3D Printing Creates New Possibilities in Optics

A recent article by Hank Hogan, contributing editor to Photonics Media, explores enabling Additive manufacturing technology for the fabrication of innovative, multifunctional lenses and components that promise to simplify and shrink conventional optical systems. 

Emerging 3D printing Technology for Optics

Emerging 3D printing technology is transforming once-impossible designs of optical components into optimized elements that can improve medical instruments, research tools, communications systems, and consumer devices. In 3D printing, an additive process prints an entire optical component one tiny particle at a time, enabling designs that combine multiple functions in a single lens or pre-align a system by creating optics, mounts, and baffles together. The new optical designs can reduce a product’s footprint, improve technical performance, and facilitate commercial scale-up.

Being able to print an optic along with its mount and other elements saves time and minimizes installation errors. Plus, being able to adjust an optic’s shape and properties on a small scale allows one lens to do the work of several. Medical applications, cell phones, and soldiers in the field could benefit.

Image of handheld Multi Fresnel lens printed by Luximprint as illustration for Photonics Media Article.

3D printing of optics can reduce the amount of time needed to prototype an optical design from months to weeks or even days, as such generating significant time savings.

Custom Optics Manufacturing – The Pro’s and Con’s

But 3D printing of optical components also faces hurdles, such as limited availability of optically relevant materials, slow manufacturing speed, and high cost, especially for large volumes. The recent article in Photonics Media (October 2022) aims to bring further insights into the existence and ‘pro’s and con’s’ of various optical fabrication methods for generating custom optics.

The story greatly adds to the previous article by Luximprint’s Marco de Visser for Photonics Media named ‘Tracing the Evolution of Additive Optics Fabrication‘ where various optical 3D printing methodologies were exposed and valued.

We encourage you to read the whole story at the Photonics Media website.