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The 3D Printing Eleven (4) – Easy Iterations



In the old days a designer normally had to design a lighting product, then the manufacturer build the manufacturing tools of that part, which could take up from months to even more than a year. After the tooling arrived, the part was finally manufactured and tested, with each new test iteration taking a couple of months. The whole process often took more than a year from the initial idea to the time a final product was ready and available to get marketed.

Lighting Design Engineering’s become easy

Today, a design engineer uses three-dimensional, computer-aided design software (CAD). Now he design a lighting fixture or an individual lighting component simply on a computer screen. After completing and ray-tracing the design and/or it’s functionality, he submit it to a 3D printer for manufacturing, in the house or at a subcontractor. The printer can be filled with plenty materials, such as fine metal powders or plastics, or even a combination of various materials. A laser device literally builds or “prints” the piece out to the exact specifications. Engineers now can immediately test it — if needed several times a day — and when it is just right a new part is born. If not fine, it’s easy to change the CAD file and reprint in quantities matching the demand.

Iterative Design Processing: Easy Iterations

Iterative design processing may be applied throughout the new lighting product development process. Normally, changes are easiest and less expensive to implement in the earliest stages of development, but with 3D printing, products can be adapted anytime during the development process to catch up with changing market offerings. Improved led modules, enhanced drivers or smaller heat sinks may result in an immediate chance or need to optimize a product under development.

Product Iterations cycle
Easy Iterations during the prototype deployment cycle

Prototyping Functional Parts on Demand

A first step in the iterative design process is to develop an inspirational or immediate functional prototype. After selecting the right parts and the assembly, the prototype is ready for evaluation by a project team that, preferably, is not associated with the product to ensure the delivery of non-biased opinions. Feedback as delivered by such a focus group is synthesized and incorporated into the next iteration of the product design. That process is repeated until user issues have been reduced to an acceptable level, and the product is ready for series production.

‘Trial & Error’ TESTING:
With 3D printing you can easily change the CAD file and reprint Or, print a couple of parts together in one run, all of them slightly differing from each other. at low cost, in an extremely short timeframe!


Material and Cost Definition

When developing a new lighting product, keeping development and manufacturing cost low is always key. Creating product by 3D printing, the easiest way to reduce the cost of the product is to reduce the amount of material that is being printed. This can either be done by making the product smaller or by removing material from the product, for example hollowing out a solid object. Sometimes it is easy to remove a large portion of material while still keeping the overall shape of the model. The second option you might have is to change the material itself. External influences, such as heat development or ambient temperatures, may however limit your freedom of choice here.

3D printing - Product Iterations flow
3D printing – Product Iterations flow

Short Cycle Times

In the past, performance worked against speed: the more tests you did to get that optimal performance, the longer it took. When complexity is free, the ‘design-to-test-to-refine-to-manufacture’ process for some components is being reduced from years to weeks, or even days, if needed. The product development cycle has become extremely short now: in a couple of days you can have a concept, the design of the part, you get it made, you get it back and perform some tests whether it is valid and within a week you have it produced. … It is getting both better performance and speed.

Thanks for reading Volume 4 of the “3D Printing Eleven for the Lighting Industry”. We will be back soon with the next episode: with 3D printing, ‘no assembly is required’.

Printed Optics now Available for Outdoor Lighting Application



Luxexcel recently announced the introduction of outdoor coating as a finishing for their ‘LUX Standard’ material. By applying this outdoor finishing, the company enables its printed optical parts to be used in outdoor lighting applications. The coating protects against the influence of sunlight (UV) and rapid temperature changes (thermal shocks ranging from -15°C to +60°C). The protection is guaranteed for a period of at least three years.

Custom Optics on the Rise

3D printed optics are already being used for many indoor applications and there’s been an increased demand for outdoor solutions. The printoptical process now allows users of Printoptical Technology to create custom optical components for the outdoor market as well.

3D Printing – How it works

The outdoor finishing can be applied to the LUX Standard material and must be selected during the order process. The process is developed to fit within the current delivery time of 10 working days.

We’ll keep on watching this interesting technology and can’t wait to see them taking their next steps. We’ve been watching the company for a while, and published some earlier articles on their process for the 3D printing of illumination optics.

