Luxexcel 3D printing technology developed back in 2009, is an additive fabrication process for 3D printing functional lenses. The Luxexcel platform is fundamentally different from traditional ophthalmics fabrication methods, that start off from semifinished lens blanks to grind and polish the lens. Luxexcel technology 3D prints the lenses and the 3D printed ophthalmic lenses are optically clear and smooth and immediately ready for the coating process once they leave the 3D printer.

Lens production with 3D printing

Conventional ophthalmic lens production involves multiple machining steps in which material is subtracted from a lens blank through grinding, polishing, and edging. For years this technology has been used in the ophthalmic industry. The results are good quality lenses but at the expense of high inventory, complex finishing and a significant waste of material. The alternative to this method, additive manufacturing through 3D printing, is a new concept for the ophthalmic industry.

The launch of this technology is not aimed to enter into mass market solutions or compete on a price level. The primary goal is to add value for the users, primarily independent ophthalmic labs - and enable them to offer unique products to their customers.

Once the lens design in Luxexcels’ VisionMaster Software - including the design and surface prescription - is prepared for printing. The VisionMaster allows ophthalmic labs and optometrists to design custom lenses for their patients. After the design is ready for print, the liquid material is loaded into the printer and the correct print settings and resolution are applied.

The Luxexcel objective is to ‘change the way ophthalmics are made’ and create unique new eye glasses not possible with legacy technology. This goal will be primarily achieved through close partnerships with independent ophthalmic labs.

In the infographic below you will learn more about the process.

Flow Luxexcel 3D printer

The Process - How it Works

The Luxexcel printing platform 3D prints lenses by jetting a UV-curable resin onto the build plate and then cure it by UV-light. The print resin, an acrylic based material, is deposited in several passes until the desired shape has been created. During the process, the droplets flow and merge when they hit the surface, thus creating lens shapes and features with optimal clarity and functionality. By delaying the time between the deposit of the droplet and the curing, the material is given some time to flow and to form the smooth optical surfaces under natural surface tension. As of now, we print at a speed of 4 lenses/per hour, after the printing the lenses they do not require any grinding or polishing and the lenses are immediately ready to be coated.

3D printing: changes the game

3D printing has already brought a revolution to a number of different industries. A frequently used example is the hearing aids industry. Within 5 years the main manufacturing technology has shifted from casting and manual finishing to 3D printing. Nowadays, most hearing aids are 3D printed to specific customer needs. The eyewear industry is in many ways similar: custom products with a requirement for quick turnaround times at a competitive price.

The traditional industry has addressed these requirements by manufacturing semi-finished products in low-cost countries. The lenses are then shipped to the different markets for final processing to meet customer requirements. All at the expense of complexity in manufacturing and large inventories.
Luxexcel technology offers a much simpler solution, with a 3D print platform integrated into an ophthalmic lab requiring printing ink and generating the exact lens on the spot.

Ophthalmic Lens Manufacturing Process

Figure 1. Standard lens manufacturing process with multiple grinding and polishing steps

3D printing manufacturing technology will bring new levels of efficiency to the ophthalmic lab and will enable labs to operate without the burden of large inventory, large investments and long lead times from suppliers and to customers, while at the same time offering a customized products. By removing design limitations and offering ophthalmic labs the freedom to create revolutionary lens designs the Luxexcel print platform will change the way ophthalmic lenses are manufactured.

It is not our intention to disrupt existing process and workflows, but the strongest intention to ‘change the way ophthalmic lenses are made’ by collaborating with ophthalmic labs and provide new production tools and more design freedom to the ophthalmic industry.

Luxexcel material

Luxexcel developed a novel optical material to manufacture lenses. Each lens is built from very small droplets which are seamlessly merged together to create the lens. The material is similar to typical materials used in ophthalmic lenses today. Needless to say, the Luxexcel material passes the standard industry tests, like the drop ball test. The material is also ISO 8980-1:2004 Focal Power compliant. 

The material has an Abbe number of 45 and a Refractive Index (RI) of 1.53. The specific weight is 1,15 g/cm3 lighter than most ophthalmic materials. Additional materials with higher refractive index are listed on the development roadmap.

Coatings on lenses

Like most spectacle lenses also Luxexcel coatings applied to them to protect the lens and enhance the optical performance. Optical coatings that are frequently used are Hard Coatings (HC),  Anti-Reflective coatings (AR) and UV coatings. Luxexcel provides coating solutions through its network of affiliated partners. The proposed coating solutions pass industry standard tests for adhesion, abrasion, and scratching.

We strongly believe that these days we only see a glimpse of the possibilities that are arriving with this new way of making, and welcome anyone from the ophthalmic industry to join us on this exciting journey while taking an immediate benefit for your own business.

If you are an ophthalmic lab and you would like to learn more about this technology. Please do not hesitate to contact us. 

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