The Institute of Photonics at the University of Eastern Finland is launching a cooperative effort with Dutch company LUXeXceL to offer rapid prototyping of optical components for prototypes, short-run and volume batches.
Last year Jyrki Saarinen, Professor at the University of Eastern Finland discovered LUXeXceL, the Dutch Inventor of the Printoptical Technology. LUXeXceL created a unique digital 3D printing method with the ability to print optical quality components, such as lenses. With most 3D printing processes, parts need to be post-processed (grinding, polishing or painting), the digital Printoptical manufacturing process, however prints smooth surfaces. It can print lenses from a CAD file and combine the optics with full color textures. The printed surfaces do not require post-processing.
Saarinen was impressed by the quality of LED optics that LUXeXceL printed as optics are difficult to 3D print and actually cannot be easily created through printing layer on layer. The Dutch company nevertheless managed to develop their proprietary unique digital method, which is capable of printing optical quality components. “This unique process is a great base to develop photonics 3D printing. From this base we can start further optimization processes and research and development to built-in features that have not previously been carried out. The aim is to take advantage of the printer with other modern manufacturing photonic devices such as laser ablation, and see what they offer.” Saarinen said.
Richard van de Vrie, founder and CEO of LUXeXceL is pleased with this cooperation. “People get convinced that the Digital Manufacturing Revolution will change the game and companies are looking for answers how to manufacture with digital methods. In the optical space LUXeXceL has invented such process to create optics on demand. Our company has the ingredients to become a global player in the 21st Age optical industries and therefore I am excited that such a cooperation with the University of Eastern Finland helps to accelerate this process. This University is becoming the leading European R&D center for optics and photonics and we are looking forward to collaborating with Prof. Saarinen, his team and other European companies to further increase our printing capabilities and to bring photonics 3D printing in Europe at a world leading level.”
The first phase of the project spans 18 months and the majority of funding, € 950,000, comes from the Leverage from the EU 2007 structural funding instrument of Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. In addition to LUXeXceL and the University of Eastern Finland, the project sponsors and partners include Finnish companies Nanocomp Ltd., Oplatek Group Ltd., Thermo Fisher Scientific Ltd., Millog Ltd., Idman Airfield Lighting Ltd., and Nanobakers Ltd.
Both digital printing processes and software will become important tools to drive the customization and on-demand offering aspects of optics and photonics. “In my previous business life in the optics industry, there were so many product ideas but the tooling requested huge upfront investments, inventories and long inflexible R&D cycles. That kept us away from a lot of new product research. And small volume productions usually had to be made by hand and were very expensive. Now I foresee that this 3D printing will become an important manufacturing method starting for small batches, single items and complex designed structures. It is a revolution as regards component availability, development and manufacturing speed, and the concept of customization,” said Professor Saarinen.
The project will take off quickly as an improved printing platform for 3D printing photonics is expected to be ready at the end of this year.