Improvements to sensing hardware and image processing for airborne optical systems have inspired designers to propose new optics and windows which may be any of: more precise, conformal/freeform and multi-functional. Manufacture of these optics has required innovations in machining, polishing and metrology. The performance requirements and manufacturing methods demand more from conventional optical materials, while also driving development of new formulations with tailored optical and mechanical properties. We describe innovations in manufacturing and adaptations for optical materials selected for end-use performance, though some such materials may present unusual challenges related to their composition, how they are produced, and/or the design geometry. Our desire is to share some observations with the optical designer, who may be able to incorporate some tips into parts “designed for manufacture.”
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