces. If certain areas of a part need better surface finishes, it should be taken into consideration during part orientation. For complex parts, it is important that part orientation is such that if there are supports that may affect part function, they can be removed.

Image of various 3D printed heat sinks.
Heat sinks with highly complicated textures created by using 3D Metal Printing.

Trends in Metal Printing

In the near future, hybrid additive/subtractive machines will find their niche. It is not uncommon to find metal printing and CNC machining as part of a single production line. CNC machining may be needed to remove supports added to make a printed metal part. With a plastic printed object, supports can sometimes be manually removed simply by snapping them off. This is not the case with metal printing where removing supports takes a significant amount of time and effort. Once supports are removed, surface work (a time-consuming process) may be required as well. Combining these processes in one machine could be very beneficial.

3D Printed Heat Sinks – Future Outlook

Although 3D metal printing is not as easy as 3D plastic printing, the process of perfecting a design is worth it due to the higher engineering standard of the process. Although combined additive and subtractive machines will grow the market, traditional 3D metal printers will as well. There may seem to be a lot of limitations when it comes to metal printing, the industry fully expects the technology to go mainstream. It can be used to build parts that would be impossible by any other process due to complexity.

The key to metal printing’s growth and adoption will depend on widespread knowledge of designing parts for 3D printing. Some responsibility will fall on manufacturers to find avenues to share their knowledge with designers and one another.

The generally longer build times will begin to dissolve as new generations of metal printers come to market and the technology is perfected. Time will also lead to a wider range of metal powders to use for the process. Overall, 3D metal printing will likely prove to be the greatest development in low-volume manufacturing of metal parts over the next 50 years.

Conclusions

From what we at 3DPrinting.Lighting have read, heard and seen, we may conclude that the many optimization efforts to date result in significant material savings and design improvements of passive LED coolers. The possibility to account for several physical fields and their complex interaction, provides close to optimal utilization of the heat sink material and moves performance bounds close to the limit.

For such broadly applied and well-studied devices, reduction upto 20% in material utilization in unison with a 21-23% temperature decrease is still achievable, fully demonstrating the potential of 3D printed heat sinks. Optimized designs can be produced using 3D printing techniques or can be simplified further making them suitable for traditional manufacturing with only a small loss of performance. Higher computational efforts are required to account for additional physical effects and practical constraints.

The benefits in material savings and decreased temperature justify a certain cost increase in the design phase. Extensions to more complex multi-physical interactions including heat transfer in turbulent flows, magnetic refrigeration or cooling are still in their infancy, but cater for further future improvements in energy consumption of thermal and other systems!

This post was kindly inspired by Electronics Weekly, MachineDesign.com and the research study Optimized Shapes for passive cooling by researchers of the Universities of Denmark and Manchester.

Relio²: The Most Versatile Illuminator Ever!

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Image of Relio² set-up for 3DPrinting.Lighting

Relio² is a state-of-the-art professional lighting solution, aiming at those who work with light and need a calibrated, modular light source that is extremely similar to Sunlight. The concept stands out trough its extreme color rendition and the smallest, most versatile form factor in the world. It’s a combination of perfect color balance, very high intensity and sharpness. The instrument is engineered to be the holy grail for film, photography, artisans, researchers and creative minds and renders colors just like Sunlight does.

Color Rendering like Sunlight does

The light of the Sun, always in your pocket. The light of the concept brings forth extreme color fidelity – up to 98% native TLCI. This makes Relio² truly unique in its kind. In addition, light quality is guaranteed by making full spectrometric data publicly available to download. The light normalisation LUTs enable Relio² to reach 100% virtual TLCI, what is unequalled in todays market.

The versatile Relio product offers a million uses, where color really matters. See how Relio² helps People, Companies, Museums and Academies in their color-critical projects.

Relio – 3D printable accessoiries: Beautiful, open-source, and free

To make the concept even more appealing, Relio is the first manufacturer to offer official, 3D-printable accessories for their Relio² Illuminator to download for free. They are anticipating a future trend: repurposing technology to make it more sustainable.


3D-printing allows in-house fabrication of already-engineered Relio² accessories.

Relio releases all its accessories under a Creative Commons CC-BY-4.0 license, to enable its users to build upon, improve, manufacture and even sell the items they have build with no limitations.

“The Best Accessories you can Buy: The Ones you don’t have to Pay for”.

