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Additive Optics Fabrication

Additive Optics Fabrication – Printed Optics Technology

Additive Optics Fabrication technology 3D prints optical structures and elements using industrial inkjet equipment. The process – also known as ‘Additive Optics Manufacturing’ – avoids complicated and costly conventional processes, such as injection molding, diamond turning, polishing and grinding, used to produce many types of optical components.

The Process at a Glance

The additive optics fabrication process includes deposition of transparent droplets of a UV-curable acrylic jetted and cured by strong UV-lamps onto a given surface (substrate). The results of the process are geometric or freeform shapes that may include transparent prisms or lenses, as well as full-color 3D graphics and textures.

Image of handheld sample of printed optics by Luximprint
Printed Optics – Smooth and optically functional straight from the 3D printer

The key element of the technology is the controllable print head, which provides a resolution of 1,440 dpi or greater. Even though the material is deposited in discrete drops, the resulting surface is smooth. This is accomplished by delaying the time between the jetting of the droplets and the application and strength of UV light, which gives the acrylic material some time to flow and for each droplet to lose its spherical form. Optical quality surfaces are achieved with no post-processing.

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

On the contrary to smooth surface finishes, defined frosted surfaces finishes can be applied to demand to serve, for example, light scattering or anti-glare purposes in lighting applications.

Image of various frosted finishes as defined and printed by Luximprint
Frosted Finishes – a form of ‘wanted surface roughness – are printed along with smooth surface in one single process. (Picture courtesy of Luximprint).

Additive Optics Fabrication by Luximprint

Printed Optics were initially invented in 2009 by the Dutch company Luxexcel. Today, the multi-market prototyping services for additive optics fabrication are sourced by Luximprint, a Dutch service provider for inspirational, decorative and functionally printed optical plastics.