Edmund Optics (EO) has signed an agreement with Clemson University and Benét Laboratories at the Watervliet Arsenal in Albany, NY.
The three-year programme, called Molded Aspheric and Essential System Assembly Technology, is designed to find a cost-effective solution for moulding aspheric lenses in the US. 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, moulded aspheres allow for much greater production volumes and a lower price per piece. To manufacture a moulded 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 three over the conventional iterative processes and minimise expensive up-front costs associated with the precision machining used in cutting the mould 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 mould.
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 use glass molded aspheres.
Richardson said: ‘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.’