3D printing takes the graft out of lens manufacture

A low-cost lens created in four hours can capture the intricate detail of a moth's wing

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A high-quality 3D printed lens that takes four hours to make could result in the creation of low-cost customised contact lenses and optical lenses.

Researchers from Northwestern University have proposed a solution for the trade-off between speed and accuracy that has previously provided a stumbling block in the application of 3D printing to the optical sector.

“Here, a new method featuring a significantly faster fabrication speed without compromising the fabrication accuracy required to 3D print customised optical components is reported,” the authors write in Advanced Materials.

The researchers show how the resulting lens is capable of capturing fine details, including the pattern on a sunset moth's wing and the spot on a weevil's elytra.

“This work demonstrates the potential of this method to rapidly prototype optical components or systems based on 3D printing,” they highlighted.

The lens is 5mm in height and 3mm in diameter.

Image credit: Northwestern University