The portfolio of system accessories is engineered to be easily printable by entry-level FDM® 3D printers. They’ll push the Relio² concept beyond the limits. Here are some of the User-submitted accessories that are available so far:

Challenge the Relio Team

It is very well possible that one will be using Relio² for something that the developers had not anticipated. The Relio team is eager to share the source-codes of the reference socket to enable new innovation. It’s a valid starting point to build compatible add-ons.

Feel free to engineer your own accessory! The Relio team would be delighted to add your accessory to their collection, along with your story… and glory!

Interviews + Opinions: LightNow Blog interviews Marco de Visser on 3D Printing for the Lighting Industry

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Header image for post on 3D printing for the Lighting Industry by Craig Di Louie and Marco de Visser

Recently, we had the opportunity to share our views on the topic of the future of 3D printed lighting for the Lighting Industry. Marco de Visser – Editor in Chief for 3DPrinting.Lighting shared his views for an article written by Lighting Journalist Craig DiLouie for the April 2019 issue of tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED.

3D Printing Lighting – Future Views

If you are concerned how 3D printing will affect your position in the Lighting Business, please take a moment to read the full article at the LightNow blog.

Glow Box – A Window into an Artificial Mind

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Glow Box, a project by Yeseul Song & Michael Simpson, is a 3D printed hybrid object which imbues life into the object by displaying a real-time visualization of a neural network as it works to solve problems. The installation exploits the organic-like nature of the neural network algorithm and combines this with the almost magical ability of the physical object to appear illuminated without apparent electricity. The result is something which blurs the distinction between real and virtual imploring the viewer to question this distinction altogether.

Glow Box – Inspired by Nature

Nature has inspired mankind as longack as history is recorded. Among other things, our tools, techniques, and even aesthetics derive so much of their form and function from the clever decisions arrived at through centuries of evolution.

In more recent years, Nature has become a direct source of strategy for designers and researchers tackling some of the world’s most challenging problems. The neural network, a core component in deep learning, is no exception to this grand tradition. In their simplest form, a neural network models the high-level behavior of neural perceptrons. Essentially, they implement the basic functioning of a living brain. This technique has become invaluable in resolving problems that were once extreme challenges to quantify and compute.

Evoking Curiosity and Questioning Hybrids

But, categorically, what is a neural network? What do they look like? Do they think like we do? The ubiquity of these AI techniques begs for a more critical and creative understanding of the algorithms themselves. This project strives to do so by presenting viewers with a real-time window into the mind of a neural network as it repeatedly attempts to prove a simple equation. In particular, Glow Box evokes curiosity and, potentially, a questioning of the role for analog-digital hybrids as they inch closer and closer toward invalidating accepted definitions of sentience and free will.

In particular, Glow Box evokes curiosity and, potentially, a questioning of the role for analog-digital hybrids as they inch closer and closer toward invalidating accepted definitions of sentience and free will.

Glow Box is a 3D printed hybrid object which imbues life into the object by displaying a real-time visualization of a neural network as it works to solve problems.

The installation exploits the organic-like nature of the neural network algorithm and combines this with the almost magical ability of the physical object to appear illuminated without apparent electricity. The result is something which blurs the distinction between real and virtual imploring the viewer to question this distinction altogether.

3D Printed Glow Box – The Making Of

The cube itself was algorithmically designed and then fabricated using Stratasys Polyjet 3D printer. The cube has dimensions of 6” x 6” x 6” and is printed in optically clear material (Vero Clear) which exposes the object’s internal structure. On the contrary to optically clear print resins, that may result in printed optics or other geometrical shapes with a fully transparent internal core and a smooth surface finish, the higher haze values of the Vero Clear materials are utilized to absorb the emitted light.

Inside the walls of the object, a matrix of conduits curve to connect the cube’s bottom surface to the front-looking face of the object. These conduits hold thousands of strands of optical fiber which redirect light from beneath to be emitted from the front. This allows the analog object to serve as a sort of display when an image or animation is projected onto the cube’s bottom.

Images/videos from the preliminary 3D Printing research by the artist are found here

Lighting Research Center Industry Collaboration to Explore 3D Printing Solutions for Lighting Professionals

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Header image of article about LRC collaboration on 3D printing for the Lighting Industry

How will 3D printing affect my business? This question is being asked by companies in several industries, especially those involved in the manufacturing process. A diverse group of companies came together last month to discuss and better understand the impact of 3D printing in the lighting industry. 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is already being used in several industries to augment conventional manufacturing.

