ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING AND OPTICAL DEVICES
In the last decade, the optical instrumentation for space and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platforms has been optimized in order to reduce the mass and volume of the equipment. In order to meet this specific goal, it was critical to develop new innovative systems taking advantage of new manufacturing methods.
There are many benefits with the use of additive manufacturing for optical parts:
- Weight reduction of parts by more complex design (holes, semi closed structures)
- Reduction of lead time: actual lead time is quite important due to the manufacturing of a first draft, which has to be lightened by machining
- Saving of ceramics: we speak often of the 90% weight reduction about optical parts, but it is more profitable to print the remaining 10%
- Disruptive design: new and more complex designs can be considered
- Integration of functions: we can add new functions like internal channels, electrical tracks and feedthroughs …
This is why 3DCERAM has developed a new range of optical substrate adapted to the most complex environments for space and defense applications: 3DOpticTM.
3DCERAM’s process allows production of “custom made” ceramic optical substrates resulting in decreased risk during the manufacturing process.
The innovation in the manufacturing process originated in how mirrors are quite lightweight: 90% of their original weight is removed using machining processes using conventional technology, thus resulting in a high risk of cracks in the ceramic. Consequently, the process developed by 3DCERAM relies on the ability to directly 3D print the 10% of material that is required, rather than milling 90% of the ceramic to create a net-shape mirror.
It can allow customers to explore new ways of mirror design, with:
- Semi-closed back structures
- Integrated interface
- Conformal ribs
It can also open up new perspectives for the next generation of instruments, with:
- Compact solutions with integrated functions (thermal insulator, cooling channel…)
- Limitation of mechanical & thermal interfaces
- Integration of the optical function as a structural device