Innovative Industries, a Dutch-based venture capital fund, has invested €4 million in Luxexcel, a developer of 3D printing technologies. The equity investment will be used to accelerate the development of the next generation of Luxexcel's 3D printing platform for prescription lenses for use in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications.
Based in Belgium, Luxexcel claims to be the only company to have developed specific 3D printing systems for the manufacture of ophthalmic lenses. The company's AR and VR applications include personalized smart glasses that provide users with information in real time. This includes consoles, sensors and cameras integrated in eyewear for professional use, as well as for personal use in gaming and other applications.
In July, Luxexcel announced that it had received $10 million in new equity financing from several investors, including KLA Tencor Corporation, which will help bring its 3D printers to market. The first industrial-grade 3D printing platforms for ophthalmic lenses will be installed this year in the U.S. and Europe. The technology is said to be cost-effective and less time-consuming than traditional methods.
Shortly afterwards, Luxexcel announced a contract with IFB Solutions for the development of the first 3D print platform for ophthalmic lenses. The technology will initially focus on medical specialty lenses that are difficult to manufacture. The new platform, which will be integrated into IFB's optical operations in North Carolina, is designed to enable the delivery of specialty lenses to customers in a matter of days. Ophthalmic labs will be delivered the complete platform - including a printer as well as resins, support and software solutions – on a pay-per-use scheme, in return for a click-fee payment.
The lenses produced with the 3D printing solution are said to be ISO-compliant and compatible with typical industry coatings and customary processes. IFB plans to employ blind or visually impaired staff to operate Luxexcel's machinery. IFB Solutions is a non-profit corporation that provides employment, training and services for people who are blind or visually impaired. It is the largest employer of blind or visually impaired people in the U.S.