3D Printing – Understanding the Impact on Lighting

The discovery workshop, organized by the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer in partnership with Carbon Group Global, was designed to understand the impact of 3D printing across all areas of buildings and construction, and especially its impact on lighting. A group of industry leaders focused on how to best assimilate 3D printing with the lighting industry, the mutual benefits to all stakeholders, and the implications to and the impact on the existing ecosystem. The group will soon embark on developing an industry roadmap to make additive manufacturing a viable option for the lighting, building, and construction industries.

The Benefits of 3D Printing for Lighting Professionals

The potential benefits of 3D printing include the ability for manufacturers to create custom products that are uniquely designed for spaces to be illuminated. Fixtures could be printed on-site and on-demand, benefitting the user/customer, the manufacturer, and the local construction industry.


3D Printing for Solid-State Lighting. Images courtesy of LRC

3D Printing Individual Solid State Lighting Components

With 3D printing, the manufacture of individual lighting components, such as heat sinks, electrical traces, and led optics, could be customized, enabling the design of parts that cannot be manufactured today by traditional methods, improving both aesthetics and functionality.

Research is still needed to advance the integration of 3D printing into the lighting industry, beyond the current prototyping stage. To date, the Lighting Research Center has conducted initial investigations into the potential for printing thermal, electrical, and optical components.

100 Times Faster 3D Printing with Light

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Image of 3D printing with light with logo of Michigan University on it

A new, unconventional approach by Michigan University to 3D printing creates stunning results in an up to 100 times faster 3D Printing process. The newly invented methodology was recently reveiled and rather than building up plastic filaments layer-by-layer, it lifts complex geometrical shapes from a bath of liquid resin at up to 100 times faster 3D printing than conventional printing processes do. Here are some deeper insights.

3D Printing: A Game-Changer for Manufacturing

3D printing could potentially change the game for relatively small manufacturing jobs, producing < 10,000 identical parts. It would mean that the objects could be made without the need for a mould tool, coming with a significant upfront investment. But the most familiar forms of 3D printing, which are sort of like building 3D objects with a series of 1D lines, hasn’t been able to fill that gap on typical production timescales of a week or two. Scaling towards larger volumes has only been possible by multiple printers in parallel, each of them duplicating the same approach, what is not very efficient.

Printed Optics by Luximprint rely on a digital fabrication process that can produce custom optics at speed. Image courtesy of Luximprint

Printing Optics at Speed

As far as we are aware, it’s been thus far only the process of 3D printing optics, that has basically evolved from UV-inkjet printing, that can produce parts at such high speed and has the potential to scale to larger manufacturing quantities. This process, however, is fully tailored for additive fabrication of custom optics and Optographix and does not offer commercial solutions for other markets, as far as we are aware.

The Michigan University Approach

The Michigan University method solidifies the liquid resin using two lights to control where the resin cures – and where it stays liquid. This enables the team to solidify the resin in more sophisticated patterns. They can make a 3D bas-relief in a single shot rather than in a series of 1D lines or 2D cross-sections.

By creating a relatively large region where no solidification occurs, thicker resins – potentially with strengthening powder additives – can be used to produce more durable objects. The method also bests the structural integrity of filament 3D printing, as those objects have weak points at the interfaces between layers.

Image of Michigan University showing MI logo in semi-clear resin.
The ‘Michigan block ‘M’ – produced by the novel methodology to 3D print, developed at the Michigan University. Photo credits: Evan Dougherty/Michigan Engineering

An earlier solution to the solidification-on-window problem was a window that lets oxygen through. The oxygen penetrates into the resin and halts the solidification near the window, leaving a film of fluid that will allow the newly printed surface to be pulled away.

But because this gap is only about as thick as a piece of transparent tape, the resin must be very runny to flow fast enough into the tiny gap between the newly solidified object and the window as the part is pulled up. This has limited vat printing to small, customized products that will be treated relatively gently, such as dental devices and shoe insoles.

By replacing the oxygen with a second light to halt solidification, the Michigan team can produce a much larger gap between the object and the window – millimeters thick – allowing the resin to flow in thousands of times faster.

The Resin: Key to Success

The key to success is – like in many other (3D) printing processes, the chemistry of the resin. In conventional printing systems, there is generally only one material reaction. A photoactivator hardens the resin wherever light shines. In the newly invented Michigan system, there is also a photoinhibitor, which responds to a different wavelength of light.

Rather than merely controlling solidification in a 2D plane, as current vat-printing techniques do, the Michigan team can pattern the two kinds of light to harden the resin at essentially any 3D place near the illumination window.

Soon, a research paper describing this approach will be published in Science Advances, titled, “Rapid, continuous additive manufacturing by volumetric polymerization inhibition patterning.”

