Automated sprue removal from injection moulded micro-optics with ultrasonic cutting
Injection moulding is key to fast mass production for smart devices, mobility and medical products, like micro-optics, covers and lab-on-a-discs respectively. For optics, several million if not billions of small lenses are merged into objectives. One characteristic type of objective holder is the lens barrel. The successful assembly of lenses with diameters of just a couple of millimetres into a lens barrel is an error-prone task antagonized with mass production and an optical inspection at the end of the assembly. Before the assembly and after the manufacture of the individual optics, the sprue separation takes place. This is a critical moment because even optics whose dimensions are within the target tolerance after manufacturing can be damaged by improper action. Common methods here are the separation by means of a blade, hot wire, laser or saw blade. Each of these methods has its advantages and disadvantages, but all have in common the introduction of stress and/or heat into the component. The Fraunhofer IPT investigates a much more elegant way removing the sprue from injection-moulded optics in an automated environment. Based on the ultrasound technology developed by IPT back in the 1980s, we use a high frequency generator to get an AC voltage and piezo crystal for the inverse piezoelectric effect. The crystal oscillates with a high frequency and low amplitude. Next, the l/2 to l/4 sonotrode amplifies the amplitude. The sonotrode is designed with a CAD model, simulated in ANSYS and the complete experimental verified on real lenses afterwards.