Recently, the desire to use freeform optics has been increasing. Freeform optics can be used to expand the capabilities of optical systems and reduce the number of optics needed in an assembly. The traits that increase optical performance also present challenges in manufacturing. As tolerances on freeform optics become more stringent, it is necessary to continue to improve methods for how the grinding and polishing processes interact with metrology.
To create these complex shapes, OptiPro has developed a computer aided manufacturing package called PROSurf. PROSurf generates tool paths required for grinding and polishing freeform optics with multiple axes of motion. It also uses metrology feedback for deterministic corrections. ProSurf handles 2 key aspects of the manufacturing process that most other CAM systems struggle with. The first is having the ability to support several input types (equations, CAD models, point clouds) and still be able to create a uniform high-density surface map useable for generating a smooth tool path. The second is to improve the accuracy of mapping a metrology file to the part surface. To perform this OptiPro is using 3D error maps instead of traditional 2D maps. The metrology error map drives the tool path adjustment applied during processing. For grinding, the error map adjusts the tool position to compensate for repeatable system error. For polishing, the error map drives the relative dwell times of the tool across the part surface. This paper will present the challenges associated with these issues and solutions that we have created.
As optical systems get more complex and compact the use of freeform components is becoming ever more present. With their nontraditional geometry freeform optics can not only improve image quality over a greater field of view but they can also reduce the physical space requirements of the optical components in a system. On top of increased performance conformal shapes can match the shape of platform they reside on to reduce drag while still maintaining optical functionality. As the demand for these shapes increases manufacturing and metrology techniques need to be developed to achieve the specifications as well reduce the cost of fabrication. On top of those challenges the optical tolerances used for traditional optics are not always relevant or practical to an optic with a freeform prescription.
OptiPro Systems has been a pioneer in the field of optics manufacturing and freeform geometry is no exception. We have improved our existing grinding and polishing platforms to facilitate easier fabrication of optics with complex shapes and difficult materials as well created our own software packages specifically tailored to these processes. In this paper we will discuss some of the challenges associated with complex shapes and some of the techniques and technologies we use to overcome them. We will discuss some of the difficulties associated with the qualification and tolerancing of these freeform prescriptions as well as some possible solutions to reduce manufacturing costs while still fabricating effective parts. Examples these difficult shapes will be provided alongside of results and data from processing.
Conformal optics require special manufacturing techniques to produce them to optical tolerances. In many cases the materials used are very hard optical ceramics that present additional manufacturing challenges due to their hardness and grain structure. OptiPro has developed grinding technologies such as OptiSonic grinding, as well as sub-aperture polishing technologies like UltraForm Finishing (UFF) to manufacture these challenging components. We have also developed a custom computer aided manufacturing (CAM) software package, ProSurf, to generate the complex tool paths for both grinding and polishing processes. One of the main advantages of ProSurf over traditional CAM software packages is that it uses metrology feedback for deterministic corrections. The metrology input can be obtained from OptiPro’s 5-axis UltraSurf metrology system, which is capable of measuring these complex shapes to sub-micron accuracies. Through the development of these technologies much work has been performed in creating, measuring and analyzing the alignment fiducials or datum’s used to qualify the location of the optical surfaces. Understanding the sensitivity of the optical surface to any datum misalignment is critical to knowing not only where the part is in space, but how good the optical surfaces are to each other. Working with the optical designer to properly tolerance surfaces to these datums is crucial. This paper will present the technologies developed by OptiPro to manufacture conformal windows as well as information related to the optical surfaces sensitivity to datums and how accurately those datums can be measured.