Final Thoughts

As described before, the process invented by Michigan University reminds us very much about the invention of ‘Printoptical Technology’ (3D printed optics) by Luxexcel back in 2009. We are greatly interested to learn whether this novel approach would bring new approaches and/or synergies to the table, especially related to applications in the Lighting Industry. In any case, we will be following the developments around the innovation with great interest!

Video and images courtesy of Evan Dougherty/Michigan Engineering. This post was kindly inspired by a previous publication from Michigan University.

LPS 2018 Launching Platform for Additive Fabrication of LED Optics

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Image of LPS 2018 printed by Luximprint Optical Technology

LPS 2018 Celebrates the Launch of Additive Fabrication Services for Custom Optics by Luximprint

“Additive Manufacturing Services for Functional and Decorative Optical Plastics Empower New Lighting System Design and Development”

Luximprint, a Dutch multi-market service provider for 3D printed optics, chose the 2018 LED professional Symposium and Expo as the springboard to launch its novel fabrication services for decorative and optical 3D printed plastics. Light engineering and design professionals in need for fast, flexible and cost-effective optics solutions can now take benefit of the unique advantages Additive Optics Manufacturing technology offers for new lighting system design and development.

Image with banner 'Future of Light'
LPS 2018 and TIL 2018 – Tradeshow and Conference on the Future of Light

LPS 2018: Springboard to the European Lighting Industry

Choosing ‘LED professional Symposium + Expo’ along with the co-located ‘Trends in Lighting’ event as a launching platform has been a strategic decision for Luximprint. Among the European Lighting events, LPS and TIL take a leading position in bringing the latest strategies related to new technologies and digitization closer to market professionals. It provides both engineers and designers of lighting systems a unique platform for new fixture development.

“Presence of digital manufacturing technologies is key, as it significantly contributes to improved system engineering and finally a healthier industry”.

Additive Optics Fabrication

Printed optics has come a long way in the lighting industry. Additive Optics Fabrication, marketed over the recent years by Luximprint, is a future-proof methodology of rapid prototyping custom LED optics by means of digital fabrication technologies. Direct ‘CAD-to-Optic’ manufacture avoids costly and uncertain commitments related to conventional optics manufacturing processes in the early development stages, such as upfront tooling investments and minimum order quantities.

Printed Optics by Luximprint were introduced at LPS 2018 to an audience of lighting system designers and engineers.

Printed products find their way find their way in a variety of engineering and (temporary) project applications, such as general lighting, (light) art, event- and interior design. Luximprint solutions serve mainly inspirational and functional demonstration purposes, as well as mold-/concept validation and pre-series fabrication.

Optographix: Optical Translucency for Branding and Interior Design

In addition to functional optical plastics, so-called ‘Optographix’ – as the name suggests a unique combination of optical translucency and full-color graphical expressions – are initially proposed at this years’ events to trigger lighting and interior designers.

Image of Luximprint Optographix - hand held carnival artwork
A colorful piece of artwork by Luximprint. Optographix creates novel possibilities for light and interior designers.

Optographix – compromised by full-color patterns and optical translucency – add value to artistry and design of spaces and are set to be a next method of translating a corporate or brand image by using a unique combination of 3D printing, optics and light.

Design for Additive Optics Fabrication

Educated and trained by Luximprint, the Luximprint ‘Optics Design Hub’ includes a network of affiliated optics designers through which Luximprint facilitates its users in designing for additive manufacture. Among them is Physionary, a Netherlands based optics design collective.

Image of handheld printed optic by Luximprint demonstrating faceted lens technology
Faceted Lens Technology was one of the novelties Luximprint and Physionary introduced at LPS 2018.

Listed for the 2018 LPS / TIL Award, Physionary provides a new revolutionary methodology for designers with light, enabling them to ‘put light where needed’. Physionary ‘Faceted Lens Technology’ greatly combines with Luximprint Additive Optics Fabrication Services as tailored lenses now can be made in a fast, flexible and cost-effective way. Above all, it provides anyone involved in the design and application of lighting systems with new tools for a more efficient and responsible use of light.

Image of demodisplay by Luminous Concepts for Luximprint at LPS 2018
Dutch Creative Design Firm Luminous Concepts created a colorful display showcasing the impressive Optographix capabilities of Luximprint.

Luximprint shared a booth at LPS / TIL 2018 where it demonstrated its cooperative approach in additive optics design and manufacture for future lighting systems together with the team of Physionary. 

At 3DPrinting.Lighting, we’re watching both Luximprint and Physionary with great interest!

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