Quality Magazine

Cooperative Agreement Yields Big Results for Molded Aspheres

March 11, 2008

Barrington, NJ, March 6, 2008 -- Edmund Optics (EO), a manufacturer of precision optical components, has forged a cooperative agreement with Clemson University and Benét Laboratories at the Watervliet Arsenal in Albany, NY. The 3-year program, entitled “Molded Aspheric and Essential System Assembly Technology”, is designed to find a cost-effective solution for molding aspheric lenses in the United States. Aspheric lenses are used in a variety of US military items and are critical components in such systems as night vision goggles.

Currently, Edmund Optics manufactures precision aspheres with a grinding and polishing technique. However, molded aspheres allow for much greater production volumes and of course, a lower price per piece. To manufacture a molded asphere, a tool is created and it is modified through multiple iterations. The goal of the cooperative agreement is to use FEA (Finite Element Analysis) models to predict specific tool geometry and final lens surface figure. This computer simulation has the potential to improve lead- time by a factor of 3X over the conventional iterative processes and minimize expensive up-front costs associated with the precision machining used in cutting the mold tooling.

Dr. Kathleen Richardson, Professor and Director of the School of Materials Science and Engineering leads the Clemson University effort, and in conjunction with Benét Laboratories, the team is studying certain material parameters critical to the successful interaction of the glass and mold. The computer simulation effort is being led by faculty within Clemson’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. In order to refine Clemson’s computer simulation, engineers at Benét Laboratories are evaluating various material properties in high temperature environments. Edmund Optics supplies the necessary precision machining, metrology and manufacturing technology to verify the FEA model. Further, Edmund Optics, as a current manufacturer of precision aspheres, has extensive experience with tolerancing, modeling aspheric errors and imbedding these design philosophies into optical systems that utilize glass molded aspheres.

Walt Czajkowski, VP of Global Manufacturing at Edmund Optics noted, “This is a great example of where industry, academia and US labs have come together to advance optical technology.”

Dr. Kathleen Richardson added, “Such collaboration allows an interdisciplinary team of academic researchers to address an industrially relevant challenge. Blending the technical skills of faculty and students with process experience of military and commercial manufacturers provides meaningful results not obtainable through other, single investigator efforts.”