Producing Lenses with 3D Printers (OHJ Paper)

I finally wrote up my results on producing lenses with 3D printers, which I’ve been working on since September, as a paper which I submitted to the Open Hardware Journal. It was published in their first issue (stand alone PDF of my paper) at the beginning of the month.

Chris Olah's 3D printer produced lens mangifies text on a poster

A number of people were excited by my paper, and I’ve had several email correspondences about it since publication. NBitWonder had a post about it.

It’s exciting to see such interest in my work.

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15 Responses to “Producing Lenses with 3D Printers (OHJ Paper)”

  1. Erik Says:

    Awesome work! I had been wondering whether laser-cutting lenses would work, but I also expected the stepping effect to be too dramatic. Using foil wrappings makes a lot of sense, of course!

    I wonder how well this would work if your positive is printed with 20 micron or less layer heights. And that doesn’t need to take very long either, when printed on an Ultimaker… (alright, shameless self promotion, but on-topic, I believe).

    • christopherolah Says:

      >Awesome work! I had been wondering whether laser-cutting lenses would work, but I also expected the stepping effect to be too dramatic

      I’ve done some tests with laser-cut prisms. Very promising.

      Lenses are a bit trickier since you you have very large discrete steps with height, but I’ve been thinking of doing two part fresnel lens assemblies…

      > I wonder how well this would work if your positive is printed with 20 micron or less layer heights. And that doesn’t need to take very long either, when printed on an Ultimaker…

      Only one way to find out :)

  2. Erik Says:

    If you say 20 micron it will never make as much an impression as the picture of the patch of finger that you see holding a piece of a 3D print under a microscope:
    http://davedurant.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/ultimaker-faq-but-what-about-the-quality-of-prints/

    Anyway, cool to see that there’s now an open hardware magazine!

  3. Xavier Snelgrove Says:

    Hey Chris, I saw an interesting talk recently on diffractive optics, I don’t know if you’ve looked at those but it’s pretty cool stuff, see:
    http://spie.org/x8625.xml
    Unfortunately, sounds like some of the holes need to be as small as 10 microns for visible wavelengths. Might be hard to laser-cut that…

    Another fun property is that the chromatic aberrations are linear with wavelength so you get extreme dispersion.

    • colah Says:

      That looks really cool, Xavier! Thanks for telling me!

      (Sorry about the late response, didn’t get an email from wordpress for some reason…)

  4. Untold Stories From Hacker Hostels - NYTimes.com Says:

    [...] for 3-D printing; he writes articles about how to print things you wouldn’t expect, like camera lenses or vacuum cleaners.In the San Francisco hostel, residents tend to be more diverse by age and [...]

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Luxexcel seems to have hit on a good solution for 3d printing optics. http://www.luxexcel.com/

  6. Anonymous Says:

    http://www.exxelens.com from Luxexcel in the Netherlands. They speak about a one-step-cad-to-optic process and no post processing necessary calling it printoptical technology.

  7. gki Says:

    Have you actually tried to make a mirror? I’d like to read more about your experiences.

  8. jp a Says:

    post processing is not good for optics. better to print exactly the disired result directly from CAD file like http://www.luxexcel.com/en/technology/technology-movie.htm

  9. H.J. J. Says:

    Interesting tech that seems to be able to digitize the optics manufacturing. Interesting business story too at their website: http://www.luxexcel.com/company/the-luxexcel-story/

  10. mountvernonparksfoundation Says:

    I have a pair of discontinued Oakley sunglasses that I wish I could find replacement lenses for. Would it be possible to 3D scan my existing lenses and then 3D print new ones?

    • colah Says:

      Maybe? The tricky part will be getting the print to optical quality.

      Also, it may not be sufficient to reproduce the geometry of your lens, since the material you make the new one out of may have a different index of refraction.

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