Printed Outdoor Lens Array with forestry background.
Printed Outdoor Lens Array with forestry background.

3D printing of LED optics can be, in our opinion, seen as a real manufacturing breakthrough in the lighting landscape for one of the most crucial LED components. Recommended to anyone working in either light engineering or application!

The 3D Printing Eleven (3): Complexity is Free



When using 3D printing technologies, manufacturing complexity is free. The rule in traditional manufacturing is that the more complicated an object’s shape is, the higher the manufacturing costs are. On a 3D printer, the cost for a complex design are about the same as for a simple one. Fabricating a complicated shape does not require more time or cost than let’s say printing a simple shape, like a cube. This freedom in complexity however will disrupt traditional pricing models and finally change how the cost of manufacturing products are calculated.

Unparalleled Design Freedom

To take full benefit of the renewed manufacturing opportunities as offered by 3D printing, designers of lighting products along with specifiers such as lighting designers and architects need to start thinking even more “out-of-the-box” and start rediscovering the new ‘boundaries of manufacturing’. Since no tooling is involved anymore, the constraints as set by conventional product toolings are gone. Freeform products and high complexity components (e.g. multi-faceted) can now be designed and manufactured at zero extra cost. Since software tools are also getting stronger, more versatile and hands-on, even the designer doesn’t need to bring much extra skills, or to spent his valued time on additional design efforts.

“3D printing: rediscovering the boundaries of design and manufacturing technologies”

Creating Winners and Losers

When people say “complexity is free” they’re implicitly recognizing that 3D printing technology can be incredibly versatile. Because it generally produces objects “layer-by-layer,” or even more precise by depositing tiny “droplets-on-demand”, it can fabricate products that simply cannot be produced in another way. This critical attribute could transform the way some lighting manufacturers operate, and it may force others into obsolescence. Consider that many lighting products are currently assembled out of multiple subcomponents. Mostly, this is because of constraints that are imposed by the way these products are designed and manufactured. For example, using traditional methods to machine complex internal structures requires that those internal structures are generally accessible to machine tools and then assembled into a larger component. Now, multi-materials can be brought together in one single print run.

21st Century Design Engineering

Today, engineers are using 3D CAD software, they are now designing their parts on a computer screen. After the design process, they simulate the functionality, and if it seems to work fine, they transmit it to a 3D printer. The printer is filled with a metal powder and a laser device that literally “builds” the piece out of the metal powder to the exact specifications. Accordingly, you can test it and, when it is working well, you have your new part in hands, in as fast as one day. To be honest, some complex parts may require some more time for design and post-processing, and also the design software is not preserved from failures, but this is how it will work in the near future. That’s what we mean when we say “complexity is free”.

Shorter Cycle Times

With 3D printing, the product development cycle’s become amazingly shortened now: in only a couple of days you can have a visual concept available, the product design in place and the fabrication done. After that, you have it available for evaluation and testing whether it is working or not. If not, you can easily iterate the product and reprint, or just go ahead and within a week you have it produced. Apart from significant cost savings, digital manufacturing is bringing us both better performance and increased speed. In the past, performance worked against speed: the more tests you implemented to get an optimal product performance, the more time it took. When complexity is free, the full design – test – iterate – manufacture process is being reduced from months to weeks or, if needed, even days.

Soon, Volume 4 of the “3D Printing Eleven for the Lighting Industry” will be published. We’ll see how easy different iterations can be made on a product design by using a digital design and manufacturing process. Please make sure you stay tuned!

The 3D Printing Eleven (2): A Greater Product Variety



Dedicated Budget Applications

Thanks to the zero need for upfront investments, the available working capital can now be fully dedicated to the core of the project itself: creating new or enhanced lighting solutions. No more financial losses for non-matching manufacturing tools, write-offs for obsolete inventories or dealing with unreasonable minimum order quantities. The engineering budget is now freely available for the real product engineering and optimization work. It allows engineers to choose the best option by trying different product variations or iterations to come to an optimal end solution.

Multiple Product Variations

Instead of being limited to dozens of identical products, 3D printing now enables a designer to fully customize his projects. Even within the project itself, the individual lighting modules may look different from each other, or have different functionality matching a specific need. A good interaction between the lighting designer and product engineer may result in new and unique applications, and even better cover the needs for good lighting for the right places.

