3D Printing of Optics – A Publication by Andreas Heinrich and Manuel Rank

In comparison to conventional manufacturing technologies, in additive manufacturing, the material is deposited additively rather than removed by the use of a subtractive milling or grinding process. Meanwhile, various kinds of 3D printing methods are used, which are mainly implemented for mechanical applications. Nevertheless, this technology enables a wide variety of new design possibilities for optical components. Even some industrial applications of additive optics manufacturing can be found, as new complex optical components with highly functional integration are possible.

Image of 3D printed micro lenses

An example of high-precision additive manufacturing: Microlenses 3D printed by Luximprint.

Additive Manufacturing of Optical Components

Within the field of additive manufacturing of optical components, one example is the process of two-photon polymerization. This process makes it possible to, for example, realize complex-shaped micro lenses characterized by high optical quality and require no rework after the manufacturing process. At Luximprint, we supported the invention of such an interesting process, and are innovating and utilizing it since its initial inception back in 2009.

The realization of larger optical components or components with very different material properties, however, is a challenge, mainly for the lack of secondary support materials (removables). In addition, a correspondingly high experimental effort or significant financial resources are necessary.

Image of 3D printed collimator lens by Luxexcel

Figure: a 3D printed voluminous collimator lens for lighting applications. Image courtesy of Luxexcel.

For many optical applications (especially for illumination tasks), specifications with respect to the optical quality are relaxed or one would like to realize larger complex optical components. Another common goal is to develop prototypes in a short time which usually involves the production of expensive tools, e.g., injection molding of the optics. With the aforementioned processes, it is possible to quickly verify new design ideas for optical components as required for the rapid development of optical systems.

Image of custom led optics assembly 3D printed by Luximprint with lake view

Assembly of various 3D printed optical lenses and textures before separation from the sheet.

3D Printing Polymer Optics

The book ‘3D Printing of Optics’ by Andreas Heinrich and Manuel Rank focuses on the 3D printing of optical components, including the UV curing or inkjet printing of polymer optics. It shows how a cost-effective 3D printing system for optics can be built and which materials can be used for printing. In addition, the characteristics of the printed optics and possibilities for reworking are demonstrated. Finally, different examples of 3D printed components are shown to demonstrate the potential of 3D printing technology.

The abstract of the book can be found at the SPIE website, hence you can also order the book from the online book store or get your EBook.

Published: 2018