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eLearning by UL: Foundations of 3D Printing


Underwriters Laboratories (UL) recently introduced a new online 3D printing course, “Foundations of 3D Printing”. Geared to provide lighting professionals, engineers and designers, the cours is aimed to provide a basic knowledge of the fast-emerging additive manufacturing industry.

The reality is 3D printing is growing at an incredible pace, in and beyond lighting. What was once the domain of select engineers and designers utilizing the technology for “solid free-form fabrication” and “rapid prototyping”, 3D printing is now impacting residential, commercial and industrial lighting markets.

Foundations of 3D Printing: Modular eLearning

“Foundations of 3D Printing” is an interactive four-module course made available through eLearning modules created by UL Digital Manufacturing Technologies (DMT). The course is designed for and intended to serve individuals using and relying on UL services.

Geared to those new to or with an interest in this innovative technology, Foundations of 3D Printing is an interactive four-module course that presents comprehensive introductory knowledge of the 3D printing industry. Covering terms and definitions, software and hardware as well as discussing applications and case studies, you will begin to understand the benefits of 3D printing in a way that is relevant to your lighting needs.

In today’s diverse and fast-moving industry, UL is uniquely positioned to provide a trusted, objective, independent point of view and expertise. This is the first step within their larger goal of helping to advance the lighting industry with 3D printing related matters.

The Economist boosting 3DP Interest

Though additive manufacturing technology began in the 1980s, an article in The Economist five years ago really sparked interest in the technology. After that, UL started hearing about a lot of interest from manufacturers about integrating this technology into their production. Not a lot of people know how to use the technology, that’s why UL’s Knowledge Services were tasked to develop and offer a training service for the technology to bring manufacturers “up to speed”.

eLearning course powered by UL covering the Foundations of 3D Printing
eLearning course powered by UL covering the Foundations of 3D Printing

Foundations of 3D Printing: introductory knowledge

“Foundations of 3D Printing” presents comprehensive introductory knowledge of the 3D printing industry. Covering terms and definitions, software and hardware as well as discussing applications and case studies, participants will be taught the benefits of 3D printing in a way relevant to their business needs. In addition, Foundations of 3D Printing introduces concepts related to print process challenges and considerations, benefits and limitations of the applications of various technologies, quality and safety considerations.

Module 1: Introduction to 3D Printing

Module 1, “Introduction to 3D Printing” provides a background of 3D printing, related terminology, a review of the various unique 3D printing processes and basic applications.

Module 2: 3D Printing Hard – & Software

Module 2, “3D Printing Hardware & Software” explores the various software and hardware required for 3D printing. The module introduces computer-aided design (CAD), scanning and repair software as well as tiers of 3D printers, features and selection criteria considerations.

Module 3: The 3D Printing Process

Module 3, “The 3D Printing Process” presents the four phases of the 3D printing process (digital file creation, preparation for printing, printing, post processing) in detail via a simulated case study. This module also begins to discuss quality and safety considerations specific to 3D printing.

Module 4: Applications of 3D printing

Module 4, “Applications of 3D printing” discusses applications of the technology within the aerospace, automotive, healthcare and consumer industries. In addition, the module introduces the 3D printing supply chain, end user categorization, and final considerations for implementing a 3D printing strategy.

UL is offering the four-module “Foundations of 3D Printing” course for $249. The online course takes about 2½ hours, 30 to 40 minutes per module, to complete.

3D printing by McKinsey: Are you ready?



Systems for additive manufacturing, or 3D printing as it’s better known, represent just a fraction of the $70 billion traditional machine-tool market worldwide.1 Yet given the likelihood that this technology will start to realize its promise over the next five to ten years, many leading lighting companies seem surprisingly unaware of its potential—and poorly organized to reap the benefits.

3D printing by McKinsey: 40% respondents unfamiliar with AM technology

A McKinsey survey of leading manufacturers earlier this year showed that 40 percent of the respondents were unfamiliar with additive-manufacturing technology “beyond press coverage.” An additional 12 percent indicated that they thought 3D printing might be relevant but needed to learn more about it (Exhibit 1). Many also admitted that their companies were ill prepared to undertake a cross-organizational effort to identify the opportunities. Two-thirds said that their companies lacked a formal, systematic way to catalog and prioritize emerging technologies in general.

