3D inkjet printing of optical elements

Highly individualized micro- and macro-optical components and systems

Additively manufactured micro- and macro-optics and optical systems open up new possibilities in development processes such as rapid prototyping or in the production of individualized small series. With 3D inkjet printing of optical elements, Fraunhofer IOF is developing solutions for the optics production of the future. The additive process not only enables the cost-effective production of individualized optical components. The compatibility of the process with numerous functional materials also opens up new possibilities in the production of highly integrated optical systems.

At Fraunhofer IOF, the entire process chain is investigated and developed, from the pre-treatment of the substrates and the development of the printing process, to the targeted post-treatment of the printed structures. Our many years of experience lead to a targeted parameter optimization of the entire printing process.

Our range of services

We realize tailor-made solutions for our customers with the development of single processes and process chains in the field of 3D printing of optical systems. Our range of services includes the selection of suitable materials and the development of inks, the development of targeted substrate preparation processes, the development of printing processes for the various materials and inks, as well as the targeted post-treatment of printed structures. In addition, extensive optical, electrical, and mechanical characterization of the printed structures is carried out at the customer's request.

Your advantages of working with us

 

We develop highly customized feature integrations on a variety of materials using inkjet printing technology.

The combination of our experience and passion for challenging technological boundaries enables us to develop exceptional, customized multilayer and multi-material functionalities on a variety of substrates.

Inkjet-printed microlens arrays.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Inkjet-printed microlens arrays.
Printed freeform optics for light field shaping.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Printed freeform optics for light field shaping.
Printed optical components can be equipped with different functionalities. Here: optical component with integrated LED.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Printed optical components can be equipped with different functionalities. Here: optical component with integrated LED.

Our range of printable materials

 

  • ORMOCER® - Organic/inorganic hybrid polymers
    • High thermal / mechanical / chemical stability
  • Acrylates
    • Tailored refractive index
  • Silver / Gold / Graphite
    • Optical mirrors
    • Wiring / electrodes
  • Various functional polymers
    • Light filters, baffles, absorbers

The advantages of our 3D printing technology at a glance

 

  • Cost-effective material application
  • Digital printing technology
    • Material savings
    • Easy design changes
    • Capability of rapid prototyping
  • Mask-free, contactless deposition
  • Deposition at normal atmosphere
  • Processing at room temperature
  • Compatible with substrates of glass, polymers, and paper

Technical equipment in the field of 3D inkjet printing

 

  • For cleaning and activation of various substrates (glass, plastics, metal, ceramics, paper) we have a wet chemical cleaning line and plasma ovens.
  • For printing, we use commercial inkjet printers in desktop format.
  • The use of laminar flow box modules enables almost particle-free printing results.
  • Inks that require an inert atmosphere are printed in a nitrogen atmosphere with the exclusion of oxygen and water.
  • The use of different industrial print heads from renowned manufacturers enables us to use a wide range of inks in a large viscosity range.
  • Heatable substrate tables lead to an optimized printing result. UV lamps with different wavelengths allow curing of UV-crosslinking materials.
  • For post-treatment we use heating and plasma ovens as well as vacuum chambers to achieve the desired properties.

Our research strength

 

Research reports

The articles in the annual report show, among other things, the research strength of our experts at Fraunhofer IOF. Every year, selected research results from the previous year (archive annual reports) are published in the annual report. You can find the articles on the developments of inkjet printing from the past years in the following list:

  • "InkEye - 3D polymer printing of eyeglasses"
  • "3D-inkjet printing of optical components"

Full texts of research reports

 

Excellent scientific publications

A large number of scientific results are published by our researchers in scientific journals. A list of scientific papers on 3D inkjet printing can be found below:

Selection of scientific publications

Markets and applications for 3D printed optical elements

3D inkjet printing of optical elements is interesting for many applications and especially for the production of small series and individualized products. At Fraunhofer IOF, applications are already being developed in the fields of medical technology, life sciences and the automotive industry. Inkjet printing enables flexible solutions for the challenges of our customers.

In various projects, tailor-made micro- and macro-optical components and systems for use as illumination and imaging optics have been realized at Fraunhofer IOF. The fully 3D inkjet printed functionalities include:

  • LED lightguides
  • Optical waveguides
  • Freeform refractive optics for illumination
  • Microlens arrays

In addition to the applications mentioned above, Fraunhofer IOF is also working on 3D printing of eyeglasses (more info below).

Optical components (e.g., freeforms, lenses) produced by 3D inkjet printing for various applications.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Optical components (e.g., freeforms, lenses) produced by 3D inkjet printing for various applications.

Everything important at a glance

 

Find the important information summarized in our handy data sheet on the subject of 3D-printed optics.

More questions?

 

Please ask us. We are happy to help you.

If you have any questions about collaborating with Fraunhofer IOF, you can find more information by clicking on the following link:

 

Have we sparked your interest?

 

Please contact us.

We develop customized solutions for photonic problems from industry and science.

Further information

Inkjet printing of functional materials

Using inkjet printing technology, we develop highly individual 2D structures on various materials at Fraunhofer IOF.

Inkjet printing of functional materials

Opto-mechatronical components and systems

Get an overview of the entire range of services offered by our scientific department “Opto-mechatronical Components and Systems” at Fraunhofer IOF.

Overview

Additive Manufacturing of metal optics

At Fraunhofer IOF, technologies are being developed for the additive manufacturing of high-performance metallic components using selective laser melting.

Additive Manufacturing of metal optics