Purdue University Graduate School

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Vat Photopolymerization-Based Additive Manufacturing of Optical Lenses

posted on 2024-04-26, 07:42 authored by Yujie ShanYujie Shan

Though vat photopolymerization-based Additive manufacturing (AM) technology shows potential in fabricating complex optical components rapidly, its poor surface quality and dimensional accuracy render it unqualified for industrial optics applications. The layer steps in the building direction and the pixelated steps on each layer’s contour result in inevitable microscale defects on the 3D-printed surface, far away from the nanoscale roughness required for optics.

To tackle the lateral stair-stepping issue caused by the pixelated projection pattern, we propose to defocus the curing image pattern by increasing the gap between the light source and the resin vat. This gap intentionally blurs the disconnected pixels to create a continuous and smooth projection pattern. Experiments verified that the smoothened image pattern led to an average 81.2% reduction in surface roughness, which was much more effective than grayscale pixels. The gap between the light source screen and the resin vat also enabled blowing air to dissipate the heat from the resin polymerization, reducing the part distortion and printing failure due to the thermal stress.

The precision spin coating process is reported to solve vertical stair-stepping defects. We establish a mathematical model to predict and control the spin coating process on 3D-printed surfaces precisely. In this work, a precision aspherical lens is demonstrated with less than 1 nm surface roughness and 1 µm profile accuracy. The 3D-printed convex lens achieves a maximum MTF resolution of 347.7 lp/mm.

Leveraging this low-cost yet highly robust and repeatable 3D printing process, we showcase the precision fabrication of multi-scale spherical, aspherical, and axicon lenses with sizes ranging from 3 mm to 70 mm using high clear photocuring resins. Additionally, molds were also printed to form multi-scale PDMS-based lenses. Following precision polishing, precision machining, and precision molding, we anticipate that precision spin coating will empower 3D printing as the fourth generation of lens making and unleash the power of 3D-printed lenses in rapid and massive customization of high-quality optical components and systems.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Engineering Technology

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Huachao Mao

Additional Committee Member 2

Dongming Gan

Additional Committee Member 3

Brittany Newell

Additional Committee Member 4

Liang He

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