3DPrinting.Lighting_McKinsey 3DP RelevanceAdoption of 3D printing years ahead

The mass adoption of 3D printing—the production of physical items layer by layer, in much the same way an inkjet printer lays down ink—is probably years rather than months away. The 3D printer industry has enjoyed double-digit growth recently; sales of metal printers, indeed, rose by 75 percent from 2012 to 2013. But expert consensus2 indicates that the market penetration is just a fraction (1 to 10 percent) of what it could be given the wide range of possible 3D applications (Exhibit 2).

The wide range of possible 3-D applications suggests that market penetration could increase dramatically.
The wide range of possible 3D printing applications suggests that market penetration could increase dramatically.


The 3D printing relevance

Ten percent of the executives in our survey already find the technology “highly relevant.” They see 3D printing’s ability to increase geometric complexity and reduce time to market as the key business benefits, closely followed by reduced tooling and assembly costs. Those who expect to be among the next wave of users were much more likely to cite reducing inventories of spare parts as one of the advantages. Additive manufacturing, in short, seems set to change the way companies bring their products to market and respond to customer needs. But predicting a “tipping point” is difficult.

Closing the gap – traditional vs. new

Much will depend on when and how quickly overall printing costs fall, a development that should narrow the still-yawning gap between the cost of new and traditional manufacturing methods. In sintering-based 3D printing technologies,3 for example, there are two major expense categories. The machines and their maintenance typically account for 40 to 60 percent of total printing costs. The materials used in the manufacturing process can account for 20 to 30 percent when using common materials such as aluminum, or 50 to 80 percent when printing with exotic materials such as titanium. Labor and energy make up the rest.

New features and steady pricing

In all likelihood, prices for sintering-based printers will remain steady or rise in the near term thanks to the introduction of new technical features, such as enhanced automation. But patent expirations and new entrants in Asia should apply downward pressure over the next ten years. The cost of materials ought to drop in the long term as third-party firms become credible alternative powder suppliers and as increased demand for powder enhances scale efficiencies more generally. Throughput rates are expected to increase on the back of growing laser power, higher numbers of lasers, and better projection technology. All of that will serve to reduce expensive machine time.

Scenarios for sintering-based printers

The McKinsey research on sintering-based printers examined two possibilities: In the “base” scenario, costs remain largely at their present level and companies come to understand the benefits of additive manufacturing only gradually. In the “market shock” scenario, printing costs fall precipitously—say, by 30 or even 50 percent over a ten-year period. Early signs of these cost-shifting dynamics can be seen in plastic sintering. One new Chinese entrant is already selling comparable selective laser-sintering machines at a price 25 to 30 percent below that of a leading Western supplier. Asian players are offering technically comparable nylon powders at prices that are more than 30 percent lower than those of their Western rivals. Price undercutting is less dramatic for nontraditional blends, such as carbon-filled powders used in strong but lightweight parts (those in racing cars, for example).

Digital technologies and expertise expected to dominate manufacturing

While there have been false dawns before for 3-D printing as a whole, companies cannot afford to be complacent. That will be especially true if the expected benefits to innovation are not only magnified by cost reductions but also bring into scope whole new industries and product categories. CEOs and COOs above all need to examine the readiness of their companies for a future in which a range of integrated digital technologies (of which 3D could be one of the most significant) will dominate manufacturing and competitors will probably be building additive manufacturing into their value chains. That means focusing on better organizational cohesion and considering partnerships with external organizations (such as local contract-printing bureaus) that have the necessary technical expertise.

Building executive engineering, quality, operations & procurement champions

Beyond the C-suite, companies should build a group of executive champions within the engineering, quality, operations, and procurement units. Some aerospace and medical-device companies, for example, already have teams scanning their entire design portfolios for parts that could benefit from this technology. Furthermore, the introduction of 3D printing into complex manufacturing environments would require big changes in quality-assurance and control processes: companies would have to replace old protocols relying on extensive up-front testing and validation of traditional production tools, such as molds. Since additive manufacturing reduces or even eliminates the need for these tools, organizations must understand the steps needed to satisfy their quality requirements in the future.

Upcoming: challenges & opportunities

The coming years will bring new opportunities and challenges. Companies with savvy executives who raise awareness, fill talent gaps, and build the necessary organizational capabilities will be well positioned to benefit from this breakthrough technology.

