The Digitization of Plastics Fabrication (3)

“Printoptical Technology offers Unparalleled Design Freedom to Designers and Luminaire Makers resulting in Optimized Design Processes, a shortened Product Time-to-Market and an overall Increased Competitive Edge”

Optimized Design Processes
The longer an optic takes in the design and prototyping phase, the longer it takes the lighting fixture to get to market, meaning less potential profit for the company. With increasing pressure to get products to market quickly, companies are compelled to make quick yet accurate decisions during the conceptual stage of design. These decisions can affect the majority of total cost factors by establishing material selection, manufacturing techniques and design longevity. Printoptical Technology can optimize design processes for greatest potential profit by speeding iterations through product testing. An optimized design process with more prototype iterations can help minimize risk of product failure. Because Printoptical Platforms can produce optics with fine feature details, designers can be more confident in their work. Making needed changes as early as possible saves money and time. Optics made by 3D printing can give optical designers and engineers a thorough understanding of potential lighting products earlier in the design process than other methods, minimizing the risk that problems will go unnoticed until it’s too late.

Reasons to Adopt Printoptical Technology
The practical reasons for adopting Printoptical Technology are fairly obvious: no tooling required, new design opportunities, easy iterations, fast product availability. However, consider the effects that it can have on the scale and reach of projects. With Printoptical Technology designers are no longer constrained by space or volume limitations, like when they use injection molding. They can build greener, smarter and bigger optics and experiment with all types of new layouts without loss of tooling and investments.

Freeform Optics
Moreover, it is possible to create freeform optics: novel optics that are designed in a asymmetric and complex way. Freeform optics are difficult to make using the traditional fabrication methods, and the making would rather have to be based on ultra-precision machining technology. This novel Printoptical Technology can be widely applied to machining freeform plastic optics. In this way, innovative optoelectronic products can be supplied to the market at a competitive price. Printoptical Technology gives the freedom to suit nearly every optical application, giving the design freedom to achieve the exact optic the maker wants, without compromise.

New ways of design, out of the box thinking
Designers are encouraged to broaden their horizon and to change their ‘mindset’, and start a completely new way of thinking. The results of the design process can be new geometric or freeform shapes that may include transparent prisms or lenses, as well as colored lenses, lens combinations, full color 3D graphics and textures, like integrated surface structures and company logos. Even though the material is deposited in discrete drops, the resulting surface is perfectly smooth. This is accomplished by delaying the time between the jetting of the droplets and the application of UV light, which gives the polymer time to flow and for each droplet to lose its spherical form. The mechanism for surface formation is surface tension, a phenomenon of nature which produces surfaces more smooth that any man-made process can match. Optical quality surfaces are achieved with no post processing.

Advanced multi-lens, integrated in wood grain and matte texture

Advanced multi-lens, integrated in wood grain and matte texture

Shortened time to market
With these digital manufacturing applications, the designers and engineers can make alterations to their optical designs in seconds, and see how every minute change will affect the entire fixture design. The Printoptical Software provides a highly cost-efficient means of producing numerous optical design iterations and gaining immediate feedback throughout the critical beginning stages of the development process. The ability to refine form, fit and function of the optics quickly can significantly improve production costs and time to market. This can create a distinct competitive advantage for those companies who include Printoptical Technology as an integral part of their overall design process. The speed, consistency, accuracy and low cost of this process will help lighting companies reduce the overall time-to-market and maintain a competitive edge. The engineers can properly address all potential problems with an optic before construction begins, they’ll save time, money, physical resources and maximize the efficiency of their team. What would have seemed extremely tedious and time-consuming in the past years – such as designing and setting up an production line, can now be done in a fraction of the time.

Increased competitiveness
Undoubtedly, 3D printing of optics is a step in the right direction for saving our planet. The world economy is in dire straits, and highly respected global lighting companies are laying off workers by hundreds, or have to shut down completely. Local markets are flooded with low-quality, cheap lighting alternatives and suppliers are shutting their doors due to devastating decreases in consumer and OEM demand. Right now, the main question on every manufacturer’s mind is: how do we stay competitive? It turns out that in this case, helping the environment can dramatically help the bottom line. By cutting upfront cost, generating less need for working capital, delivering a high return on investment and contributing to revenue increases, digital manufacturing can save companies money, time and make them even more attractive as a potential business partner.

Thanks for reading part 3/4 of this blog on the digitization of optics fabrication. Next week, the last edition will be published with more views on a ‘third industrial revolution’ and conclusions.

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!