Optogenetics: Controlling the Brain with Light

This short blogpost illustrates optogenetics — a radical new technology for controlling brain activity with light that I recently rediscovered. Optogenetics is an emerging field of research that is combing ‘optics‘ with ‘genetics’ to modify the activities of brains.

Marcodevisser.com_Optogenetics_How it Works

Researchers genetically modify certain neurons to activate when they receive pulses of light. This is part of the medical field that is studying how to stimulate specific areas of the brain to relieve a host of chronic neurological aliments ranging from depression to Parkinson’s disease.

Marcodevisser.com_Optogenetics - controlling the brain with light_neurons

This post might be a bit ‘out-of-the-box’, and too research minded. But it think this interesting topic is worth mentioning. Impressive to see what the power of optics and light can do, especially related to the human body and brains. Finally, here’s a movie from MITTechTV explaining this new phenomenon in research:

[Pictures and animations in this post are courtesy of Sputnik Animation, Ed Boyden, and McGovern Institute for Brain Research.]

The Basics of Lighting Optics

I’ve been writing from time to time about optics, especially related to use in illumination applications. As we learn more about light, what we really want to understand is optics that is the control of light. Let’s take a moment to step back to the basics, and learn a bit more on the optics types available and what they are used for.

Optics: The Science of Light
In fact, optics is a branch of physics: the science of light. Optics technology is concerned with all aspects of the behavior of light and thus covers a broad territory. In the International Year of Light, optics are one of the key-attention area’s, along with a variety of other light based technologies.

What is Optics? Optics is the branch of physics which involves the behaviour and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it.

The Future of Optics
Earlier, I’ve been writing on the ‘Future of Optics Engineering‘ and how the coming of “3D printed optics” will impact and change the future of optics manufacturing. If this topic has your special interest, I can really recommend you reading it!

Below is avideo from the Philips Lighting University, a basic and helpful movie for anyone interested to learn more about lighting optics, light reflection and refraction.

Photonics technologies are everywhere!

Photonics technologies are amazing, fascinating, and you find them everywhere: in communication, entertainment, medical, manufacturing, automotive, energy, lighting, agriculture, photovoltaic, security, art, …!

Day of Photonics
The internationally recognized ‘Day of Photonics’ is almost there, and over 100 companies globally intend to participate in this inaugural edition. On 21 October 1983, the General Conference of Weights And Measures adopted the value of 299,792.458 km/s for the speed of light. At the occasion of the anniversary, organizations in more than 30 countries organize all types of activities, from internal meetings, outreaches to schools, to opening their doors to the general public. The ‘Day of Photonics’ is the ideal excuse to promote ‘photonics’, and the timing makes it ideally suited as a preliminary to the International Year of Light in 2015.

EPIC (European Photonics Industry Consortium) is the industry association that promotes the sustainable development of organisations working in the field of photonics in Europe. They foster a vibrant photonics ecosystem by maintaining a strong network and acting as a catalyst and facilitator for technological and commercial advancement.

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!

The Digitization of Plastics Fabrication (2)

“The Long Tail Effect for LED Lighting Optics: This New Way of Optics Manufacturing Offers a Greater Product Variety and Higher Profit Margins”

Economies of Scale
Today, if you ask a conventional optics supplier to make an LED lighting optic to your custom need, you will be presented with a daunting minimum order quantity and an up-front cost of tens of thousands of Euros. Your supplier has to cover the costs to produce a mold, and set up their expensive equipment for a long enough production run to warrant the investment. Doing that for one single optical prototype or limited series would be prohibitively expensive. It is true that if you finally start producing thousands of optics at the end, each optic will be much inexpensive, due to ‘economies of scale’. However, the business imperative to achieve such economies of scale has fundamentally distorted the economics of the lighting industry, severely constraining the number of new products that can be introduced, and making it hard to stay abreast of changes in technologies, availability of supply or trends in market demand.

Manufacturing as a Service
Thanks to the invention of Printoptical Technology – 100% digitally run by CAD-driven software – for an additively manufactured LED lighting optic economies of scale don’t matter anymore. This will be a huge advantage for lighting entrepreneurs who are, due to their limited availability of cash, not able to introduce new designs without the cost of a facility or distant manufacturing firm. A significant part of – sometimes very brilliant – product ideas remains unexploited in the desk archive. Thanks to the wide use of 3D-CAD and lighting design software from providers, like Autodesk, Solid Works, Photopia and LightTools, designs can be created easily, endlessly tweaked and converted easily at low cost. The cost of setting up the ‘Printoptical Printing Platform’ is the same whether it makes one thing or as many production lots as can fit inside the machine. Like a printing press that pushes out one or many different print brochures, the machine keep going until the ‘ink cartridge’ – a container with a liquid Polymer – is empty, and the ‘paper’ – raw translucent substrate materials like PMMA and Polycarbonates – needs to be replenished.

