Fluidic Shaping of optical components
Fabrication of optical components has not changed significantly in the past century, and is based on mechanical grinding, machining and polishing that rely on complex and expensive infrastructure. Furthermore, such mechanical methods present challenges in the fabrication of large or geometrically complex components. Modern manufacturing methods such as 3-D printing, while capable of producing nearly arbitrary structures, cannot provide the required surface quality for optical applications.
The method we developed, which we term “Fluidic Shaping”, is based on controlling the minimum energy state of the interface between a curable optical liquid and an immersion liquid, by dictating a geometrical boundary constraint. The method allows for rapid fabrication of a wide range of optical components at any size, with sub-nanometric surface quality. The method entirely replaces mechanical processing, eliminating the dependence on heavy infrastructure, and provides new fabrication capabilities for both research and industrial applications.