May 13, 2016 | By Kira

The light manufacturing industry covers a wide range of products, from the brightest of industrial fixtures to soft, mood-setting bedside lamps. While considered a rather conventional industry, lighting is in the midst of a “real revolution,” according to 3D printed optics experts LUXeXcel, who believe that the well-known advantages of additive manufacturing—including reduced lead times and unprecedented customization—are perfectly accentuated in light manufacturing, as it just so happens that most of the materials needed are 3D printer-friendly.

Netherlands-based LUXeXcel is the first and only company in the world to 3D print fully transparent, perfectly smooth and optically functional lenses. They do so thanks to their patented Printoptical Technology, which uses small droplets of UV-curable droplets and high-powered UV lamps to form perfectly clear, geometric freeform shapes, including prisms, lenses, or full-color graphics that would not be possible with SLA or other professional 3D printing technologies.

For the lighting industry, LUXeXcel’s technology, as well as other additive manufacturing solutions, could represent an entirely new way of thinking about how lights can be made.

“A great manufacturing change is [about] to happen in the lighting industry, which is commonly known as a rather ‘conventional’ industry from its origin,” explain the Dutch innovators. “Functional prototypes of lighting components but also entire fixtures can now be printed straight from a designer’s computer. It becomes just a matter of conversing a 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) file into real parts with one push on the ‘print’ button. In just one step you go from CAD to product.”

What’s more, however, is that additive manufacturing can go beyond changing how lights are made, to changing precisely how lights are used in our day-to-day lives: “A new generation of designers and architects is approaching lighting from a whole new perspective,” they explain. “Lighting is no longer just functional. Lighting is being used in an engaging, personal and emotional way to create the right ambiance or mood,” and 3D printing customization is helping to enhance these possibilities and provide completely new ones.

As LUXeXcel outlines, there are two major advantages of 3D printing in the lighting industry: Speed and Customization.

First, speed. From design to delivery, 3D printed optics, components or even complete lighting fixtures can be completed in a matter of days. Because the Printoptical process requires no molds, tooling or post-processing, such as polishing, grinding, or coloring, lead times are dramatically reduced. What’s more, the shape and complexity of the client’s design has no effect on production time. Since time (and tools) equal money, 3D printing lights is as user-friendly as it is cost-efficient.

Second, Customization. As we have seen time and again, mass-production is losing ground as consumers demand more personalized products that speak to them as individuals. Consumers are also concerned with sustainable, ethical manufacturing, and don’t want tons of products being shipped from overseas and then sitting uselessly in storage. Additive manufacturing can take place locally and on-demand, eliminating both of those issues.

Beyond that, however, 3D printing allows light designers and engineers to produce entirely new types of lights, since they don’t have to rely on standard, off-the-shelf parts. “The focus is no longer just on the development of LEDs with a lower wattage or higher output (lm/watt), because of the rising demand for custom designs,” explains LUXeXcel. Instead, designers can tailor their lighting to specific rooms or projects. Optics can be designed to optimize light distribution, diffusion, intensity, or any other property, truly enhancing the function of light in our lives.

While LUXeXcel’s portfolio of 3D printed lighting solutions includes everything from super-reflective parking garage lights to a lens that amplifies your smartphone’s flash, they are not the only company shining a light on these unique opportunities. Previously, 3D printing helped produce the world’s thinnest LED light, and Graphene 3D has developed a process for 3D printing an organic LED light source that functions immediately after being printed.

At the end of the day, 3D printing is working its way into nearly every industry imaginable, and for light manufacturing in particular, it has the power to illuminate a new way forward.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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