Development of a compression molding process for three-dimensional tailored free-form glass optics
Because of the limitation of manufacturing capability, free-form glass optics cannot be produced in a large volume using traditional processes such as grinding, lapping, and polishing. Very recently compression molding of glass optics became a viable manufacturing process for the high-volume production of precision glass optical components. An ultraprecision diamond-turning machine retrofitted with a fast tool servo was used to fabricate a free-form optical mold on a nickel-plated surface. A nonuniform rational B-spline trajectory generator was developed to calculate the computer numerical control machine tool path. A specially formulated glass with low transition temperature (T-g) was used, since the nickel alloy mold cannot withstand the high temperatures required for regular optical glasses. We describe the details of this process, from optical surface geometry, mold making, molding experiment, to lens measurement.