The Long Tail effect
Many optics engineers and designers work in the so called ‘long tail’, developing specialty optics, new designs, and lower-volume deployments. The long tail applications rarely have the sales volumes to justify large up-front investments in time or the resources to develop a “full” LED optic. This may be because these are new applications in the initial conception and research stages of a lighting product, or because they are new variations on an existing concept.

The Long Tail Effect for LED Optics: lower investment cost, increased flexibility and a greater product variety.

(Picture 1 – The long tail effect for LED lighting optics. The long tail is a way to describe optics specialties or niche applications in the Lighting Industry)

Revolutionary 3D printing process
Printoptical Technology will allow lighting optics to be produced in one step from a digital CAD file due to the new, revolutionary 3D printing process. Optics can be made economically in much smaller numbers, more flexibly and with a much lower input of labor, thanks to the use of new materials, processes, and on-demand CAD-based custom manufacturing services. Production is moving away from ‘mass manufacturing’ to ‘mass customization’ and back towards much more individualized production. Customers get a broader array of choices and solutions better fitted to their needs, and manufacturers earn the loyalty and higher profit margins that come with better satisfying individual customer demands and preferences.

This article is the second publication within a range of four articles written on the Additive Manufacturing of LED lighting optics. The next edition – to appear in the next couple of weeks – will explain the benefits for its adopters on design, time-to-market and competition in more detail.

LUXeXceL’s New Corporate Website

Working on the new LUXeXceL website project has been of great pleasure to all of us. (Re)launching a website is an intense experience, getting prepared for it, as well as preparing yourself for the type of visitors you’ll be gaining. But the right preparation for the launch and making sure you’ve got all the ducks in a row, will ensure that the launch is successful.

And it was. The positive response that was received since the launch, includes a significant increase in site traffic and leads. Our team will continue to enhance site experience for clients and prospects who identify LUXeXceL as their technology provider of choice!

Site enhancements
The newly designed website features a refreshed layout and improved functionality, built to enhance the overall user experience and corporate branding. The site has already experienced a significant increase in traffic and visitor engagement since its launch during the last week.

The functionality improvements to the site will enable us to deliver a more personalized experience to site visitors and allow them to learn about this emerging technology. Moreover, we help them to ease the adoption of this technology for their own industry by providing them further information, e.g. benefits, comparison charts, white papers, with many more technical information and backgrounds to follow.

Our goals
The objectives when building our new website included:

• Making it easier for visitors to learn about the innovated core technology and get in touch with industry insiders and experts via the corporate blog;

• Clearly position LUXeXceL as the “Innovator of Printoptical Technology”, including special attention for our the technology and its backgrounds;

• Enhance the user experience through refreshed design and logical (re)arrangement of content. Easy navigating, with the user to be on his ‘destination’ in max. 3 clicks is key;

The ‘quick menu’ in the footer makes common or frequently searched topics easy accessible in one click, same as the news / blog links at the right hand column do;

• Enhance the brand’s architecture: clearly display the different subsidiaries and branded products to help visitors understand the benefits of Printoptical Technology across the several markets;

• Improved playback: make displaying on mobile devices more easy, accessible and interactive. Just try: take your I-Pad, try to sweep for example the main and sub carousels on the homepage: that’s how easy navigation should be!

• Personalizing each user’s visit to increase engagement. Some corporate movies are added, with many more to follow!

New site, new blog: Lighting-Inspiration.com
At the same time, I am personally setting up a new ‘Lighting Inspiration blog’. For the time stocking a lot of impressive news on 3D printed optics, but parallel it will held also a lot of 3D printing, product inspiration and event news for global lighting professionals. I strongly recommend visiting it to my technology followers, to learn about the further backgrounds and to understand the impact 3D printing will have on the future of manufacturing.

Regarding this new platform, please feel free to leave your comments, and I’d like to encourage you to post your recommendations as well. I would be happy to address them!

For now, wish you a happy surf on this great new website, and a great discovery journey!

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!