OptiPro Systems, LLC has been recognized as a U.S. leader in computer-controlled equipment for manufacturing high precision optical components found in medical, military, aerospace, night vision and many other industrial and commercial applications. OptiPro’s success in winning several Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grants through the Navy, NASA and the Army have led to the commercialization of new machines, software and processes for grinding, polishing and measuring complex optics such as windows and domes. OptiSonic machines incorporate the latest in ultrasonic machining technology by adding 20-40 kHz of adaptive oscillation to the grinding tool, which reduces force on the tool and part during processing. OptiSonic machines have proven to increase processing speed and precision when grinding various hard optical materials that are ideal for hypersonic applications. UltraForm Finishing (UFF) machines are capable of deterministically finishing windows, domes, and other complex optical elements through a patented sub-aperture polishing technique. This method involves a moving belt of polishing material wrapped around a precision compressive wheel. UltraSurf machines deliver ultra-precision non-contact metrology though the utilization of high-quality machine components and the latest non-contact probe technologies. The measuring probe is scanned over the optical surface while maintaining perpendicularity and a constant focal offset. Finally, our PROSurf freeform computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software is used to develop advanced toolpaths for each of these platforms. We will present an overview of each of these technologies and discuss how they are advancing the precision optics manufacturing world.
Hard ceramic optical materials such as sapphire, ALON, Spinel, PCA, or Silicon Carbide can present a significant challenge in manufacturing precision optical components due to their tough mechanical properties. These are also the same mechanical properties that make them desirable materials when used in harsh environments. Slow processing speeds, premature tool wear, and poor surface quality are common results of the tough mechanical properties of these materials. Often, as a preparatory stage for polishing, the finish of the ground surface greatly influences the polishing process and the resulting finished product. To overcome these challenges, OptiPro Systems has developed an ultrasonic assisted grinding technology, OptiSonic, which has been designed for the precision optics and ceramics industry. OptiSonic utilizes a custom tool holder designed to produce oscillations, in microns of amplitude, in line with the rotating spindle. A software package, IntelliSonic, is integral to the function of this platform. IntelliSonic can automatically characterize tooling during setup to identify and select the ideal resonant peak which to operate at. Then, while grinding, IntelliSonic continuously adjusts the output frequency for optimal grinding efficiency while in contact with the part. This helps maintain a highly consistent process under changing load conditions for a more precise surface. Utilizing a variety of instruments, tests have proven to show a reduction in force between tool and part by up to 50%, while increasing the surface quality and reducing tool wear. This paper will present the challenges associated with these materials and solutions created to overcome them.
As optical geometries become more precise and complex and a wider range of materials are used, the processes used for manufacturing become more critical. As the preparatory stage for polishing, this is especially true for grinding. Slow processing speeds, accelerated tool wear, and poor surface quality are often detriments in manufacturing glass and hard ceramics. The quality of the ground surface greatly influences the polishing process and the resulting finished product.
Through extensive research and development, OptiPro Systems has introduced an ultrasonic assisted grinding technology, OptiSonic, which has numerous advantages over traditional grinding processes. OptiSonic utilizes a custom tool holder designed to produce oscillations in line with the rotating spindle. A newly developed software package called IntelliSonic is integral to this platform. IntelliSonic automatically characterizes the tool and continuously optimizes the output frequency for optimal cutting while in contact with the part. This helps maintain a highly consistent process under changing load conditions for a more accurate surface. Utilizing a wide variety of instruments, test have proven to show a reduction in tool wear and increase in surface quality while allowing processing speeds to be increased.
OptiSonic has proven to be an enabling technology to overcome the difficulties seen in grinding of glass and hard optical ceramics. OptiSonic has demonstrated numerous advantages over the standard CNC grinding process. Advantages are evident in reduced tool wear, better surface quality, and reduced cycle times due to increased feed rates. These benefits can be seen over numerous applications within the precision optics industry.
Hard ceramic optical materials such as sapphire, ALON, Spinel, or PCA can present a significant challenge in manufacturing precision optical components due to their tough mechanical properties. These are also the same mechanical properties that make them desirable materials when used in harsh environments. Premature tool wear or tool loading during the grinding process is a common result of these tough mechanical properties. Another challenge is the requirement to create geometries that conform to the platforms they reside in, but still achieve optical window tolerances for wavefront. These shapes can be complex and require new technologies to control sub aperture finishing techniques in a deterministic fashion. In this paper we will present three technologies developed at OptiPro Systems to address the challenges associated with these materials and complex geometries. The technologies presented will show how Ultrasonic grinding can reduce grinding load by up to 50%, UltraForm Finishing (UFF) and UltraSmooth Finishing (USF) technologies can accurately figure and finish these shapes, and how all of them can be controlled deterministically, with utilizing metrology feedback, by a new Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software package developed by OptiPro called ProSurf.