4D printing – The Future of Design

Normally, we create things by use of 3D printing and we’re done. After the printing process is finalized, we take our parts and then we assemble them. But what if we want the parts to be able to transform and change their shape over time? If we want them to assemble themselves?

From 3D printing to 4D printing
The promises of 4D printing are truly amazing. Actually, 4D printing is about using a 3D printer to produce self-reconfiguring, programmable material that intelligently arranges itself into basically any object with no need for computers or electricity. Objects are not only be printed, but thanks to geometric code, they could later also change their shape and transform on their own.
4D printing for Lighting
This is just a first blogpost on 4D printing to discover this new dimension to 3D printing. I am curious to see how it will influence the future of the lighting industry as well, after 3D printing is finally is adopted. And how it will lead to new features for lighting development and design.
We’ll keep on watching the progress, I’ll keep you posted in case any crazy things happen!

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!

Lighting the Future: LEDs & OLEDs – How it Works

Recently, I discovered a video about Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) and Organic LEDs (OLEDs). How they work, the difference between them, clearly explained by inside industry experts. Learn about the inventors of the lights at the end of the program.

LEDs use pn junctions where holes and free electrons combine to form a photon at the boundary between the p and n type materials. The OLED uses thin organic (molecule with carbon) layers evaporated or deposited on a flat substrate material.

Please take a few minutes of your time to learn about these basics of future lighting inspiration. It might help you to understand the opportunities with and application of 3D printed optics as well.

The Digitization of Plastics Fabrication (1)

“Emerging ‘Printoptical Technology’ brings future optical manufacturing to a digital level with optimal flexibility, zero need for tooling and real inventory, including no more obsolete inventory write offs”

You may remember your home cabinets filled up with CD’s, not so long ago. Then the computer industry, most notably Apple, invaded and digitized the music retail supply chain with small portable devices linked to online music stores. The resulting easy production and convenient commercial distribution throughout the world created an accessible stage for thousands of new music “stars” and gave users more choice and a new fast and affordable way of finding and receiving just the music they wanted whenever and wherever they wanted it. Since that time, CDs have started to get rare and the music landscape changed significantly through ‘going digital’. Digital production and inventory revolutionized a massive industry within just a few months.

Another Digital Revolution
In the global lighting industry, there is another digital revolution underway as part of the rapid shift to LED technologies. This time the impact is mainly on the luminaire makers and their suppliers rather than on the end customers, but the changes will be equally profound. The new mode of digital production, digital inventory, and just-in-time supply chain will be for the optical components of their products – the most critical determinant of style, and the industry’s chronic, debilitating “bottle neck” of design, sourcing, and manufacturing. Instead of the delay and expense of making numerous prototypes and then, finally, expensive molds for optics, the new “mold” will be digital – the CAD design file itself. Optics will be produced by a digital automated process directly from the CAD file, on demand, and delivered on a just-in-time basis.

One-step CAD-to-Optic Printoptical Process

One-step CAD-to-Optic Printoptical Process

Figure: One-Step CAD-to-Optic Fabrication, optics directly printed from a CAD file.

Any desired optics can be specified and ordered online in quantities ranging from an economic minimum of just one up to tens of thousands per month, with short lead times, rapid prototyping cycles, and easy made-to-order customization and agile adaptation to design changes or product mix over time.

One practice, one recent development is worth noticing and has been tremendously successful on the front: the “digital manufacturing” of optics through ‘Printoptical Technology’. Printoptical Technology avoids complicated and costly conventional processes used to produce many types of optical components, and allows a quick and easy availability of optical prototypes, low- and larger volume series as well, through a one-step CAD-to-optic manufacturing process. That’s how the manufacturing of LED lighting optics would be like in the future.

Movie: Plastic optics for LED lighting fixtures and many other applications can now be custom manufactured by a new one-step “CAD-to-Optic” 3D-printing process which affords flexibility and freedom of design never before possible. 

Digital Manufacturing Explained
Additive Manufacturing is a collective term that encompasses a number of technologies utilized to produce products directly from digital Computer Aided Design (CAD) files: one step CAD-to-product manufacturing. Additive Manufacturing, sometimes referred to as “3D Printing” or “Rapid Prototyping”, uses an additive process – in contrast to the subtractive processes of milling, turning, grinding and polishing typically utilized in traditional manufacturing to make products directly or make tooling for extrusion or injection molding. Traditional machining methods, which involve cutting away material to achieve the desired complex shape. In sharp contrast additive manufacturing creates parts by building them up with progressive computer-controlled deposition of material, in a process that resembles printing, but with multiple passes over the work until the desired 3D form is achieved. In recent months, nearly all of the leading business publications have featured articles about how additive manufacturing will change how almost all product design and fabrication is done and how this will streamline and accelerate the supply chain for many industries.

Was this article of interest? This first introduction into “Digital Optics Manufacturing” will be continued with more “in-depth” articles coming weeks to help leading industries and professionals to understand this new manufacturing standard. Keep on following!