About the authors

The arguments in this piece are mainly derived from a previous article by Daniel Cohen, an alumnus of McKinsey’s New York office, “Fostering mainstream adoption of industrial 3D printing: Understanding the benefits and promoting organizational readiness,” 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing, June 2014, Volume 1, Number 2, pp. 62–9.

Source: McKinsey & Partners, “Insights & Publications

Luxexcel launches Online Order Platform for Bespoke Illumination Optics


“World’s leading 3D printing process for illumination optics now easy accessible online”

LUXeXceL Group launches a brand new ‘Online Ordering Platform’ to further extend its 3D manufacturing services. At the website www.luxexcel.com/upload users can now submit their custom Optics Design (CAD file) in a private and secure online environment. With this new online service, users have the possibility to create their personal, private and secure gallery with a 24/7/365 availability.

Smooth translucent parts straight from the printer with free complexity.
Smooth translucent parts straight from the printer with free complexity.

Transparent 3D printing goes digital

Luxexcel’s business-to-business 3D printing service will bring transparent 3D printing closer to the lighting market, as well as a great variety of other markets and businesses. The full ordering process has now gone digital, what comes along with optimal flexibility and the possibility to order on demand, in quantities as needed.

“BESPOKE optical designs can be tested within minutes and users receive their quote instantly”

In this way, large stocks become irrelevant. Unique customized optical designs can be tested within minutes and users will receive their quote instantly. Prototyping and testing a transparent products is now easy due to the very rapid throughput time of the 3D printing service. If variations are needed or design changes appear, users can easily modify their design and upload another file at their personal gallery. This gallery contains a library of all the uploaded designs.

Printed Collimator Lens Arrays by Luxexcel - all printed in one shot, parts can either be all the same or all different.
Printed Collimator Lens Arrays by Luxexcel – all printed in one shot, parts can either be all the same or all different.

President & Founder Richard van de Vrie is excited about the online ordering platform: “At LUXeXceL we strive to make our service better every day. Our new online ordering platform makes doing business with us much easier than before. The process of our new online platform is very simple: Upload your file, receive an instant quote and order your product. An easy to use and fast online ordering service to receive your optics and transparent products on demand”.

Online ordering – how does it work?

After creating an account users can upload their CAD file at the Online Order Platform. Simultaneously, users will receive instant feedback on the printability of the design they submitted. Once a file is uploaded, it will become available in a personal user gallery.

At the gallery, users can manage all uploaded designs and easily order their product. Accordingly, the product will be printed within a maximum of 10 business days, using the ‘Expedite Service’ secures delivery within the week.

Luxexcel’s Online Order Portal for fast and on-demand ordering of bespoke illumination optics.

Printoptical Technology benefits

The digital ordering platform brings the new possibilities with printed optics closer to a variety of businesses and stimulates them to discover the renewed possibilities with Printoptical Technology. The combination of the online ordering platform and Luxexcel’s proprietary technology has several main benefits.

“Ordering custom optics online HAS NEVER BEEN so easy!”

The optics printing technology is able to print extremely smooth surfaces and is suitable for products that demand the highest standard in transparency. Regular 3D printing methods stack layers, therefore, they are not able to deliver smooth and transparent printed products straight from the process. Thus a significant amount of handling needed to come to a valiable end product. On the contrary, Luxexcel’s 3D printing methodology provides “droplets-on-demand” to create an accurate and precise end-product, readily available for use!

The 3D Printing Eleven (6): Short Lead Times (1)



Speed is a fundamental advantage of 3D printing that is critical in the race to bring new lighting products to market. When asked, most all of those performing 3D printing will confirm that speed is important in product development and project planning. But how fast is fast enough, and how is speed measured?

What lighting product designers and manufacturers really want is an efficient manufacturing process: one that has only a few bottlenecks, less manual efforts and a quick response. To discover that kind of efficiency, it is important to understand your company’s operations and to learn about the truth about the processing time of 3D printing.

3D Printing Speed: Short Lead Times

In the daily practice, speed is a relative measure, and when it comes to 3D printing, it is influenced by many variables. Simply dividing manufacturing technologies in “fast” and “slow” buckets is misleading. While some generalizations are fitting, few hold true when considering the entire picture of speed.


