Laser polishing and laser shape correction of optical glass
Mechanical polishing of glass is a time consuming process especially for lenses deviating from spherical surface such as aspheres. With laser polishing, the processing time can be significantly reduced and the wear of hard tooling can be avoided. Using laser radiation for polishing, a thin surface layer of the glass is heated up just below evaporation temperature due to the interaction of glass material and laser radiation. With increasing temperature, the reduced viscosity in the surface layer leads to the reduction of the roughness due to the surface tension. Hence, a contactless polishing method can be realized nearly without any loss of material or need of polishing agent. In this paper, results for laser polishing of fused silica, BK7, and S-TIH6 are presented with area rates up to 5 cm2/s. However, the results show that the achieved roughness with laser polishing is strongly influenced by the thermal properties of the type of glass. During laser polishing, the glass material is relocated at the surface, thus no shape errors can be corrected. To reduce the residual waviness and shape errors after laser polishing, the authors investigated a further laser-based process step (laser beam figuring, LBF) which ablates material for a shape correction. Ablation depths <5 nm allow a high precision laser ablation for selective processing. For both processes, a CO2 laser is used.