There are many 3D-printed lamp shades, bulbs covers, and other decorative lighting solutions being developed by artists, but there is only one company, that I know of, 3D printing optics themselves. With the ability to additively manufacture multiple LED components at once, LUXeXcel maintains a unique place in the industry. By 3D printing lenses, the company can quickly turn around unique lighting projects for its customers, without requiring large minimum orders. Most recently, LUXeXcel did just that for FSIGN, German-based provider of lighting solutions.
In a recent Autodesk Customer Success Story, the company was featured for its use of Autodesk Inventor to complete a difficult project for the German lighting company. FSIGN’s oneLED table luminaire (fancy/French for desk lamp) was being redesigned to shift the direct light distribution pattern from a wide 120° beam angle to a 60° angle, to make it more suitable for small offices and lighting up specific work areas. The desk lamp was also designed in such a way that the distance between the LED chip and the lens was limited and the overall fixture had little depth, a problem that would have been extremely difficult for traditional optics producers to overcome. On top of that, LUXeXcel would have to produce its optics in only two weeks.
To tackle the problem, the company produced a 6×6 convex lens array, printed onto a flexible plastic substrate only 500 microns thin. The 3D printed array held 36 individual lens bulbs and was ideally suited for the 4 mm thin table luminaire. In order to get the product to the client as quickly as possible, LUXeXcel CEO, Richard Van de Vrie, explains that Autodesk’s software was of great help, “Our designers found Inventor to be a fantastic digital prototyping software for generating and iterating different optics designs for ‘trial-and-error’ purposes, and to prepare the right input for the Printoptical Plug-ins. Autodesk Inventor enables us to see exploded views of our products and ensure we’re on the right track. This is integral to our process.”
One of the most interesting aspects of LUXeXcel’s 3D optics printing is that the lenses produced require no post-processing. Using a wide format industrial ink-jet printer, the machine jets transparent droplets of a UV-curable polymer that are cured with UV lamps, yielding a resolution of 1440 dpi or more. Without the need for molds or finishing, the optical components are produced quickly for their clients. With the inauguration of their new 3D printing factory coming soon and an online file uploading and ordering system in the works, the company seems to be leading the way in 3D printed optics.