WestCoast Lighting Insider on (Optical) 3D Printing for the Lighting Industry

The ‘WestCoast Lighting Insider’ is created in partnership with LightShow West and LED Specifier Summit. Each month WCLI delivers information dedicated to the West Coast lighting industry. In a recent contribution, respected lighting industry journalist Lois Hutchinson provides exclusive, inspiring and insightful coverage of installations, trends, and need-to-know subjects. Her latest article, featured on January 22, 2020, teaches the arrival and importance of 3D printing for the lighting industry. As service provider for 3D printed optics, Luximprint breaks a lance for optical 3D printing.

3D Printing Gets Wired: The Lighting Industry Gets Weird

A third, new wave of change is coming in the lighting industry. Various 3D printing technologies – collectively named additive manufacturing – are already established in luminaire design and rapid prototyping processes. These days, lighting manufacturers are evaluating the technology for cost-efficient tailored lighting solutions, for custom lighting products, and for fabrication on-site and on-demand.

In this recent article, individual companies, and a consortium of interested parties, are sharing information on polymer 3D printing and what is needed for it to become a viable luminaire production solution.

WestCoast Lighting Insider on 3D Printed Optics

Most 3D-printed luminaires currently use polymer shades or bodies, but there is a continuing exploration of other fixture parts, including heatsinks and custom optics. Luximprint, based in The Netherlands, is currently supplying rapid optics prototypes and one-offs for manufacturers across the globe.

Marco de Visser, co-founder of Luximprint, explained that conventional 3D printing methods and materials differ from “clear material printing” with high standards for optical performance:

“There’s been a lack of validation means in the luminaire engineering cycle when it comes to one of the most critical components of the bill of materials: optics. Now, with zero manufacturing tooling involved, inspirational and functional custom optics parts can be ordered and processed in a fast, flexible and cost-effective way, before ordering soft or hard tools for production. Also, for pre-series and one-offs [demonstrators], the process has become a commercially viable option.”

De Visser elaborated that post-production finishing (trimming and smoothing) is not an issue in the optical 3D printing process, as the optical surfaces are optically smooth and funtional straight from the printer. In addition, new materials are coming online for the long-life end application. He continues:

“The fact that 3D printing is still relatively ‘new’ is holding a real breakthrough back… the adoption of new technologies requires a certain change of mindset, which is not always easy for established and experienced engineers. People may rely on well-known and proven approaches, but miss the possibilities and advantages demonstrated by these new fabrication methods.

De Visser challenges designers and engineers to “re-think light” and consider a custom, iterative approach to design and fabrication.

Continue reading the full WCLI article on 3D printing for the Lighting Industry at the WestCoast Lighting Insider blog.