“To reliable measure the manufacturing speed, you best clock the full process: Start the timer at the moment you finish your CAD file and stop it when the printed part is ready for use”


The Full 3D Printing Process

The building time, the physical time that a part spends in the 3D printer, is the most common measure of defining process speed. But honestly, it is just one component of the elapsed time that’s needed to complete a full part. The 3D printing process has many different stages, including:

  1. preparing the print file;
  2. preparing the print system;
  3. building of the part;
  4. post build printer operations;
  5. post-processing (such as polishing, painting or coating).

Preparing for Print

On the front end, there’s time needed to set up the job including the orientation, supporting, slicing and application of the build style. Many users are surprised about how much time is needed to prepare the printer, to load or to swap the print materials and to warm-up the printer, especially if you come from a ‘cold start’. Before running a print job, you might need to wait anywhere from just ‘several’ minutes to even ‘a couple of’ hours.

Post-building process

Right after the build process is finished, two steps still have to be taken: ‘post-build idle’ and ‘post-processing’. After a part is built parts may have to drain, binders may need time to harden or chambers may have to cool, depending on the process. These delays vary from almost no time to many hours. For some manufacturing technologies, build time is effectively doubled because parts have to cool for nearly as long as they were building.

Once you can handle the parts, it’s time to post-process them. Every technology requires some form of post-processing, and the time to complete this step varies widely. For an accurate sense of delivery speed, you need an understanding of the actions needed. Depending on the process, these steps might include: cleaning of the parts, post-curing, de-powdering, support removal, polishing or other steps.

Automated or Manual?

When having limited resources available, don’t forget to take into account the impact of labor-dependent processes on delivery time. What happens if your staff is not ready and waiting for the job? And how much time will they need to complete the action? For every manual step, without resources being in place, delivery time can swell. This can become a critical factor and even a bottleneck to delivery. The advantages of automation are most notable in the post processing phase. For example, a 3D printing technology that spits out dozens of small, highly detailed parts in a few hours may have delivery time measured in days if each part requires more than a few minutes for support removal and finishing.

This scenario becomes even more impactful if a skilled design engineer is needed. For example, removing supports made of the same material as the part is not a job for an unskilled worker. It takes an experienced hand and keen eye to discern where the part stops and supports begin. If your resources are so thin that you will be doing all this post processing by yourself, you’ll have to consider whether you have the time to take on this work or not.

Build Time Variances

Build time exists of many different variables, some that you select and others that are fixed. In the fixed category, consider the details of the parts. It is widely known that the height of the part drives time: For every technology, the taller the part, the longer the build time. But many overlook other factors, such as material volume, surface area and part footprint and configuration. Each might add hours to the build time!

Time is a crucial factor when using 3D printing for your purposes and a crucial advantage in product development. However, time is also a benefit that’s influenced by various pre- and post-process variables. To learn the truth about speed, you should discover what affects time and how that translates to your parts. There will be a follow-up post in the next weeks on this extensive topic. Make sure you stay connected!


[1] The Truth about Speed: Is the hare really the fastest? White Paper by Rob Winker, Stratasys, Inc.

The 3D Printing Eleven (5): No Assembly Required



3D printing technology is likely to have an enormous impact on the future of the lighting business. It will change the way lighting components and even entire products finally will be created, manufactured and distributed. It doesn’t however automatically mean it’s going to be good for anyone involved. The outlook for many lighting companies hinge on the way they will respond to this fast evolving technology and the competitive implications it is expected to have.

Integrated Part Production: No Assembly Required

In addition to the multiple subcomponents required to create a final lighting module, there are also the many brackets and fasteners that are required to hold all the different parts of the product together, such as screws, clips, mounting rings, etc. But with 3D printing, such complexity is free. Intricate structures can be created without the need for direct machine-tool access, reducing the need for multiple subcomponents. Instead of being built together from many different components, it is manufactured as a single piece. Eliminating 95 percent (or the half, or less) of all the pieces required for assembly is almost certainly a good thing for any business. But what will be the implications for the producers of each of those “lower-level items”? Logically speaking: their support will not be needed anymore.


“Eliminating multiple pieces through integrated parts production is a very attractive scenario. But what will the implications be for the producers of each of those lower-level items?”

