Ion beam sputtering (IBS) possesses strong surface nanostructuring behaviors, where dual microscopic phenomenon can be aroused to induce the formation of ultrasmooth surfaces or regular nanostructures. Low-energy IBS of fused silica surfaces is investigated to discuss the formation mechanism and the regulation of the IBS-induced nanostructures. The research results indicate that these microscopic phenomena can be attributed to the interaction of the IBS-induced surface roughening and smoothing effects, and the interaction process strongly depends on the sputtering conditions. Alternatively, ultrasmooth surface or regular nanostructure can be selectively generated through the regulation of the nanostructuring process, and the features of the generated nanostructures, such as amplitude and period, also can be regulated. Consequently, two different technology aims of nanofabrication, including nanometer-scale and nanometer-precision fabrication, can be realized, respectively. These dual microscopic mechanisms distinguish IBS as a promising nanometer manufacturing technology for the optical surfaces.
Material removal accuracy has a direct impact on the machining precision and efficiency of ion beam figuring. By analyzing the factors suppressing the improvement of material removal accuracy, we conclude that correcting the removal function deviation and reducing the removal material amount during each iterative process could help to improve material removal accuracy. Removal function correcting principle can effectively compensate removal function deviation between actual figuring and simulated processes, while experiments indicate that material removal accuracy decreases with a long machining time, so a small amount of removal material in each iterative process is suggested. However, more clamping and measuring steps will be introduced in this way, which will also generate machining errors and suppress the improvement of material removal accuracy. On this account, a free-measurement iterative process method is put forward to improve material removal accuracy and figuring efficiency by using less measuring and clamping steps. Finally, an experiment on a φ 100-mm Zerodur planar is preformed, which shows that, in similar figuring time, three free-measurement iterative processes could improve the material removal accuracy and the surface error convergence rate by 62.5% and 17.6%, respectively, compared with a single iterative process.