The “Optics” business unit of the Fraunhofer IPT analyzes the production, testing and assembly of complex high-end optics and optical systems. Tobias Müller, head of the business unit, talks about the current trends within the industry and about the challenges it will face in the next few years.
What trends will have the largest impact on the production of optics over the next few years?
The trend towards ever more compact optical systems with high levels of functional integration and growing performance density shows no signs of abating – neither for consumer goods such as mobile phones and cameras nor for high-value industrial goods such as components for laser technology or telecommunications. Technical challenges including small apertures, steep and aspherical functional surfaces and narrow bands of permissible variation for forming or positional accuracy combine with huge cost pressures and a need to produce high quantities. Simply put, manufacturers are faced with the challenge of producing optical components with complex geometries cost-efficiently from materials that are difficult to process and of integrating these components into affordable devices. The market for infra-red optics is also expected to extend in volume over the next few years. In order to meet the rising demand, we and our business partners are currently developing technologies and consistent process chains for a direct and replicative production of optical components and systems. We also develop and test high-performance ultra-precision machines with suitable measuring equipment to automate manufacturing processes.