Printing, characterizing, and assessing transparent 3D printed lenses for optical imaging

Rooney, Liam M. and Christopher, Jay and Watson, Ben and Susir Kumar, Yash and Copeland, Laura and Walker, Lewis D. and Foylan, Shannan and Amos, William B. and Bauer, Ralf and McConnell, Gail (2024) Printing, characterizing, and assessing transparent 3D printed lenses for optical imaging. Advanced Materials Technologies. 2400043. ISSN 2365-709X (

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High-quality lens production has involved subtractive manufacturing methods for centuries. These methods demand specialist equipment and expertise that often render custom high-grade glass optics inaccessible. A low-cost, accessible, and reproducible method is developed to manufacture high-quality three dimensional (3D) printed lenses using consumer-grade technology. Various planoconvex lenses are produced using a consumer-grade 3D printer and low-cost spin coating setup, and printed lenses are compared to commercial glass counterparts. A range of mechanical and optical methods are introduced to determine the surface quality and curvature of 3D printed lenses. Amongst others, high-resolution interference reflection microscopy methods are used to reconstruct the convex surface of printed lenses and quantify their radius of curvature. The optical throughput and performance of 3D printed lenses are assessed using optical transmissivity measurements and classical beam characterization methods. It is determined that 3D printed lenses have comparable curvature and performance to commercial glass lenses. Finally, the application of 3D printed lenses is demonstrated for brightfield transmission microscopy, resolving sub-cellular structures over a 2.3 mm field-of-view. The high reproducibility and comparable performance of 3D printed lenses present great opportunities for additive manufacturing of bespoke optics for low-cost rapid prototyping and improved accessibility to high-quality optics in low-resource settings.