The world’s first 3-D printer for photonics manufacturing R&D will be built at the Institute of Photonics at the University of Eastern Finland in cooperation with the Dutch company LUXeXceL. The 3-D printer will cost almost a million euros and is expected to be up and running at the university’s Joensuu campus by the end of the year. It uses UV curable plastic and prints layer by layer to create three-dimensional objects.
“The printer will bring us to the world’s cutting edge of photonics technology,” says Professor Jyrki Saarinen from the University of Eastern Finland. “We will introduce features that allow us to do things which haven’t been possible before. The idea is to combine the possibilities offered by 3-D printing with other modern photonics manufacturing technologies such as laser ablation.”
Unique manufacturing process
LUXeXceL’s digital Printoptical unique manufacturing process makes it possible to print smooth surfaces, including optical quality components, such as lenses with coloured coating, directly from a CAD file without the need for any post-processing. According to LUXeXceL, the cooperation with The Institute of Photonics will offer rapid prototyping of optical components for prototypes, short-run and volume batches. Professor Saarinen believes that 3-D printing will revolutionise the manufacturing of optical components.
The first phase of the project spans 18 months and the majority of funding comes from the Leverage from the EU 2007 structural funding instrument of Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. In addition to LUXeXceL and the University of Eastern Finland, the project funders and partners include the Finnish companies Nanocomp Ltd., Oplatek Group Ltd., Thermo Fisher Scientific Ltd., Millog Ltd., Idman Airfield Lighting Ltd., and Nanobakers Ltd.