3D Printed Optics

3D free form optics
© Fraunhofer IOF
3D-printed freeform optics made from ORMOCER® hybrid polymer

In recent years, 3D printing technologies have become increasingly attractive to fabricate optical components. This is directly linked to advances in the manufacturing technology and the employed optical resins or inks.

Together with Fraunhofer IOF and Hochschule Aalen, Fraunhofer ISC is exploring innovative ways to revolutionize optical manufacturing. Processes such as stereolithography and inkjet-printing have been adapted to create precise and smooth surfaces and hyprid polymer-based resins (ORMOCER®) were developed and adapted for the respective printing technologies. With this additive manufacturing approach, we could create freeform optical surfaces with hybrid materials that exhibit glass-like optical properties, i.e. high transmission, low-yellowing and excellent thermal stability.

Integrated LEDs
© Fraunhofer IOF
Embedded LEDs integrated into 3d-printed optical component and connected via printed conductive lines

However, enabling complex freeform refractive surfaces for tailored light distributions is not the only achievement of 3D printed optics. With our partners, we developed additional technologies to introduce further functions into the printed optical components. With this approach, we get closer to the vision of an integrated and fully functional printed optical system.

Quantum-Dot nanocomposite
© Fraunhofer ISC
Quantum-Dot nanocomposite for 3D-printed optics

Added functionalities are:

  • Integrated mirrors realized by printing and sintering silver inks
  • Printed conductive wires for electrical interconnection
  • Integrated LEDs
  • Antireflective coatings by plasma treatment of the printed component
  • Gradient index (GRIN) optics by the utilization of inks with tailored refractive indices
  • Scattering layers for light homogenization
  • Surface finish with additional refractive or diffractive microoptics by two-photon polymerization
  • Baffles structures by laser carbonization of printed resin or by printing of adapted black
  • Material functionalities by e.g. integrating quantum dots


Capabilities of Fraunhofer ISC

  • Unique combination of process technology and development of tailored hybrid polymers
  • CAD/CAM chain: From design to prototype
  • Prototyping for conventional optics and microoptics
  • Feasibility studies and process development

Article I Printing for Fabrication

»Inkjet Printing of 3D Optics for Individualized Illumination Systems«