The 3D Printing Electronics Conference: interview with Richard van de Vrie

Lots of news emerged at the second 3D Printed Electronics Conference. We discussed the trends with three of the keynote speakers, gaining insights as to why this sector is growing so quickly. The last part: an interview with Richard de Vrie of LuxExcel.

Delivering exactly what optics designers have waited for.
Innovation in 3D printed electronics is going on Europe’s West Coast too.

Richard van de Vrie is CEO of LUXeXcel, a young optics company based in Goes, in the Dutch province of Zeeland. They’ve developed the world’s first one-step process to print lenses and other optics.

“I was involved in the early manufacturer of LED lighting products” explains Richard. “Although we grew the business to serve 45 countries, the development cycle from idea to product launch was often more than a year. We became locked in to particular suppliers of key components and, if they became unavailable, we couldn’t ship our final products. So, to keep up with rapid improvements in LED technology, we wasted huge inventories of LED engines, optics and moulds”.

“In 2008 I founded LUXeXcel with the goal of making optics manufacture flexible, faster and much less capital intensive. That led to experiments and several breakthroughs using wide format printers to print fully transparent and smooth surfaces in one go. Transparent droplets of a UV-curable polymer are jetted and then cured by strong UV-lamps which are integrated onto the print head. There is no need to polish, grind or colour the lens once it’s printed.”

The exact details of the process are a trade secret which is why LUXeXcel are now launching an online custom 3D-optical printing service.

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“Every light source, like a LED engine, needs some kind of lens to guide the light into the right direction” says Richard. “In the case of a greenhouse, you want to direct all the light onto the plants not beam it outside. At a gallery, a square painting needs square light distribution, highlighting the work of art rather than the wall it is hanging on. Artists usually have to settle for standard lighting with round or oval beams. Street lights are not installed to illuminate gardens or shine into bedroom windows. Now, with what we call “Printoptical”, each fixture lights up only the road and pavement, saving energy, avoiding light pollution yet still maintaining safety.”

“The Eindhoven startup Shapeways has done a lot for 3D designers on both sides of the Atlantic to bring amazing products to life. At the end of January 2015, we’re launching something similar, aimed at lighting engineers, designers and architects. The prices of prototyping and iterating on the new site are in the region €500 -€5.000, depending upon the complexity, time and effort involved in set-up. That’s a fraction of traditional development costs for custom lenses.”

Written by Jonathan Marks