IN the cost-conscious world of manufacturing, any new process that saves time and money is likely to be very popular. This is especially true for precision optical components, which would be more widely used if they cost less to produce. Livermore's award-winning OptiPro-AED (acoustic emissions detector) should help make the grinding process a reality.|
The vast majority of optics produced in this country--for disposable cameras, binoculars, and gunsights--are relatively inexpensive to manufacture. But the highest quality systems--found in military night vision systems, medical endoscopes, and machine vision systems for aligning parts, for example--require higher quality lenses, which need additional grinding and polishing. Fine grinding, typically the last step before polishing, is now a relatively labor-intensive task that drives up the cost of precision optics.
Fine grinding is a sensitive operation. The relatively fast speed of the grinding tool must be slowed down as it approaches the lens for fine grinding. If the grinding tool strikes the optic at too high a speed, the optic's surface will be damaged. The speeds and motions of the grinding operation are computer-controlled, but directing the fine-grinding tool toward the optical surface--a process known as in-feeding--requires human intervention for as long as several minutes. An operator gingerly feeding the fine-grinding tool toward the lens may not be sure if and when contact is actually made. Fluid to cool the grinding operation flows at several liters per minute, creating a torrent of fluid between the rotating tool and workpiece that makes visual proximity measurements impossible. Efficient and safe computer control of the process has not been possible in such an environment.
A Gentle Touch Does It
There's No Comparison|
Other commercially available sensors, which detect when a grinding tool touches the piece being manufactured, are appropriate for use during coarse metal machining and grinding. If only a contact sensor is used during fine grinding of optical components, the workpiece and possibly the grinding tool can be damaged upon contact.
The OptiPro-AED measures the proximity of the tool to the workpiece, making it the only sensor useful for fine grinding of optical components. The proximity measurements tell the computer controls when to decelerate the tool prior to contact with the optic so that no damage occurs. This sensor is also the only one designed to work specifically under the optics industry's wet grinding conditions.
Key Words: acoustic-emission detector, grinding, optics manufacturing, OptiPro-AED, proximity sensor, precision engineering.
For further information contact Mark Piscotty (925) 422-2052 (firstname.lastname@example.org), John S. Taylor (925) 423-8227 (email@example.com), or Kenneth Blaedel (925) 422-0190 (firstname.lastname@example.org).