3D Printed Ophthalmics: Fact or Fiction?

Last week, I have had the honor to support Luxexcel – the company I proudly served during the early start-up stages – once again from my next position at Luminous Concepts. Being part of the event team for the Vision East Expo in New York City, I witnessed the launch of Luxexcel’s rapidly evolving 3D printing technology towards an audience of eyewear specialists including optical laboratories, eyewear brands, software firms and designers. The inaugural eyewear event was an overwhelming success and clearly confirmed the future strategy and refined business model for Luxexcel. Now, the opthalmics industry needs to wake up, it’s getting VERY serious. Moreover, it needs to prepare for a different future, and below is why.

Next Quality Level – Novel Focus!

After reaching imaging optics quality by the end of last year, the corporate Luxexcel governance decided to bring enhanced focus to its activities. After acting as a ‘multi-market service provider’ for printed optics over the last couple of years, the business strategy was thoughtfully taken over the last months to a next level: providing 3D printing equipment with ophthalmics quality. After several years of hard pioneering work and test marketing, the company decided to go out and share the achieved ophthalmics performances with the rest of the market. Vision East NYC was the launching event for this groundbreaking optics 3D printing technology.

From ‘Manufacturing-as-a-Service’ to ‘Pay per Use’

Luxexcel will provide the users with a full set-up including the hardware (3D printer), consumables, software and full service and maintenance support. The complete value package will exclusively be available to ophthalmics labs and companies in very specific, high-end market niches (ophthalmics specialties).

Seamless Lab Integration

Meanwhile, Luxexcel is preparing the outplacement of its first opthalmics 3D printers in optical laboratories around the globe after summer. After gearing up for launch in the last year through an iterative learning process in various ophthalmics laboratories and test market niches, the company is now getting ready to take a next challenge!

Illumarco_3D printed opthalmics_Luxexcel_seamless lab integration.jpgThe Luxexcel Opthalmics 3Dprinting equipment seamlessly fits in the actual opthalmics laboratory set-ups

WANTED: Independant Ophthalmics Laboratories!

Luxexcel actively seeks the cooperation with (independant) optical laboratories to spread it’s core technology in a variety of eyewear market niches and applications. Interested labs are strongly encouraged to reach out to Luxexcel and discover the value for their business.  Also, joint development programs are offered to potentially strategical technology users with upwards potential to enrich their portfolio and open up new ways of fabrication in a much more flexible and sustainable way!

Enabling Eyewear Technology

The ultimate goal of Luxexcel is not just to economize the actual supply chain, to ‘green’ it and to make it more efficient. Intentionally, the enabling Luxexcel technology opens doors to novel products and applications in high end market niches. This is where Luxexcel want’s to open up doors to applications that were never available before, for example because conventional fabrication technologies lack.

Embedded (secondary) materials, such as electronics and thin-films, VR and AR applications, can now be foreseen with custom focal power. Those and many other new possibilities are now getting within the reach of any lab. Luxexcel launched an amazing set of inspirational showcases at Vision East, just to show its users what can be achieved today, and in the future!

Illumarco_Luxexcel_Vision East Expo_Showcases launchAt Vision East, Luxexcel introduced a variety of inspiring showcases created by its new eyewear technology.

Inspiring Concepts for Today and Tomorrow

3D printed lenses, in ophthalmic quality, are a game changer in the ophthalmic industry. Luxexcel technology is enhanced every day, aiming to make its enabling technology available to the market in 2017. The availability will open up new possibilities in design, process optimize todays processes and allow eyewear developers and designers to create new and unique concepts.

More specifically, eyewear laboratories will soon have the possibility to work with Luxexcel hard- and software directly from their position in the actual supply chain and start to create new and inspiring eyewear concepts, inspired by designers from various backgrounds. Assembled in Europe, the optical 3D printers are ready to be outplaced soon and enrich the laboratories’ offering.

Freedom of Design

3D printed opthalmics come with absolute design freedom. With Luxexcel technology, not only the lens surfaces can be freeform, there are virtually no limitations any longer to the design of the lens shapes as well. As frames now can be embedded (encapsulated) in the lens itself, there is no physical boundary anymore, designers can work easily around it.