Easy Product Optimization

Using 3D design, printing, scanning and imaging software, it’s now become just a matter of creating the CAD file, convert it and queue it for printing. With only one step from CAD-file to end-product, products are now available in a very short time frame. When the expectations are unmet, or different from the expected, product changes can easily be made. A lighting product can now easily be optimized after fault detection, or its functionality enhanced after testing. A variety of product accessories, such as printed optics, decorative covers or mounting rings can now be supplied for project specific purposes in quantities as low as one. Working towards the final product solution, a lighting design engineer now can order various product iterations on a single product component at the same time, just to find out which of the foreseen options suits best.

Enabling Software Solutions

Thanks to the ongoing digitization, new and enabling software solutions arrive to meet growing customer demand. Starting from scratch, new products can easily be designed, or chosen from a pre-defined product library. Next to creating a product design from scratch, reversed engineering can be used to design a new lighting product, to duplicate or to optimize a traditional one. By producing 3D images of manufactured parts, a renewed ‘blueprint’ will become available in order to remanufacture the part.

To reverse-engineer a luminaire, for example, the part can be measured by using a coordinate measuring machining, e.g. by 3D-scanning. As it is measured, a 3D wire frame image is generated and displayed on the screen. After the measuring is complete, the wire frame image is dimensioned an converted into a solid CAD file. Any component can be reverse engineered using these method.

Mass Customization Options

The ongoing digitization enables printing as easy 1 x 1,000 parts as 1,000 x one part. So called ‘mass customization’ is now within the reach of every designer. All of the products applied onto a project may look different. Such a great variety of parts may turn into a project where all the luminaires used look different in appearance, functionality and performance and perfectly fulfill the needs of the customer.

The possibilities with 3D printing are endless and they encourage designers working with light to discover the new boundaries of manufacturing. New product features and enhanced project opportunities will arise and product diversification will be well-stimulated!

The 3D Printing Eleven (1): No Upfront Investments



Imagine you are a Senior Design Engineer in charge of your companies’ new product development. The marketing department just came up with the latest market trends and insights and shared their ideas for a new range of lighting products. They underlined the importance of a fast availability of the new products in order to stay ahead of the competition. Equally, there’s only limited time left to the next trade event, such as an impactful Light+Building or Lightfair International show, where the companies full (bi)annual catalogue collection will be presented to a global audience of lighting engineers, designers, specifiers and buyers.

Excellent Team Work

Thanks to the great work of the market intelligence team, accurate information on the latest technology advancements is available on demand. The engineers are doing a great job and succeeds in merging together freshly adapted tech novelties into a new luminaire. Finally, the selection and sourcing of relevant fixture components for completion of the bill of materials (BOM) turns out in successful team work.

There are, however, a few bottlenecks that need to be killed first, at least before starting the physical development process:

1) Initial Mold Investments

Before having a physical product in hand, investments in appropriate prototype and manufacturing tooling, e.g. for heat sinks and illumination optics, are needed. Prices for durable tooling vary from thousands to tens of thousands Euros, depending on what material and longevity you may choose. When informing the Financial Officer about the funds needed he gets crazy. Especially when you ensure him there’s some uncertainty about the exact outcome, and another investment round may be needed at a later stage. All those pain points need to be addressed against a high level of uncertainties. Will the final outcome be satisfactory to all of us? Is there a change that we need to restart the tool manufacturing process to get a properly matching part? Do we need to make any in-process changes? Software simulations are great, but every manufacturing process, unfortunately, has its tolerances. Time pressure is high with zero room for further delays.

With printed optics, the boss will be happy: cutting upfront investments will lead the way to increased profitability.
With 3D printing technologies, the boss will be happy: cutting upfront investments in tooling and inventory will lead the way to increased profitability.

2) Enhanced Buying Power

In order to get the most competitive prices, the purchase department is set to negotiate the best conditions. That will be a tough job since they intend to order a customized manufacturing tool. There’s almost zero room for negotiating, at least not without accepting any future commitments. In fact, getting good prices means large minimum order quantities, i.e. a waste of money and a huge stock since forecasts never work and products rapidly evolve.

