We have designed, fabricated, and tested hybrid refractive/diffractive optical elements in acrylic and cyclic olefin copolymer polymers. The elements were tested for optical performance before and after various environmental conditions.
Application of molded plastics to precision optical systems has required significant advances in both the design and fabrication of these optical components. Tighter fabrication tolerances and improved transmitted wavefront quality are being achieved with each passing year. Recently, interest has focused on the particular challenge of injection molded diffractive optic structures. Binary optics are generated using VLSI techniques of microlithography and dry etching to produce a diffractive structure with submicron accuracy. The cost incurred in wafer scale fabrication of individual elements is quite high. By precise mastering, detailed mold design and careful process control, binary optics can be successfully replicated in plastic materials allowing significantly lower costs. This paper will address three specific applications of mass produced diffractive structures. A hybrid refractive/diffractive lens has been designed and produced in acrylic; a set of complex diffractive fanout gratings has been produced in acrylic, polycarbonate, polymethylpentene, and cyclic olefin copolymer; and a diode laser collimator/corrector has recently been successfully molded in polycarbonate. Detailed results highlighting the fidelity of the replicated surface will be included.