Illumarco_Luxexcel_Vision East Expo_Decorative_Tattoo_ShowcasesEyewear specialties, such tattoo lenses, can now be tailored to the users’ needs.

Also, decorative elements such as images, alignment marks, logo’s and brand names can now easily be added to the lens surfaces, in one single process. It provides designers with new tools to customize their next generations of eyewear. On the contrary to customizing the frames, the design revolution of the last decade, they can now start to be creative with the lenses and their clarity itself!

Wrap Up and Future Expectations

After the inaugural launch at the Vision Expo East 2017, functional 3D Printed Opthalmics are now within the reach of every eyewear professional. I am thrilled to see how the company is starting to make a real difference in the eyewear world. The technology has enormous potential in this field, and the need for change and diversification is huge.

What we’ve seen at Vision East last week, is just a glimpse of what the company is working on. Luxexcel is finally getting ready for a next stage of growth, and it’s technology – with its disruptive power – is ready for it!

 

Fully 3D Printed Glasses – New York City Trial

User Testimonial

Along with the Vision East Expo, I had the honor to be part of a selected user group wearing world’s first FULLY 3D printed glasses. Both the frame, sourced from Monoqool, a trendy eyewear brand, and the glasses provided by Luxexcel, were fabricated using novel additive manufacturing processes.

After wearing my customized pair of 3D printed lenses for over three showdays (and nights), I can confirm that it’s quality is pure and unequalled. Both for operational tasks and going around at the show and in New York City, the glasses performed to my satisfaction. The view, both near and far, is of proper quality and I faced no serious problems when going around, reading signs (including the glare at Broadway) or doing concentrated task work.

The lenses as used for this test case had zero focal power, but the clarity and uniformity of the lenses were satisfactory. Both the outside – that’s been hard coated and AR coated – and the ‘lookthrough’ were of excellent quality!

Even as a ‘non-eyewear’ user, I can confirm the glassess are fine for all-day use. I am looking with great interest and expectations forward to the further roll-out of Luxexcel’s Technology in the US and European ophthalmics markets!

Illumarco_Luxexcel_Vision East Expo_Testimonial fully 3D printed glassesUltimate ‘design freedom’: Lady Liberty through printed glasses, as clear as crystal… fenomenal!

Pictures in this post are property of either the author or Luxexcel. All rights reserved.

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The 3D Printing Adventure

Our Novel Micro 3D Printer just arrived, the expirementing has begun!

The Micro 3D Printer by M3D is a cute, tiny and extremely quiet entry-level 3D printer that I found available for a modest price. The Micro is surprisingly compact and very light weight. Its simple, yet attractive Apple-like design makes it a good conversation piece and a proper piece of hardware for some initial expirements.

3D Printing – The Next Generation

When I noted the M3D Micro 3D printer back in April, my attention was initially drawn to the tagline: “Micro 3D printer is the Next Generation 3D Printer”. Well, that’s exactly the truth: our next generation likely grows up in a world different from today: 3D printers, 3D Print Communities, 3D Print Hubs, Fablabs, etc. all will be common stuff. And, very likely, they are not or unsufficiently educated for the jobs they will be hired for by tomorrow.

So why not start with teaching them the basics of 3D printing today?
So I did, and my two young boys join me on this journey…

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Design and Features

The M3D Micro 3D printer I finally decided to buy comes in two versions: the ‘Retail’ (the one we purchased) and the ‘Standard’. The Retail version includes a filament spool and written instructions, and it has a one-year warranty. The Standard model has a 3-month warranty, and it doesn’t come with filament or written instructions, as far as I discovered. Our unit is white, but different color options are available for the frame.

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Setting up the Printer

Thanks to the enclosed instructions, the initial set up of the Micro was a fairly simple process. When you take the printer out of the nicely designed box, you have to unpack it by removing all the bubble foam and tape. The instructions emphasize taking off the clips that hold the extruder carriage in place during the shipping. One thing I overlooked: two pieces of black foam beneath the extruder.

