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3D printing optical lenses on the Form 1+ 3D printer
Posted by 3DP4E

By Alec | 3Ders

One of the resident engineers over at Formlabs, Craig Broady, has made a very cool little accessory that shows off the possibilities of Stereolithography printing technology (or SLA). Using the company's signature Form1+ 3D printer, he has designed and printed an actual magnifying monocle.

This is a very impressive feat, and not just because of its small size. For enabling magnification requires a precisely designed and printed lens that is think enough to allow for the curvature that enables magnification, but without creating distortion. These exact requirements resulted in a remarkable lens that is 1.75 mm at its thinnest and 4.32 mm at its thickest.

If anything, this impressive little creation shows off the company's printer Form1+ and their clear resin material. Broady designed the lens, frame, chain and clip using Solidworks CAD software, while the lens was further prepared for printing using Formlabs's PreForm printing software.

But anyone looking for a very special 3D printing project can – provided you have your very own Formlab Form1+ printer – imitate Broady's cool project. The CAD files for the monocle can be found here, while Formlab's Preform Printing software can be freely downloaded here.

This is how he did it.While printing of the separate parts needs little guidance, the lens itself was quite a project. The parts were printed using a 50 micron layer thickness, though was also specially oriented such that it faced the front of the printer. This allowed the liquid resin to flow more freely around it during the peel cycle. As Broady explained, 'Maximizing resin flow can help prevent very small cured particles in the resin from adhering to lens, ensuring as smooth a surface as possible.'

But of course, such as detailed project required a bit more than a fancy printer and software. As soon as the lens was fresh out the printer, it needed an extensive sanding and polishing phase. This can be done manually, but can that would take hours, so Broady resorted to an electric drill that did the job in a fraction of that time.

To utilize a drill, the lens was designed with a drill coupler built into it. I first sanded the convex side of the lenses, moving from 220 to 2000 grit sandpaper in steps of roughly 400. I operated the drill on the low speed setting, and ran it under warm tap water to quickly remove residue from the sandpaper. For each step, I sanded for about two minutes. After the sanding is complete, the lens should be very smooth to the touch.

Afterwards, Broady fine polished his lens, using the three states of Novus Scratch remover: Heavy Scratch Remover (3), Fine Scratch Remover (2) and Plastic Clean & Shine (1) to achieve the desired level optical clearness. After doing the same for the other side of the lens, he finally completed his project.

While you will need their special SLA printer to achieve these results, it is nonetheless a very cool project and thanks to the magnification properties one of the most impressive printing results we've seen for a while.

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