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WaferLevelOptics - Specific Technological Developments to Create an Intelligent and Scalable Production Platform for Glass Optics Manufacturing

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Glass micro-optics: from high-end to mass-market

Miniaturised optical components and systems are revolutionising fields from laser technology to biotechnology. With new high-precision and large-scale manufacturing methods, scientists plan to dramatically increase the EU market share for glass micro-optics.

Industrial Technologies icon Industrial Technologies

EU-funded scientists working on the project WAFERLEVELOPTICS have combined glass moulding with wafer-based production to deliver industrial quantities of high-quality glass micro-optics. The scalable manufacturing platform is expected to produce close to 1 % growth in targeted sectors of the European photonics industry within five years of project-end. Wafer-based manufacturing processes now successfully produce polymer micro-optics on a large-scale and at low-cost, but such methods did not exist for production of glass components. Although glass is superior to polymers for applications requiring increased environmental resistance and biocompatibility, glass components were confined to small lots of high-cost, specialty items. The conventional glass moulding process produces between 1 and 20 single micro-optical cavities using separate moulds for each cavity. Optical systems typically require three or more different types of optical cavities perfectly aligned. Lastly, manufacturing requires numerous iterations to perfect and align the individual moulds, increasing production time and costs. With the WAFERLEVELOPTICS technology, 100 or more different and precise micro-optics cavities can be produced on a single wafer using one single monolithic mould rather than 100 individual moulding tools. A new material minimises mould shrinkage and glass breakage ensuring process stability. The cavities themselves are perfectly aligned on the wafer, allowing automatic alignment of wafers for stacking, bonding and dicing into optical systems. Researchers demonstrated the new technology with the production of a glass lens that was successfully used to accurately collimate (make parallel) rays from a high-power light-emitting diode. The lens was met with great enthusiasm and, given that large-scale production is around the corner, the price should soon be as attractive as the quality. WAFERLEVELOPTICS technology is poised to establish Europe as a nano-manufacturing technology powerhouse within the photonics industry as a whole, firmly taking the lead from Asian and United States competitors.

Keywords

Micro-optics, glass moulding, wafer based, monolithic mould, finite element simulation, scalable manufacturing

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