Edmund Optics & LUXeXceL Deliver 3D-Printed Optics

Ann R. Thryft

March 12, 2015

3 Min Read
Edmund Optics & LUXeXceL Deliver 3D-Printed Optics

The potential of LUXeXceL's 3D-printed (3DP) plastic optics technology is good enough that it's attracted the attention of Edmund Optics, leading designer and manufacturer of precision optical components. The two companies have formed a working relationship to bring this technology to the photonics industry.

At the Photonics West show in February, both companies displayed examples of lenses made with LUXeXceL's Printopical process and optically transparent polymer material. The combination produces very smooth products such as micro-structures, lens arrays, prisms, and freeform lenses for illumination, photovoltaic, and prototyping applications. The technology won the 2015 PRISM award for innovation in optics and photonics in the additive manufacturing category, given by the SPIE.


Last October, LUXeXceL launched both an improved clear polymer material for 3DP optical components and an online high-speed, precision, 3DP process for making small- and medium-sized batches of components in a few days. The company said the combination competes with injection molding for prototyping and manufacturing optics and eliminates the need for tooling. The material's clarity is greater than any other 3DP material, with an internal transmission of 96.9%. The same technology was used to make 3D-printed eyeglasses. Last month, LUXeXceL launched an improved, automated online ordering platform for its transparent 3DP service with additional privacy and security features.

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For Edmund Optics, the partnership will give its customers the ability to fine-tune their optically driven designs using the process' ability to make prototypes and proofs-of-concept, Anthony Artigliere, director of the company's optics business unit, told Design News. It will also give them the ability to make unusual shapes and entirely customized configurations. Edmund brings to the table direct customer access and internal optical design engineering strength, as well as test and measurement of components after printing.

"We're attracted to the free-form design capability of 3D printing and the speedy production cycle," said Artigliere. "We can produce parts in only minutes on the printer, so our total market response is two or three weeks, compared to eight to 14 weeks for the typical optical production process using glass and a coating. The challenges are to produce a level of quality and process control that our customers have grown familiar with getting."

The two companies have already been working together for about six months. "Although the early samples we've seen are not yet image quality, LUXeXceL's capability has continued to evolve as we've given them increasingly challenging designs," said Artigliere. When I asked him what's needed to get Printoptical components to image quality, he said mostly process control and potentially also new print materials, both standard themes in improving 3DP quality.

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"Today, we can hold the 3D-printed lens surface to tens of microns of irregularity," said Artigliere. "Our customers are used to about 300 nm of irregularity, so this is off by a couple of orders of magnitude in terms of the precision of surface contour. As process and materials improve, then we can start to address applications where our existing customer set will find the quality acceptable."

Right now, Edmund's customers are interested in applying LUXeXceL's technology to non-image optical applications such as microlens arrays, and are already using its service. You can find out more about the 3DP optics service Edmund is offering here.

Ann R. Thryft is senior technical editor, materials & assembly, for Design News. She's been writing about manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for 25 years, covering manufacturing materials & processes, alternative energy, machine vision, and all kinds of communications.

About the Author(s)

Ann R. Thryft

Ann R. Thryft has written about manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for Design News, EE Times, Test & Measurement World, EDN, RTC Magazine, COTS Journal, Nikkei Electronics Asia, Computer Design, and Electronic Buyers' News (EBN). She's introduced readers to several emerging trends: industrial cybersecurity for operational technology, industrial-strength metals 3D printing, RFID, software-defined radio, early mobile phone architectures, open network server and switch/router architectures, and set-top box system design. At EBN Ann won two independently judged Editorial Excellence awards for Best Technology Feature. She holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Stanford University and a Certified Business Communicator certificate from the Business Marketing Association (formerly B/PAA).

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