Subcomponents: Subject to Elimination

The closer you are to producing subcomponents that are not core to the function of higher-level assemblies – e.g. that screw that holds a PCB on the top of a complex heat sink -, the more strategic the uncertainty you may face. If the need for assembly is significantly reduced (or even eliminated), ancillary components may become unnecessary and therefore, they are subject to elimination. Most companies are still in the very early stages of exploring the impact that 3D printing can have beyond its traditional role as a driver of rapid prototyping, but nonetheless, a shift is underway. It’s worth to reflect your companies capabilities, your core business and to think about the future.

What to do next?
There are a couple of steps that lighting company leaders can begin to take to position themselves for success, rather than being possible obsolescence, in an 3D printing-enabled marketplace:

Understand your position in the overall supply chain.
Do your company’s products facilitate the assembly of a complicated, higher-level assembly? If so, and especially if your product’s function is incidental to the function of the higher-level assembly, then your business may be at long-term risk from 3D printing diffusion. You might want to think about how subcomponent elimination might affect your position in the supply chain.

• Get a feeling about how your supply-chain partners approach 3D printing
Are they moving beyond rapid prototyping applications to manufacture for end use? If yes, then time may be of the essence. Consider how your company will develop the technical capability to match or better exceed your competitors’ and other supply chain partners’ ability to disintermediate you. If not, please start looking for opportunities to strike as a first mover to blunt competitors’ future efforts. Either way, you want to position your company to benefit from possible part consolidations rather than being hurt by them.

Supply Chain Consolidation

It is increasingly possible to imagine an 3D printing-driven shift toward supply chain consolidation, even as 3D printing technology is celebrated for democratizing production in other ways. AM technologies are rapidly evolving, and key aspects of their value proposition are increasingly clear. If not free, complexity is, at a minimum, getting less expensive. That may be a generally good thing, but some lighting companies may suffer in the transition, just like many others did in the transition from conventional light sources towards led based solutions.

Apart from making our readers aware of the many benefits of 3D printing technology, this article is also meant to raise awareness for the impact it might have on the near future business and how it could force established companies to reflect the way they are doing business and to understand their place in the overall supply chain, now and in the near future.

We’ll be back soon with Volume 6 and learn how ‘short lead times’ will result in shorter cycle times and faster marketing of lighting products. Thanks again for reading this post.

‘Optics John’ – Volume II is Out!



John is an Optics Designer working at an R&D department in the Lighting Industry. John has a problem: he has created a new lens design and needs to produce a small badge of prototypes in order to convince his client to choose his product. If choosen, he will also need a small series of about 100 pieces produced for the actual project itself.

3DPrinting.Lighting_Optics John Customer Satisfaction Fast, Affordable and Functional

John has a limited budget and can affort large upfront investments in tools or molds, and he can’t let wait his client wait for weeks on him when his components are produced either, but he needs affordable and functional prototypes fast. John gets worried, even frustrated, and searches the internet for a better solution… and finds one! LUXeXceL offers 3D printed optics and it looks likes this is just what John needs!

Ordering optics on demand, in quantities as needed.
Ordering optics on demand, in quantities as needed.

Ordering On Demand in Quantities as Needed

Let’s have a look to what this means for John! No more costs for molds and tools, large upfront investments are no longer necessary! With 3D printing, optics can be sent to you in days, instead of weeks, or even months! Because you can order on demand, and there are no minimum order quantities, obsolete inventory is now a thing of the past. Inventory can now be digitally stored on your computer, saving both money and the environment.

Optics John: 3D printing enables Lighting Product Customization per individual project.
Optics John: 3D printing enables Lighting Product Customization per individual project.

3D Printing Enables Lighting Customization

3D printing also allow for a lot of new and differently shaped optics to be produced than what’s to be used possible. And the best part: light distribution can now be finally customized. It can be customized per project, per application, or even per single product. John knows enough: he uploads his CAD file to the LUXeXceL website, receives his quote, and orders his optics, which is easy and fast.

Zero upfront investments and ni minimum order quantities lead to increased profits
Zero upfront investments and no minimum order quantities lead to increased profits.

Just a few days later he already receives them by mail. His client is thrilled by the quality of the products, his boss is happy because John has kept his costs to a minimum, and optical designer John is proud to finally deliver the quality optics he wanted. Even for custom projects!


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!