Optics are indispensable in many important areas such as medical technology, mobility and consumer electronics. They are essential components of many applications, such as cameras, sensors for autonomous driving, highly sensitive medical devices such as endoscopes, and satellite-based measurement of climate gases using laser technology.
With a growing range of applications, the demands on optics are also increasing: Not only are they becoming more complex, for example in the form of aspheres and freeforms, they are also becoming more individual. In addition, the development cycles for almost all products with optical components are shortening and shorter production times are required. This is a major challenge for production technology, because the manufacturing of such high-precision, complex optics often takes several weeks.
New methods need to be developed to significantly shorten the manufacturing process: In the OPTICS48 research project, we are developing a new technology chain that will enable us to significantly accelerate the manufacturing of complex optics made of glass. Our goal: optics production within 48 hours!
Classical subtractive manufacturing technologies such as grinding and polishing are reaching their limits here.Classical subtractive manufacturing technologies such as grinding and polishing are reaching their limits here. New digital manufacturing technologies, AI methods and new machines, on the other hand, ensure that even complex optics can be produced in large quantities ever more quickly. Production technologies such as laser-based optics manufacturing, combined with the possibilities of digitalization, open up the opportunity to become significantly more flexible and agile with a disruptive technology shift and to realize a new level of functional integration for smart applications.
In the first stage of the project, the project partners combine the processes "shaping by glass forming and ultrashort pulse laser ablation", "precision shape correction", "laser polishing", "coating" as well as continuous metrological monitoring to form an agile technology chain for the production of complex optics. They then implement this in the working environment at the Fraunhofer IPT.
The second part of the project deals with the topics of digitalization and data exchange. To this end, the digital shadow of the workpiece is being created along the entire manufacturing chain. In addition, a novel process for cloud-based optics manufacturing will be developed.
The technologies will be demonstrated and verified in the final stage of the project, where the project team will manufacture macro-optics for lighting applications and micro-optics for medical technology within 48 hours.