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Downloading the Software

After unpacking it, I have downloaded the software from M3D’s website and installed it on my laptop. Then I plugged the printer in, and the M3D logo starts to light up (there’s no power switch on the printer, but the M3D logo nicely lights up when the printer is connected to the mains) and connected it to my laptop via the included USB-cable.

Illumarco_3D Printing_Micro M3D Printer (2)

Loading the Filament

The next step was to load the filament (1.75mm), which can be done either internally – a small filament spool fits exactly in the compartment at the base of the printer under the print bed – I discovered it accidentaly, or externally: the spool of filament can be placed in an optional spool holder outside of the printer. To start loading my files, I clicked on the ‘3D Ink’ tab in the software. Then, you have to enter a code (describing the filament type) and feed the filament from the spool to the extruder.

M3D sells spools of filaments along with the printer, which they call ‘3D Ink’. For this initial trial, we used a spool of M3D’s clear PLA filament (WOW) and Light Carribean blue (SKY). I loaded the filament externally, what is way easier than the internal loading.

Illumarco_3D Printing_Micro M3D Printer (3).jpg

M3D Software & Library

The Micro’s 3D printing software is by far the simplest I’ve ever used. At the top (left hand side) of the main screen are two icons: a filament spool labeled ‘3D Ink’ and another folder called ‘Open Model’. At the right, there’s a gear icon, from which you can calibrate the print bed.

If you have previously uploaded any 3D models, you can click on a thumbnail to load the model, or choose ‘Open Model’ and navigate through your file directories to select a 3D file to load. Once loaded, the 3D-object will appear on the screen framed within a visual image of the printer. You can rescale, rotate, center or reposition the object with the help of several buttons at the left edge of the screen, or center the object with a button at the bottom of the screen.

Marvin – Symbol of the 3D Printing Movement

We finally chose to start with printing ‘Marvin’ – the symbol of the 3D printing movement, as found on 3D Hubs. Marvin’s core ethos is about community, creativity, social change, and problem solving. He’s determined to revolutionize the way we make things through 3D printing, so that seems to be a good start!

Illumarco_3D Printing_Micro M3D Printer (5)

When we had ‘Marvin’ scaled and positioned to our satisfaction, we started the process by simply hitting the ‘Print’ button. A dialog box that identifies the printer and the filament pops up. There was a possibility to choose one of five print-quality settings from a pull-down menu.

“3D Printing is determined to Revolutionize the Way we make almost Everything”

In a second dropdown menu, I was able to choose from six additional settings by which the fill density could be defined: two hollow settings, with the walls of different thicknesses, and four settings with increasing percentages of infill. The higher the resolution and the thicker the infill, the longer it takes to print an object.

Illumarco_3D Printing_Micro M3D Printer (6).jpg

The Printing Process

I printed two Marvins, one for each of the boys. The first one in medium and the other in low resolution. Honestly, I didn’t see too much difference in quality among the chosen resolutions. Both test prints tended to look slightly rough-hewn, and some fine detail was lost. Some post processing (polishing) will be needed anyway, but the first results are promising. Here are the puppets:

Illumarco_3D Printing_Micro M3D Printer (8).jpg

Finally, the Micro might not be exactly the ‘breakout’ prosumer model I’ve been expecting when I ordered it online, but I might be spoiled in my actual job position at Luxexcel where we use to work with world class hardware (Printoptical Technology, for the printing of optics and optical components). However, it’s certainly worth taking a look at if you’re looking for a solid starter 3D printer for educational or hobby purposes.

What’s next?

The boys and I will continue the trial & error in the upcoming weeks, there’s many more to come this summer period, so watch out for the progress! Let’s see what happens if we bring some (back)light in as well…

Thanks for reading this post, stay tuned!

Featured Article: “The 3D Printing Eleven – How 3D Printing Enables the Lighting Revolution”

“Benefits of 3D Printing Technologies for the Lighting Industry by Lighting-Inspiration.com”

Recently, the Lighting-Inspiration.com Blog started to feature an extensive range of articles on how the arrival of 3D printing technology will change the future of manufacturing, especially within the global lighting industry. 3D printing will impact the design, engineering, manufacturing, supply and application of lighting and enable solutions that were never able to create before. By publishing the 11-fold article, Lighting-Inspiration.com aims to take away the uncertainties and ignorance about this new way of making and how it will impact a certain discipline of a lighting companies’ business.

