Luxexcel is the company that tops the Innovation Top 100 for SMEs. Their innovation: producing optical lenses using a 3D printer. Guido Groet, their experienced CEO, welcomes the recognition and is looking ahead to the future: “The past few years have been mainly about investment. In the years ahead, our focus will be on growing our turnover.”
What does the breakthrough technology involve?
“We developed a unique process to manufacture plastic lenses in a 3D printer. The traditional processes involve building them up in layers or cutting them from a block of plastic. Instead, we form them using droplets and UV light. The raw material used is liquid polymer. The lens is formed using a single droplet, with a second drop then neatly spread out on top of this. This creates a smooth surface that is cured immediately under the UV light.”
What applications are possible?
“Lenses have an infinite number of applications, from photo and security cameras, smart phones, LED lights and cars to the eyewear industry. Part of our aim is to at least match the quality level of existing technologies, but we’re also looking at developing unique applications. An example could be the integration of sensors in lenses for eyewear.”
What stage is the company at now?
“With around 30 staff, we currently generate an annual turnover of less than one million euros. Our main focus is still on investment. Developing a completely new technology requires a lot of time and money. I fully expect us to see strong growth over the next few years. With investors having recently pumped 7.5 million euros into the company, the confidence is definitely there.”
What about patents?
“We hold a considerable number of patents that protect all aspects of our manufacturing process. We bring in external partners to help us with existing technologies, but will manage all unique aspects of our technology ourselves. Our aim is to maintain a pivotal role in the technology, focussing only on those aspects that make us unique. In businesses that are centred around innovation as much as ours, patents are an essential part of the business plan. Time and again, patents are the first thing any potential investor or partner will ask about. Patents don’t just offer comprehensive protection, they also fulfil a key role as a first line of defence.”
And what about the future?
“Soon, it will be possible to print lenses for glasses that will match traditional lenses in quality, with the difference being that they will be available immediately. In the future, I expect that lenses for our glasses will be printed while we wait.”