Precision Optics Changing 2024: Shaping The Future
Author: Bryan Ng – Marketing Manager
Editor: Qu Yingli – R&D Director
Precision optics is at the forefront of technological advancements and plays a pivotal role in shaping the world as we know it. From high-resolution imaging devices to cutting-edge laser systems, precision optics enables us to explore many applications.
1. Introduction to Precision Optics
Optics are widely used in diverse applications from civilian, industries, and aerospace deployment. There are many types of optics and when it comes to the specifications for these optics, there are two types:
- the first type of optics is used mainly to transmit the light or reflect/bounce off the light, with image quality or other optical performance not being an important criterion. These optics includes light reflectors, beverage bottles, windows, chandelier, etc.
- the second type of optics, the image quality or some other optical performances (such as wavefront, diffraction efficiency, etc) are quite important and must be satisfied, as in camera lenses, laser optics, projectors, head-on displays, diffraction optics, etc.
Compared with the first type of optics, the second type of optics has much higher precision requirements in dimensions, shapes, refractive index, surface roughness, etc.
The manufacturing and characterization of these two types of optics are different, with the second type of optics requiring much more complex procedures and stricter standards, and this is none other than precision optics.
2. Manufacturing of Precision Optics
The manufacturing of precision optics starts with material preparations, raw machined blank preparations, shaping into optical elements, coating and finally, assembling into mechanical mount. Through all these processes, QA/QC with proper tooling and instruments needs to be involved in every step.
2.1 Materials Preparations
The quality of the material has to be carefully selected for good qualities. The optical designer is responsible for specifying the maximum tolerable values for flaws in materials in the optical element drawing.
This includes the grain boundaries, scratch sizes, bubbles, internal stress, inclusions, impurities, etc. Glasses, crystals plastics, metal, and ceramic can be used in precision optics, either in a transmissive way or in a reflective way.
2.2 Raw Machined Blank
Following material preparation, the material will be undergoing cutting processes to reduce the size of the optics until they are only slightly larger than the final optics, a form called near-net shape or raw machined blank.
2.3 Shaping into Optical Elements
Different types of materials will undergo different shaping processes: glass raw machined blank will go through grinding and polish processes with machinery or by using computer-controlled machines (CNC); Plastics may melt into a liquid and injection into a metal or glass mold; Metals may undergo CNC machine for shaping. Once the shaping process is finished, the material is referred to as a substrate.
Besides the above techniques, ultra-precision diamond machining and single-point diamond turning (SPDT) have seen an increase in implementation for shaping optical materials during recent years.
SPDT uses a hard and sharp diamond tool embedded in a special CNC machine to cut the material to the designed shape. It can be used for all types of materials and is feasible to fabricate free-form optics, such as aspherical and non-symmetric shape optics.
These manufacturing processes are basically substrates. On the other hand, the addictive manufacturing (AM) type is developing fast. AM is an advanced manufacturing method and is capable of the fabrication of extremely complex shapes in point-by-point or layer-by-layer fabrication following a computer-aided design file.
AM is particularly useful for manufacturing components with critical features at the micro- and nanoscale, such as diffractive optical elements, microlenses, photonics devices, etc. The AM techniques in optical manufacturing include selective laser melting (SLM), fused deposition modeling (FDM), stereolithography (SLA), multiphoton stereolithography (MPS), direct inkjet writing, inkjet printing etc.
The final step in the fabrication of precision optics is the coating which is the application of thin layers of various materials to the surfaces of the substrates through a deposition. Depending on the intended applications, coatings have different functions, such as anti-reflective (AR), high reflect (HR), high absorption for filters, etc., in a particular region of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Furthermore, coatings may serve other purposes, such as protection of underlying coating layers and the polished substrate from mechanical (e.g., scratches and impacts) or chemical damage, etc.
2.5 After Fabrication
After manufacturing, precision optics are tested to ensure that they meet the required specifications before delivery and integration into optical systems. These tests include optical testing, mechanical testing, and environmental testing.
Optical testing is used to measure the optical properties of optics, mechanical testing is used to measure the strength and durability of the optic, and environmental testing is used to simulate the conditions that the optic will be exposed to in its application.
By employing advanced production techniques, materials, manufacturing processes, and metrology, precision optics aims to deliver exceptional clarity, resolution, and reliability.
While the manufacturing of precision optics is a complex process from design, production, and quality checks, to delivery, rest assured that Wavelength Opto-Electronic uses cutting-edge technologies from our state-of-the-art facilities to produce the best precision optics for your applications.
3. Precision Optics Applications
Precision optics finds applications in a wide array of industries, revolutionizing the way we perceive and interact with the world. Let’s explore a few key sectors where precision optics plays a crucial role.
3.1 Medical and Life Science
In medical and life sciences, precision optics facilitates vital diagnostics, imaging, and surgical procedures. High-quality lenses, microscope objectives, and endoscopes enable physicians and researchers to observe intricate details at microscopic levels, aiding in disease detection, surgical precision, and scientific discoveries.
3.2 Aerospace and Security
Precision optics is instrumental in aerospace and security applications, such as satellite imaging, reconnaissance, target acquisition, and laser guidance systems. Optics with minimal aberrations and high-resolution capabilities provide critical data for navigation, surveillance, and security.
3.3 Manufacturing and Industrial Processes
In manufacturing, precision optics contribute to quality control, process automation, and measurement systems. Laser-based systems use precision optics to focus and direct light beams and machine vision technologies utilize them to ensure precision alignment, inspection, and material processing, enabling efficient production processes and improved product quality.
3.4 Communications and Information Technology
The telecommunications industry uses precision optics for fiber optic communication systems, ensuring high-speed data transmission over long distances. Optical components like lenses, filters, and waveguides play a pivotal role in signal routing, amplification, and detection, powering our interconnected world.
Precision optics plays an indispensable role in driving innovation and technological progress across various industries. Its ability to deliver exceptional quality and reliability has enabled breakthroughs in medical, aerospace, security, manufacturing, industrial processes, and communications. As advancements continue, precision optics will continue to shape the future, empowering us to see the world in new and extraordinary ways. Wavelength Opto-Electronic offers high-quality precision optics designed by our engineers and manufactured with state-of-the-art facilities.
What are precision optics?
Precision optics are specialized types of optical components that are designed and manufactured to precise tolerances in order to achieve a specific parameter or set of parameters. These components include lenses, mirrors, prisms, and filters, which are widely used in various applications such as medical instruments, scientific equipment, security, and industrial processes.