Join the 3D Printing Journey
Anyone working with light, from technical engineering professionals at the one hand to lighting specifiers such as lighting designers and project planners at the other hand, is encouraged to start discovering the renewed possibilities that appear with the coming of additive manufacturing. A full range of in-depth articles show step by step the various benefits for the industry and clearly explains them in more detail. The separate steps are foreseen with practical examples that will be definitely be recognized by the readers.

3DP11: The 3D Printing Eleven Benefits for Lighting
The benefits that are brought to the industry are centered around 11 different principles: “The 3D Printing Eleven“. Each of the individual bullets below contains an underlaying page where you’ll find the listed topic worked out in more detail.

  1. No Upfront Investments
  2. Greater Product Variety
  3. Complexity is Free
  4. Easy Iterations
  5. No Assembly Required
  6. Shortened Lead Times
  7. Unparalleled Design Freedom
  8. Zero Manufacturing Skills
  9. Reduced Material Waste
  10. Multi-material Applications
  11. Exact Part Replication

Time-to-time publications
From time to time, new contributions, product examples and success stories will be added to the Lighting-Inspiration.com Blog in order to fully explain on the developments that empower the rapid changing state of the industry. 3D printing is seen as a highly disruptive technology, and thanks to the ongoing digitization, and a lot of new possibilities where we even can’t dream of today are ahead the road.

Start to discover the benefits of 3D printing for your business today! Please discover more about the features of 3D printing technology for lighting professionals at the blog 3DPrinting.Lighting.

21st Century Optics Design Engineering

“A Day from the life of John” – 21st Century Optics Engineering

Optics system design and engineering is a pretty genious job. To be taken seriously, you’ll need at least a 10+ years of experience before you’re really recognized as a seasoned ‘senior’. Due to todays ongoing digitization, computers are important to most engineers, as with other fields of engineering. They are used with instruments, in optics design creations and simulations, and for many other applications. Optics designers need to extend their skills by frequent training sessions and study new developer skills.

Optical System Design Challenges
Designing optical systems isn’t an easy job. Optics engineers make use of optics to solve problems and to design and build devices that make light do something useful. It comes with real challenges on the system design itself and the engineering work. Developing new optics solutions requires them to understand and apply the science of optics in substantial detail, in order to understand what outcome is physically possible to achieve. But they also must know what is practical in terms of technologies that are available, materials to use, costs they have to count with, design methods that can be applied, etcetera. Fortunately, most of the work is well known and, if extreme projects appear, you can overcome it easily by bringing in the right skills, study, experience or hire someone from your network to help you out.

Optical Design Frustrations
More frustrating are the challenges that are outside of your own capabilities: prohibitively expensive optics design software, manufacturing tolerances, and most likely a torn in the flesh of every designer: the manufacturing tooling needed to prototype and manufacture the real end product. Expensive upfront investments in tooling, uncertainties about the outcome and tooling limitations are real bottlenecks in the freedom and flexibility of today’s optics designer.

But what if…
Tooling is no longer needed? Your minimum order quantity is as low as one piece? Cost effective trial & error and iterations could be implemented? Design freedom is (almost) unlimited? Here’s the video that I promised in my earlier post. Digital 3D printing of functional optics is just around the corner. And it’s amazingly powerful. Watch – … – recognize – …- act!

Let’s break the mold! Help making the life of Optics Designers easier, spread the word by sharing this video!

Rapid Prototyping – The Future

Apart from the passion I have for lighting, 3D printing – also referred to as ‘additive manufacturing’ – is something that intrigues me. Apart from making the production of goods more cost and time efficient, it creates new possibilities in design and manufacturing. Possibilities that you and I never dreamt of before.

Here’s just a quick shot to help you understanding how the 3D printing revolution will change the making of things and impact the global supply chain of goods. I can really recommend you this short video to understand  how the future of rapid prototyping will look like.

