The Digitization of Plastics Fabrication (4)

“Printoptical Technology contributes to a Third Industrial Revolution”

New industrial revolution
The consequences of all these changes amount to a third industrial revolution, as randomly speculated about in many different media nowadays. The first industrial revolution of mankind took place in Great-Britain (late 18th century), starting with the mechanization of the textile industry. In the decades hereafter, the machines were started to be used to produce things, instead of crafting them by hand, with an incredible increase of efficiency. They correctly understood that we not only need to work hard any more, but more smart, to realize the potential benefits offered by mechanical technologies. The second industrial revolution on its turn found its roots in the USA, in the early 20th century. With the discovery of the assembly line whole industries entered into a new era of mass production. The age of “getting digital” nowadays would mean another significant change in how products are engineered and manufactured. The 3D printing and on-demand availability of optics significantly contributes to this ongoing development and is expected to be one of the most influential steps the industry has known in the last decades.

In summary, 3D printing of optics is amazingly powerful and will continue to develop into a major part of the product development process. Printoptical Technology makes significant leaps forward in technology, and brings revolutionary, not merely evolutionary, advances in the additive manufacturing of LED lighting optics. As Printoptical Technology almost daily evolve and the prices of systems decrease, it enables to experience a whole new way to develop optics and launch the lighting industry into mass customization. Numerous leading lighting companies have adopted Printoptical Technology in an innovative way, leading the charge in additive manufacturing. And this on-demand business model is spreading. Adopting digital manufacturing of optics isn’t just a good idea – it’s a necessity for any company committed to retaining (or creating) competitive advantage within the highly crowded global lighting place. It is here, and it is fixed staying. This technology is no longer considered a science fiction. Rest assured, once Printoptical Technology is experienced in-house, more applications and cost saving will be discovered. It might still be in its infancy, and there are still issues to solve and challenges to overcome, but it will drive almost all additive manufacturing of optics in the future and it must be a part of every portfolio.

This article is the last part in a range written on “Digital Optics Manufacturing”, intended to let the lighting industry and it’s insiders know about Printoptical Technology and it’s improved opportunities for the manufacturing of LED lighting optics. Thanks for reading these posts, see you soon!

[1] Wohlers Report 2012 – Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing, State of the Industry
Annual Worldwide Progress Report –
[2] The Economist – Manufacturing & Innovation, Special Report, April 2012

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!

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: (page 50-54).