What's it about?

Freeform optical shapes or optical surfaces that are designed with non-symmetric features are gaining popularity with lens designers and optical system integrators. This enabling technology allows for conformal sensor windows and domes that provide enhanced aerodynamic properties as well as environmental and ballistic protection. In order to provide ballistic and environmental protection, these conformal windows and domes are typically fabricated from hard ceramic materials. Hard ceramic conformal windows and domes provide two challenges to the optical fabricator. The material hardness, polycrystalline nature and non-traditional shape demand creative optical fabrication techniques to produce these types of optics cost-effectively.

This paper will overview a complete freeform optical fabrication process that includes ultrasonic generation of hard ceramic surfaces, high speed VIBE polishing, sub-aperture figure correction of polycrystalline materials and final testing of freeform surfaces. This paper will highlight the progress made to each of the processes as well as the challenges associated with each of them.