Metrology of freeform shapes has traditionally been difficult, especially at the sub-micron level. Sub-aperture polishing techniques and diamond turning allow optical designers to incorporate freeform surfaces into their systems. Contact measuring systems typically lack the accuracy or resolution required for optical qualification and can potentially damage the surfaces. Interferometric systems are unable to handle high spherical departures and may require complicated lateral calibration to generate feedback for deterministic grinding and polishing. OptiPro has developed UltraSurf, a noncontact coordinate measuring machine to determine the form, figure, and thickness of freeform optics. We integrated several non-contact sensors that acquire surface information through different optical principles. Each probe has strength and weaknesses relative to an optic’s material properties, surface finish, and figure error. The measuring probe is scanned over the optical surface while maintaining perpendicularity and a constant focal offset. Incorporating datums from mechanical prints into the non-contact measuring method is especially important for freeform surfaces. UltraSurf has the ability to measure a wide range of surface roughness and has the degrees of freeform needed to scan datums and surfaces. The metrology method of UltraSurf and the non-contact probes will be presented. Form, figure, and thickness data will highlight the capabilities of UltraSurf to measure freeform surfaces.
The increased use of aspheres in today’s optical systems has led to specialized manufacturing equipment and processes that are needed to meet component specifications. Due to their sub-aperture nature, each stage of these processes can leave behind a signature that could adversely affect the asphere's overall performance. Utilizing a variety of grinding and polishing techniques can help minimize residual artifacts that are left in an asphere.
OptiPro has performed extensive process development work to understand how to grind and polish aspheres at production speeds with minimized process signatures. For example, the amount of stock removed from a substrate using a sub aperture polishing process can increase the amount of mid-spacial frequencies that can be detected. Through precise grind control, sub aperture, and mid-aperture polishing process research, OptiPro developed a detailed knowledge of asphere process control. One of the outcomes of this work has led OptiPro to develop an asphere polishing head for their 160A polishing platform which allows more process flexibility and control.
Advancements in optical manufacturing technology allow optical designers to implement steep aspheric or high departure surfaces into their systems. Accurate metrology during the grinding and polishing stages of asphere manufacturing will reduce time and cost. Measuring these surfaces with common interferometers or profilometers can be difficult due to large surface slopes or unpolished surface texture. OptiPro has developed UltraSurf to qualify the form, figure, and thickness of steep aspheric and freeform optics. UltraSurf is a computer controlled, non-contact coordinate measuring machine. It incorporates five air-bearing axes, linear motors, high-resolution feedback, and a non-contact probe. The measuring probe is scanned over the optical surface while maintaining perpendicularity and a constant focal offset. There are multiple probe technologies available on UltraSurf, and each probe has strengths and weaknesses relative to the material properties, surface finish, and figure error of an optical component. Validation of the system accuracy, repeatability, and methodology must be performed to trust the measurement data. Form and figure maps of a flat, a sphere, and an asphere using UltraSurf will be presented with comparisons to interferometry. In addition, accuracy, repeatability, and machine qualification will be discussed.
Advancements in optical manufacturing technology allow optical designers to implement freeform and conformal shapes in their systems. Metrology of the shapes has traditionally been difficult, especially at the sub-micron level. Contact measuring systems typically lack the accuracy required for optical qualification and can damage the surface. Interferometric systems are unable to handle high spherical departures and may require complicated lateral calibration to generate feedback for deterministic grinding and polishing. OptiPro has developed UltraSurf, a noncontact coordinate measuring machine to determine the form, figure, and thickness of freeform and conformal optics. We integrated several non-contact sensors that acquire surface information through different optical principles. Each probe has strength and weaknesses relative to an optic’s material properties, surface finish, and figure error. The measuring probe is scanned over the optical surface while maintaining perpendicularity and a constant focal offset. Measurements of freeform and conformal shapes will be presented. The scanning method of UltraSurf and the non-contact probes will also be shown. The form, figure, and thickness data will highlight the capabilities of UltraSurf to measure freeform surfaces. Comparisons between accuracy and measureable surface departure will be made with current metrology systems such as coordinate measuring machines, interferometers, and profilometers. Additionally, methods for defining a freeform or conformal surface for metrology analysis and manufacturing will be discussed.