3) Warehousing Solutions

The stock-keepers, on their turn, are unhappy when they got told that dozens of identical new products are about to arrive shortly. The warehouse was fully booked for a while already, and the new deliveries make the facility collapse. And no single complaint about maintaining the stock, stock positions and annual balance sheets at a correct level. That’s just their “part of the job”.

With printed optics, inventory is digital: no minimum order quantities are required.
With 3D printing technologies, inventory is digital: no minimum order quantities (and thus high stock levels and obsolete inventory write-offs) are required.

4) Supply Chain Optimization

The operating officers at the end were quite unhappy with all those new product flows. Transporting the goods requires a lot of planning work, handling and coordination before the different components arrived at the companies warehouse for further assembly. Instead of using existing parts readily from stock, new parts are sourced in order to meet the rapid changing market demand.

All Unhappy Workers

In addition to the formerly mentioned, some other frustrations may appear, and at the end, all are unhappy: the financial director lost his money, the warehouse keeper is not happy with the huge load of new products that arrived, the buyers at the purchase department feel pretty uncomfortable as if they did have had no room to negotiate the best possible deal.

It CAN be different, though…

When using 3D printing technologies, there is no need for investments in expensive and time consuming tooling anymore. At the same time, the limitations of tooling are gone since the full manufacturing process went digital, straight from a Computer Aided Design (CAD) file into a real end product. New design freedom and product design opportunities arise without tie and expenses needed, as before. The available engineering budget can be spent now on the real engineering work: find out what’s the best mix in terms of components, durability, mounting features, system efficacy, effective functionality and connectivity of the lighting fixture. It’s become now as easy to manufacture one single lighting module as to replicate it into hundreds of identical parts. All you need is just a 3D printer, a dozen of different materials, a skilled designer and a ‘smooth’ operator.

From ‘Standardization’ to ‘Customization’

Customization is a great thing. 21st Century lighting design sectors and architecture start to discover the ‘power’ and ‘design freedom’ they can unlock and start moving away from standard products towards real customized lighting products for their projects. It forces production badges moving down from hundreds of identical lighting modules into ‘tens of pieces’ to meet specific project requirements. Even specific items within the project or ‘mass customization’ is now possible, meaning that easily 1,000 parts may look exactly the same but slightly differ from each other.

3D printing brings the lighting industry attractive cost advantages that can be ignored no longer. Those companies that understand the added value for their business well and adopt this new manufacturing technology will benefit most in the years to come. They will be able to make the difference in the future of the lighting industry and will be true leaders in todays 3D printing revolution.

The New .MGX Catalogue: Informative and Inspiring



As a pioneers in 3D printed designs with more than 10 years of ground-breaking, award-winning collaborations with leading designers from around the world, .MGX has a great design collection of 3D printed objects available ready to bring a new dimension into the home. The new catalogue is just released and provides a comprehensive overview of various impressive designs as created by leading designers.

3DPrinting.Lighting_.MgX classicsChallenging Technology – Engaging Designers

We live in a society buzzing with technology, spending our days in a whirlwind of impressive images, new products, and an overwhelming number of information. Being inspired by this enervy, .MGX challenged some of the worlds’ top designers to use revolutionary 3D printing technologies to create some special, revolutionary products. The .MXG collection is the result of that challenge: a beautiful selection of lamps and design accessories that do much more than just light up a room or furnish a house. These are products that engage both the imagination and the senses. One of the best story tellers is, if it’s up to us, the “Fall of the Damned” Chandelier by Dutch architect Luc Merx. Apart from the imaginative power, it creates mood and brings magic to any setting while translating the story of a monumental religious painting: a jumble of the bodies of the damned, hurled into abyss by archangel Michael and accompanying angels.

3D Printing Methods

Manufactured by using a variety of different 3D printing technologies, the .MGX catalogue brings together the best of craftmanship in both a modern and traditional way. 3D technologies allow the production of complex shapes that would otherwise never be impossible to create. Each manufactured part is individually sketched, converted into a CAD file, created by laser beam and carefully finished by hand.

