Product designers and engineers are looking for rapid prototyping services in order to speed up product development cycles. Addoptics offers smart manufacturing of optics as a service, so rapid prototyping for optics becomes a possibility. With our service you can have your optical prototypes quickly and affordably.

There are many ways an optic prototype can be manufactured. In the end it depends on the engineer’s requirements to determine which material and process is best suited for their optical products.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits and areas of application of rapid prototyping, before we move on to rapid prototyping services for optics.

The benefits of rapid prototyping

There are numerous advantages to rapid prototyping.

  • Explore and realize concepts more quickly. Efficiency in time and cost savings allow teams to move beyond visualization of a product, making it easier to have a tangible product to test the product properties and optimize the design.
  • Iterative design approach. With rapid prototyping you can incorporate repeated changes that allow for optimal evaluation and testing of the product. This will help refine the final end product.
  • Thoroughly test and optimize. With rapid prototyping you are able to detect and repair product flaws with a small volume run, this will save costs when moving to large scale production.
  • Create novel designs. With rapid prototyping you can go from idea to working prototype in a short timeframe. This helps to communicate concepts more effectively and gives stakeholders a tangible product.
  • No tooling required. With most rapid prototyping services there is no tooling required. The same equipment is used to produce various prototypes. This helps to keep costs at a minimum.

Rapid prototyping applications

Rapid prototyping services can help create prototypes from various materials, making it a versatile approach for various applications, including:

  • Proving a concept with a physical model.
  • Functional prototypes help engineers and designers to fix design flaws, optimize the final product and get buy-in from stakeholders.
  • Testing design, manufacturability and function before moving on to full production.

Rapid prototyping techniques

Let’s take a closer look at some of the rapid prototyping techniques that are commonly used. Please note, not all of these techniques can be utilized in order to produce functional optical prototypes.

3D printing is sometimes seen as prototyping itself. Yet this is not true, as 3D printing (or additive manufacturing) is just one of many ways to achieve working prototypes. 3D printing involves a process where material is deposited onto a substrate, building up the prototype in this way. Not all 3D printing methods are particularly suited for optics manufacturing, as most 3D printing methods create products with a have high surface roughness.

Stereolithography

This is one of the most common types of rapid prototyping techniques. With a computer-controlled UV-laser an image of the object is drawn on a surface of liquid plastic. The laser goes back and forth passing on the surface and hitting the liquid plastic, which hardens it. Each pass the laser is lowered, so it can go through its next pass path. This process continues until the prototype is created: a carved-out 3D model of the product. Please note that is it only possible to create microlenses with this manufacturing method.

Diamond turning

Diamond turning is a prototyping process which can be used to quickly produce low volumes of accurate prototypes (e.g. plastic optics). The cutting tool is a diamond which has been prepared to cut the required surface geometry of the product. Diamond turning is a technique which can be used for rapid prototyping of light weight aspheric, high quality, plastic lenses. However, the process is expensive, lead times are long and this method is not suited for series production.

CNC machining

Computer Numerical Control machining (CNC machining) is a manufacturing technique which uses computer inputs to control machining tools, like drills and lathes. CNC machining is used in many industries to create prototypes and also end products. Downsides of this technology include: the process does not scale, post-processing is required to achieve required smoothness for optical usage.

Selective Laser Sintering

This rapid prototyping technique makes use of a high powered laser. The laser starts to move over the surface of thermoplastic powders and as such fuses cross-sections of the material layer by layer. When one layer is complete, the powdered bed is lowered and a new layer of material is added.

Fused Deposition Modeling

A heated, melted thread of plastic passes onto a laid down surface that is commonly known as a build-platform. Then the plastic begins to pass through in a layer by layer fashion by using an extrusion nozzle. The moment the plastic hits the build-platform, it solidifies and the platform lowers so the next layer of liquid can be added.

Rapid prototyping of optics?

You may be looking for a proven rapid prototyping method for optics. Not all of the aforementioned techniques can be utilized for optics prototyping. Luckily at Addoptics we have a rapid prototyping service you can use to have your custom optics delivered to you within a matter of days.

Benefits of Addoptics’ service

If you want to stay ahead of your competition rapid prototyping is essential. Prototyping decreases the time it takes to develop optical prototypes and gets the final product to market faster.

With our unique service you are able to order the right amount of optical prototypes for your project. There are no high upfront investments or MOQs. There is no tooling or inventory required. As such costs are kept at a minimum. Prototyping optics with Addoptics enables you to have your custom polymer optics within days, instead of weeks.

Advantages of our rapid prototyping service:

  • Iterative process
  • Cost-effective testing and production
  • Thoroughly test optical designs
  • Seamlessly scale to series production
  • Shipment in days instead of weeks

If you want to check out our optics for yourself feel free to request a sample or reach out to us.

Check our Addoptics datasheet for our most up-to-date capabilities and material properties.

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