News and Reviews (March 2019)

Enabling Serial Production of Micro-Optics


Nanoscribe_Polymer_Master_Microlens_Array.jpgThe new Photonic Professional GT2 systems change the way of producing micro-optics in series. Additively manufactured ultra-precise micro-optics fit as polymer masters into established industrial processes for serial production. At the SPIE Photonics West 2019, Nanoscribe presented production processes by means of injection molding and UV molding, both based on 3D printed polymer master as starting point.

When producing injection molded microlens arrays, a nickel shim is generated by electroforming the 3D printed polymer master of the micro-optics. The shim is then used as an insert for injection molding. Within seconds the thermoplastic polymer, such as PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate) or PC (polycarbonate), is injected into the insert cavity, cooled and solidified. This is how the thermoplastic polymer adapts to the insert shape, duplicating the original polymer master shape. The standard process cuts the production time and costs per piece down to affordable consumer market products. Moreover, the replicating techniques include UV molding of a photosensitive material from PDMS (polydimethylsiloxane) negative stamps.

Micro-optics are needed in multiple uses cases, for example, in mobile or augmented reality devices, sophisticated sensors or advanced solutions in biomedical engineering. Nanoscribe’s solutions take advantage of advanced processes, software recipes with optimized print parameters, and tailor-made printing materials for the direct fabrication of micro-optics. Thus, the high-precision micro-optics achieve high shape accuracy and optical smooth surfaces.