By the way, I will share another exciting animation movie on the 3D printing of optics in the next couple of months. Keep watching me!

Simplifying Optical Prototyping by ‘Printoptical Technology’

“How Additive Optical Manufacturing can help OEM Lighting Manufactures and Optical Designers creating new designs, customize them and change optical products easily, market them faster, and increase the overall supply chain efficiency along the way”

Birth of a new Key Technology
Printoptical Technology’ is a new industry key in additive manufacturing and volume production of LED lighting optics, innovated by the Dutch LUXeXceL Group. It is a brand new form of “additive manufacturing’, otherwise known as 3D printing, focusing on the ‘on-demand’ printing of prototypes, mid – and high volume series of LED lighting optics.

Printoptical Revolution
I recently noticed that experts have called this year 2012 “the year of 3D-printing” and they expect this technology in general to break into the mainstream market on short term with new industrial viability. As “industry insider” I think they’re right. As part of this, the coming of Printoptical Technology will stimulate and speed up that process of market change significantly. Personally, I believe that this new (disruptive) Printoptical Technology is going to cause a revolution in the manufacturing of optics and will change the manufacturing landscape as we know it dramatically.

The so called “Printoptical Revolution” has started early 2011 and the developments to the technology have allowed companies involved in the LED lighting industry saving time and money, while significantly shortening the time-to-market and increasing customization capabilities at the same time.

Printoptical Technology – at a glance
Let me highlight some key benefits of this technology for the global LED lighting market:

• Significant reduction of development cost and time;
• Shortened time-to-market;
• Simplified supply chain;
• Functional, customized optics easily printed;
• Simple or complex optics produced “on-demand”;
• Easy in-process lens modifications;
• Free-form optics, virtually in any shape;
• No excessive start-up and tooling cost;
• One single manufacturing process;
• Integrated optical- and fixture design;
• New design opportunities.

Optical Prototypes and production series can be printed easily, on demand. Moreover, it will bring designers plenty of new opportunities in design and functionality, thanks to the unique digital way of designing and the opportunity to run “single-job” printing process. The creation and short term availability of optics has never been so easy and quick!

Diverse printoptical products printed in one single shot

Finally, I am really sorry for this long post and taking so many of your time. But I trust this topic has your special interest, that’s why I am happy to explain this promising technologies’ backgrounds in more detail. Thanks for your interest and spending your time here.

If you are willing to experience more on this topic, I can recommend you a recent article in LED Professional Review (LPR), the leading worldwide authority for LED lighting technology information: http://bit.ly/GDtTMF (page 50-54).

How LED lighting optics and graphics seamlessly combine

Last time I wrote you, I promised to come up with some attractive results of both functional- and decorative optical designs, as well as some first design impressions of the new 3D printed optics website. Unfortunately, I cannot provide you with any decorative design patterns or applications yet. Nevertheless, I expect that the displayed, functional LED lighting optics below will impress you that much, that you will forgive me for now…

Printed LED optics: Fresnel lenses – micro optics – combined grapics

Right, they’re printed! All of them. LUXeXceL’s revolutionary 3D printing process will offer great value to the global LED lighting market. From now on, OEM lighting manufacturers and designers of LED lighting optics will generate significant cost reductions and time savings on the additive manufacturing of their LED lighting optics!

We’ll catch this and more of these revolutionary LED lighting optics in the next upcoming website. I am happy to share you the first design results of the homepage. It needs to be improved slightly, but I guess we’re almost there.

EXXELENS - functional lighting home

Printed LED Optics – Functional Lighting_Homepage

We allow users to switch easily from a ‘functional lighting’ (blue, technical) onto a ‘decorative lighting’ (orange, design full) environment on the right hand top. This is where technical and architectural lighting meets each other. Designs now can go ‘hand-in-hand’ with lens functionality, since it’s possible to foresee a functional LED lighting optic with any graphic elements, structure, typography, etc. The opposite is also true: decorative design lighting can now contain also functional optical structures and elements, e.g. integrated magnifiers.

Decorative, right. That’s exactly what you missed out in this post. But I promise you to come up with that information in one of my next posts.