New Machine Slashes Time, Cost To Make Unique Lenses

parts to a diameter of about an inch. Even before reaching the mass- production stage, companies often spend hundreds of thousands of dollars creating asphere prototypes the old-fashioned way; Golini expects that much of the demand for the new grinder will actually come from large companies that spend heavily on hand-crafted templates while developing new products.

"Since this new system will reduce initial tooling costs, it will make all plastic and glass molded aspheres more affordable, and it's much better suited to the task of producing high- precision aspheres than any of the previous techniques," Pollicove says.

A technician can just plunk a piece of glass into the new machine, plug the desired curvature of the final lens into the machine's computer, and let the of diamonds embedded in its two bronze grinding wheels go to work. Using a first-of-its-kind measuring system to ensure that precision shape requirements are met, the computer alternates between measuring the lens and manipulating the grinding wheels that sculpt it. A regular ball- bearing spindle spins the rough grinding wheel to quickly shape the lens, and then an advanced spindle that floats a fine grinding wheel on a cushion of air produces an almost polished finish. The machine's built-in measuring system can then automatically feed relevant data to a magnetorheological finishing device for a final round of ultra-smooth polishing. Total time required: roughly 15 to 30 minutes.

"We've incorporated several new technologies into this machine," says Kevin Uhlig, vice president of machinery systems at Bridgeport, Conn.-based Moore Tool Company, the firm that actually built the new asphere grinder. "It's the first machine to fully automate asphere production; earlier machines couldn't muster the precision needed to shape aspherical lenses. It's also the first to successfully tackle the final round of smoothing, typically done by hand."

The machining system, designed by a

Contact: Steve Bradt
University of Rochester

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