LUXeXceL The Movie: ‘Meet Optics John’



The life of John, a lighting fixture engineer isn’t easy. It’s though work for him to keep the companies product sellable. It’s rather frustrating that during the product development cycle, continuously better LED chips arrive on stage. So before John’s new fixture is ready, it already need an update. Therefore, it’s quite time consuming for his company to invest in expensive molds and volumes of molded parts.

Obsolescence is causing a huge waste, straining both environment as balance sheets. And Johns boss is not happy about that. In many cases, John is forced to use standard parts and lenses. So are his competitors. The result is that many fixtures look the same. And, there are no attractive options to customize the lighting for a project or application.

Traditional Optics Design: balancing between extraordinary (tooling) cost and long lead times
Traditional Optics Design: balancing between extraordinary (tooling) cost and long lead times

21st Century Optics

Luckily for John, now in the 21st Century according to The Economist, the Third Industrial Revolution has started. In the meantime, we’ve all heard about 3d printing, right? Well, John did. Basically, you have a material. It goes into a printer. This printer heats and melts the material, and deposits it in layers. This way, it can build what you tell it to build. On demand. So basically, now Johns computer can create cheap and flexible inventory.

3D printing - How it Works
3D printing – How it Works

3D printing – How it Works

There are a lot of different 3D printers. Some of them can print plastic, others can print metals, or even ceramics. But none of them can do what LUXeXceL can do! And this is where it get’s interesting for John! LUXeXceL offerst 3D printed optics. The developed a unique 3D printing process, using transparent optical material to making lenses and optical components. Like LED lenses, a magifying glass or even a pair of real functioning glasses. LUXeXceL’s process lets droplets flow into each other before they are cured, with UV light creating a 100% smooth and transparent product. And… there is no need to post-process the products by polishing, coloring or grinding them.

Use of Printed Optics

So what are these optics used for? Well, they can be found in a lot of products. The most common ones would be an average lamp, which has an optical component to direct the light. There are optics in your flashlight, in your reading light, in the train, in streetlights, refrigorators and even in the buttons of your coffee machine. John is happy, because now his lenses can be made digitally and super-fast. Without the need to buy him a minumum order value and volumes of thousands of components.

3D Printed Optics: Design - Print - Iterate - Print
3D Printed Optics: Design – Print – Iterate – Print

Digital – Super Fast – Flexible

With 3D printed optics, there are no minimum order quantities. If John only needs 50 pieces, he can simply order 50 pieces. This is saving him a lot of money and time. Now Johns process to develop and test the lens becomes easy. All he need is a CAD file of the design. This file is directly loaded in the printer. If he wants to change something, he can simply change his design and have it printed again. No expensive investments in molds or other tools are needed, again saving Johns’ company money. 3D printed optics now allows John to do his development easier, faster and better. He now even can help customers with designing fixtures with easy interchangeable lenses, so that for every lighting project can provide a perfect light distribution with ease. Don’t waste your time, money and our environment, have your optics 3D printed today!

‘Meet Optics John

Now, please take a minute to listen to the story of Optical Designer ‘John’ and how printed optics changed his life. He and his colleagues are doing a great job on digitizing the optics manufacturing.

More about ‘John’ and the Future of Printed optics at LUXeXceL’s website. The Future of Optics starts today!


Related Stories:

The LUXeXceL Story – as told by LUXeXceL CEO Richard van de Vrie
3D printing of Illumination Optics – Optical quality surfaces – no post-processing
3D printed (LED) Optics by LUXeXceL – Optics directly from the printer with only one step from CAD to optic
LUXeXceL The Movie – 3D Printed Optics: a Day from the Life of ‘John’


3D Printing Light: a virtual 3D Printing Reality



When it comes to 3D printing on FDM based 3D printers, there are plenty materials and colors to choose from today. One ingenious man, named Ekaggrat Singh Kalsi, however, decided to use this process to try something entirely out of the ordinary: try 3D printing with light as a filament.

As you may know, most 3D printers use print technologies where they print ‘layer wise’, converting a CAD file directly into a solid object. The parts come off the printer as full 3-dimensional items. Ekarggrat decided to implement an entirely new concept within the print process. He wonder what would happen if instead of using traditional filament, he used LED lights, thus he set out on a mission to find out.

