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Breakthrough 3D printing lens technique discovered

A new low-cost method of 3D printing lenses has the potential to create high-quality optical imaging lenses and customised contact lenses for correcting vision faster, and more easily than previously possible.

The technique was developed over two years by researchers from Northwestern University, and creates 5mm x 5mm lenses in about four hours.

“Up until now, we relied heavily on the time-consuming and costly process of polishing lenses. With 3D printing, now you have the freedom to design and customise a lens quickly,” Associate Professor Cheng Sun said.

The researchers’ previous efforts to 3D print lenses, which involves placing layer upon layer of material on top of each other, had been hampered by its slow pace and an inability to produce clear lenses. However, they managed to overcome this by developing a two-step process of layering and polishing.

“We used grayscale images to create more transitions between steps. Then we coated the surface with the same photo-curable resin. That then forms the meniscus that further smoothes the surface,” Sun explained.

The group is now focusing on making larger lenses, as well as investigating how to integrate the 3D-printed lens with medical devices.


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