Additive manufacturing is a technique in which a three-dimensional object is produced by successively adding new layers of building material to those that have already been deposited. Recently, commercially available 3D printers have been experiencing rapid development and so have 3D printing materials, including transparent media of high optical quality – 3D printed optics. These advancements open up new possibilities in many fields of science and technology including biology, medicine, metamaterials studies, robotics and micro-optics.
Researchers have designed tiny lenses (with dimensions as small as a fraction of a human hair diameter) that can easily be manufactured using a laser 3D printing technique on top of various materials, including fragile novel 2-D graphene-like materials. The 3D printed optics increase the extraction of light emitted from semiconductor samples and reshape its outgoing part into an ultra-narrow beam.
Thanks to this property, there is no longer a need for including a bulky microscope objective in the experimental setup when performing optical measurements of single nanometer-sized light emitters (like quantum dots), which up to now could not be avoided.