Optical data communication is increasingly interesting for many applications in industrial processes. Therefore mass production is required to meet the requested price and lot sizes. Polymer optical waveguides show great promises to comply with price requirements while providing sufficient optical quality for short range data transmission. A high efficient fabrication technology using polymer materials could be able to create the essential backbone for 3D-optical data transmission in the future. The approach for high efficient fabrication technology of micro optics described in this paper is based on a self-assembly effect of fluids on preconditioned 3D-thermoformed polymer foils. Adjusting the surface energy on certain areas on the flexible substrate by flexographic printing mechanism is presented in this paper. With this technique conditioning lines made of silicone containing UV-varnish are printed on top of the foils and create gaps with the exposed substrate material in between. Subsequent fabrication processes are selected whether the preconditioned foil is coated with acrylate containing waveguide material prior or after the thermoforming process. Due to the different surface energy this material tends to dewet from the conditioning lines. It acts like regional barriers and sets the width of the arising waveguides. With this fabrication technology it is possible to produce multiple waveguides with a single coating process. The relevant printing process parameters that affect the quality of the generated waveguides are discussed and results of the produced waveguides with width ranging from 10 to 300 μm are shown.
Gerd-Albert Hoffmann, Tim Wolfer, Jochen Zeitler, Jörg Franke, Oliver Suttmann, and Ludger Overmeyer, "Manufacturing of polymer optical waveguides using self-assembly effect on pre-conditioned 3D-thermoformed flexible substrates," Proc. SPIE 10115, Advanced Fabrication Technologies for Micro/Nano Optics and Photonics X, 1011503 (Presented at SPIE OPTO: January 29, 2017; Published: 20 February 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2249121.
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