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UEF Institute of Photonics teams up with Luxexcel on 3D printing

05 Jun 2013

Academic-commercial partnership to progress “3D printing” of optical components.

The newly-opened Institute of Photonics at the University of Eastern Finland is launching cooperation with the Dutch LUXeXceL company. LUXeXceL developed Printoptical Technology, a 3D printing method that allows the printing of optical quality components, such as lenses, without any need for post-processing.

This announcement closely follows optics’org’s report of LUXeXceL having recently raised between €3 million and €5 million in new venture investment to support its “on-demand” optics manufacturing technology.

The problem with various 3D printing methods is that the quality of the newly-manufactured surface is not sufficiently high for ideal interactions with visible light. Surface structures that are not completely smooth cause scattering of light, which, in turn, results in significant losses and reductions in quality. This is the problem that the new partnership is working on to overcome.

The first phase of the UEF-LUXeXceL project spans 18 months and the majority of the €950 000 funding comes from the leverage from the EU 2007–2013 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 funders and partners include the Finnish companies Nanocomp, Oplatek Group, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Millog, Idman Airfield Lighting, and Nanobakers.

"3D printing is becoming an important manufacturing method for small batches and single items. It is a revolution as regards component availability, development and manufacturing speed, and the concept of customisation," Commented Professor Jyrki Saarinen, Responsible Project Leader at the University of Eastern Finland. Although Finland has not been a pioneer in 3D printing so far, this project will bring Finnish photonics 3D printing to world-leading level."

How it works

3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing and rapid prototyping. In 3D printing, a component is built a thin layer by layer. The range of 3D printing materials includes plastic, metal, ceramics, glass and even paper and chocolate.

The printing material is brought to the print head in the format of a filament or powder. The print head melts or dissolves the printing material, which then gets injected on the printer stand. Either the print head and/or the printer stand moves in three dimensions. The printing material hardens as thin layers at desired spots.

LUXeXceL's “printoptical” technique enables single-step CAD-to-optic inkjet printing of smooth structures and surfaces with no need for post-processing. So far, the company has focused mainly on applications in LED lighting optics, although it is looking to expand beyond that niche.

UEF’s Institute of Photonics

As optics.org reported last week, UEF’s Institute of Photonics is a network organization, which is seeking to enhance the university's research and education in photonics and to bring together the field's research projects, researchers and students. The institute said it is also intending to promote international cooperation, transfer of research knowledge, and optimize societal impact in the field of photonics.

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

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