To date, the 3D printing of optics has been singularly the territory of LUXeXceL — a Dutch company that has made tremendous strides with the commercialization of it proprietary process for printed optics. But as companies operating in the 3D printing industry usually find — any exclusivity is generally short lived. I’m sure someone will kindly point out any optical 3D prints that I’ve missed or overlooked.
FormLabs, though, is now using an optical 3D print to demonstrate its Clear Resin, as printed on a Form1+ 3D printer. It’s not a simple one step process by any means, but it is possible to PIY* when it comes to optics.
Over on the FormLabs blog, Craig Broady gives a step-by-step how-to guide for designing and 3D printing a magnifying monocle and provides access to the files for any PIYers out there that fancy having a go.
The lens — and the frame and chain that accessorize it — were designed by Craig personally. The lens in particular had to be designed specifically for the 3D printing process to ensure that it would function as intended as a magnifying instrument. Thus, the lens was 1.75mm at its thinnest and 4.32mm at its thickest, and printed using the clear resin, while the frame and chain were printed using FormLabs Black resin.
All parts were printed utilizing a resolution of 50 micron layers. And as is often the case when 3D printing, orientation within the build chamber was critical to the result, Craig says: “the lens was oriented such that it faces the front of the printer. This allows the liquid resin to flow more freely around it during the peel cycle. Maximizing resin flow can help prevent very small cured particles in the resin from adhering to [the] lens, ensuring as smooth a surface as possible.”
Another critical part of the overall 3D printing process was also highlighted — that of post-processing the part out of the machine. Off the machine, Broady reports that the lens was smooth, but not optically clear.
Even before starting, Broady was aware that post-processing a 3D printed lens could involve many hours of manual post-processing, so he ingeniously designed ahead knowing that he would use an electric drill for sanding. The lens had a drill coupler built into it. After progressing through finer and finer sandpaper grades, Broady then finished with some “dollops” (excellent word) of scratch remover and a cork. This process, speeded by the use of the drill, then had to be applied to the other side.
The results of his efforts are pretty impressive, and a great demo piece for what the Form1+ — and it proprietary resins — are capable of.
* Print It Yourself