Optatec 2016: Robust glass optical elements for LED lighting

Press release / 30.5.2016

According to a study undertaken by the management consultants McKinsey, LED lighting will account for approx. 70 percent of the lighting market by the year 2020. The requirement for complex header optics which direct the light is projected to increase in tandem with the number of LEDs. Glass optics come into their own wherever particularly high levels of resistance to extreme temperatures and UV radiation are required. The non-isothermal glass molding technique permits these to be manufactured in one single manufacturing step. The Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT will be demonstrating how companies in the LED market can profit from the rapid and cost-effective process at the Optatec, the International Trade Fair for Optical Technologies from 7-9 June in Frankfurt am Main.

TIR lightning optics made of glass

LED optics and corresponding mold

Whereas there are already a number of established and economically efficient manufacturing process suitable for plastic LED optics, the manufacture of glass optics for high-end applications is still associated with high levels of outlay. In contrast to conventional grinding and polishing, complex glass optics and even microstructured surfaces with a diverse range of optical functional areas can be manufactured in one single process step: a pre-portioned glass blank is heated to temperatures of up to 900 °C in a special heating furnace then formed under high pressure within only a few seconds. The short process times along with the fact that no further steps are required for finishing makes this process ideal for large-scale manufacture. The advantages of glass as an engineering material can now finally be exploited in illumination optics.

Cost-efficient and high-precision: Large-scale production of molded optics

The aim of the ongoing research and development work at the Fraunhofer IPT in Aachen is to increase the dimensional accuracy of the optics manufactured in non-isothermal glass molding operations. As part of this development, forming tools made of new ceramic materials with particularly long service life are used in manufacturing processes, which have been specially adapted for these tools. Additional work currently underway at the Fraunhofer IPT focuses on the manufacture of extremely small glass optics, only a few millimeters in diameter. There are already some very promising approaches to producing large numbers of individual optics in only one processing step from commercially available flat glass. This can improve the economic viability of the process still further and is helping to open up entirely new areas of application.