Building the object layer-by-layer until the print is complete
Building the object layer-by-layer until the print is complete

A Virtual Printing Reality

Of course you may understand that tangible objects couldn’t be printed in light, as we all know that light is intangible. However, utilizing a camera enables the visualization of a complete 3D printed object, built entirely out of light. He then took his camera, set it to the ‘BULB’ mode, and took a photograph using a very long exposure value. This was while the 3D printer moved using the LED light on the path he defined in the gcode. The extruder on the printer was turned off, so that it didn’t actually print with traditional filament.

The printer moving around, shining its LED light attached to the print head
The printer moving around, shining its LED light attached to the print head

Painting with Light

This is a twist to an age old technique called ‘light painting’. The results? They were quite incredible. You can see each layer that the 3D printer moved around, shining its LED light, that was attached to the print head, as it went layer-by-layer until the print was complete. Of course, there is no end product other than these fascinating photos that were taken.

The entire project took Ekaggrat only two days to complete, and he isn’t stopping here. If we understood it correctly, he plans on implementing a RGB LED to add some more color to his modern ‘light painting’ technology.

We’re curious what’s next, and will definitely update on what’s coming!


Related articles:

3Dprint.comSliced Light: 3D Printing by Replacing Filament with Light


3D Printed Hue Luminaires: Unleashing the Beauty of Light



Fusing the worlds of Light, Art and Technology, 3D printed luminaires allow limitless light effects, bringing a piece of art into the living room. Adding colorful and sustainable light sources as, for example, the innovative Philips Hue Wireless Controlled Light System, delivers a great lighting experience for any home.

3D Printed Hue Luminaires

With Hue, a simple finger swipe on your smartphone or tablet lets you create infinite personal light effects from a palette of over 16 million colors, shades of white and programmable light scenes. You can turn your 3D printed luminaires into stunning features such as illuminating the luminaires to tune in with the setting sun, by connecting it to automated internet services.

3DP.Lighting_3D printed Philips Luminaires with Hue (6)

A revolution in Lighting Design

3D printing provides more freedom, control and even personalization when designing great lighting products. There are fewer boundaries for creativity with as there are unlimited options to generate any mood or lighting effect. Combined, it is possible to create the most advanced, digital technologies for a functional, emotional and unique light object. The expression of colors as produced by Hue adds an surprising element that’s magical and mysterious, creating a sense of wonder.

3DP.Lighting_3D printed Philips Luminaires with Hue (5)

Fully compatible with Philips Hue

3D printed table and pendant luminaires, from for example Philips, Shapeways and i.Materialise, are fully compatible with the expanding Philips Hue lighting eco-system of bulbs, lamps, apps and switches. Philips even developed a special range of 3D printed fixtures that were especially designed for use with Hue. They were co-created with some globally-renowned design teams and displayed at the Light + Building Show in Frankfurt recently.

3DP.Lighting_3D printed Philips Luminaires with Hue (2)There’s more to discover on the various Philips Hue Lighting System components at the “Product Inspiration” corner of the connected website Inspiration.Lighting.

ZooM Lampshade: ZooM in – ZooM Out



Created as a programmable object in generative design software, ‘ZooM’ has a structure created from hundreds of repeating elements that together form a series of interlocking spirals.

ZooM Lampshade - 3D printed in blue and white material.
ZooM Lampshade – 3D printed in blue and white raw material.

3D printing allows this pentagonal lampshade to be manufactured flat and completely assembled; folded out, it’s flexible like a textile, while maintaining its form like a rigid product. The semi-transparent structure shields the bulb’s glare, while transmitting light efficiently.

Seeing the product unfold from a flat disc to a full sized lampshade never ceases to amaze.
Just a simple cord and bulb socket are needed to create a functional, architectural lamp.

Seeing the product unfold from a flat disc to a full sized lampshade never ceases to amaze. From there, all that is needed is a simple cord and bulb socket to create a functional, architectural lamp.

3DPrinting.Lighting_ZooM Lampshade by Michiel Cornelissen
Seeing the product unfold from a flat disc to a full sized lampshade never ceases to amaze.

More impressions of ‘ZooM Lampshade’ and purchase information is available in the ‘Product Inpiration Corner‘ of Lighting-Inspiration.com or directly at the website of Michiel Cornelissen.