“Additive Manufacture effectively enables Customization of individual Lighting Projects”
In today’s lighting industry, there’s a shift in focus from purely improving the efficacy of lighting installations towards more intelligent lighting systems. It is however not just the system that’s getting more intelligent and diverse, also the manufacturing process and the overall supply chain in the lighting landscape are rapidly evolving. Huge volumes of identical light modules that foresee in a “generous” lighting need – without bringing a real lighting experience – are no longer accepted. Project customization is key: good lighting for all places. Exactly, this is where 3D printing comes in as an extremely powerful and disruptive tool for anyone working with light.
3D Printing: fixed staying & evolving
3D printing: you must have heard about it meanwhile. A 21st century digital technology that rapidly evolves, thanks to the on-going digitization. More than 30 years ago, the first 3D printing equipment was already developed and the first print materials became available on the market. The use of this technology however was subject to some early adopters, and the average light professional did have no or very limited access to this groundbreaking technology. Finally, even after the digital revolution took place in the past decade, the technology become more famous, attractive and useful.
3D Printing – The Process
The process is quite simple. 3D printing is based on the idea of adding material: building up a product “layer wise”, or for precision manufacturing, even with “droplets-on-demand”, rather than starting with a solid block or sheet of material and then removing the material that you don’t want, such as machining. Using 3D printing equipment today, you can choose from a great variety of materials, such as plastics and metals to create your objects. With having a digital CAD file that specifies the exact shape contours and complexity of the product to be printed, it’s only one step from the digital design process towards the real end-product.
A Game Changing Technology
Some high-end, decorative fixture manufacturers are using 3D printing for the past 10 to 15 years already, most for rapid prototyping purposes or to create replacement parts in a fast and affordable way. Especially when speed is crucial in the product development, 3D printing is a wise solution. These initial applications of 3D printing however aren’t the real ‘game-changers’ the lighting industry has been looking for. What has recently changed is that the cost of 3D printers has dropped to a level that individual users and small businesses that are not associated with wealthy traditional lighting manufacturers can now access the technology.
“The 3D Printing Eleven”
The 3D Printing Benefits for Lighting Professionals
Hereafter, you’ll find a couple of unique process benefits listed. The individual bullets are worked out in more detail at the underlying pages. Just to understand the unique advantages of 3D printing technology and what it makes it so adorable above conventional ways of manufacturing.
• No Upfront Investments, no MOQ:
With 3D printing, no extraordinary upfront investments in tooling and inventory are required. Ordering only one part is as easy as ordering hundreds or even thousands.
• Greater Product Variety:
Apart from the printer itself, 3D printing only requires a digital CAD file and some raw materials to create an infinite variety of shapes.
• Complexity is Free:
Printing a complex lighting design is no more expensive than printing a simple one.
• Easy Iterations:
Creating and manufacturing multiple product variations is one, making sure they perfectly fit the needs is two. The digital flexibility and the printing speed enable the fabrication of multiple product variations in a short time frame for functional “trial-and-error” testing or “form-and-fit” purposes.
• No Assembly Required:
Traditional manufacturing requires assembling many parts, 3D printing however can print fully assembled end products and significantly reduce labor, handling, supply and shipping cost.
• Short Lead Times:
Products can be readily available: printed “on demand”. With just one step from CAD-file to product, printing a finished product has become as easy as printing just a piece of paper, resulting in shorter cycle times and faster product marketing.
• Unparalleled Design Freedom:
3D printers can print shapes that were never possible before when using traditional manufacturing methods.
• Zero Manufacturing Skills:
Operating a 3D printer requires less skilled operators than traditional manufacturing methods does.
• Reduced Material Waste:
Depending on the materials involved, 3D printing significantly reduce when compared to traditional machining methods.
• Multi-material Applications:
Blending and mixing-up different kinds of raw materials in one run into a single product is now possible in new ways with 3D printing.
• Exact Part Replication:
Digital 3D modeling allows unlimited copying of designs without loss of quality. Similarly, the 3D model/file will not degrade, regardless of how many times the object is being printed.
Impact 3D printing for Lighting
The most disruptive scenario for 3D printing includes bypassing the traditional luminaire designer, wholesaler or even manufacturer by the end-user. This will occur when end-users start to design and print their own customized luminaires for their projects. Both software and printing solutions arrived at a level that is available for not only high-end professionals, but even small to mid-sized firms as well as home professionals can now permit doing an affordable and effective job.
3D printing: Winning Approaches
From now on, our editorial team will intensify posting content and blogging on 3D printing topics that impact the lighting industry and guide you step-by-step through the various printing principles as listed above: “The 3D Printing Eleven for Lighting Professionals”. We’d be glad to explain how 3D printing opens doors to applications you never thought of before, how it eases the manufacturing and optimizes the speed of product development.
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