Optical manufacturing services design, fabricate, finish and test optical components and optical materials. They differ in terms of capabilities and methods. Capabilities for optical manufacturing services include: component design, diamond turning, grinding and polishing, high-volume production, molding, optical coating, prototyping, testing, replication, restoration, and sizing and shaping. Diamond turning is a multi-step production process in which optical manufacturing services use lathes with natural or synthetic diamond-tipped cutting elements. Sizing and shaping techniques create optical blanks from optical materials. Other production processes use diffraction optics, fiber optics, laser optics, or polarizing optics. Diffraction optics uses the diffraction of light to manipulate light. Fiber optics conducts, amplifies, attenuates, multiplexes and switches light signals. Laser optics can handle the strong intensity of a laser light source. Polarizing optics manipulate the polarization of incident light.
Optical manufacturing services design, fabricate and finish lenses, achromats, aspheres, etalons, microoptics, mirrors, and mounts. Lenses are transparent optical components that consist of one or more pieces of optical glass with surfaces that are curved so that incident light converges or diverges. Achromats consist of two or more elements, usually of crown and flint glass, which have been corrected for chromatic aberration with respect to two selected wavelengths. Aspheres are lens elements in which the spherical surface of the lens is altered slightly in order to correct for spherical aberration. Etalons are two flat, glass plates separated by a parallel spacer, with the inner surfaces of the plates coated with a partially reflecting layer. Microoptics are very small optical components. Mirrors are smooth and highly-polished in order to reflect light. Mounts are mechanical devices for holding components or devices firmly in place while minimizing vibration.
Optical manufacturing services design, fabricate and finish beamsplitters, crystals, filters prisms, reticles, waveplates, wedges, and windows. Beamsplitters are optical devices that divide a beam of light into two or more separate beams. Crystals are optical materials with desirable optical properties. Prisms divide light into individual wavelengths. Reticles are optical elements located at an image plane containing a pattern that assists in pointing an instrument or measuring target characteristics. Waveplates have two principle axes, slow and fast, that resolve an incident polarized beam into two, mutually perpendicular polarized beams. Most waveplates produce produce full, half, and quarter-wave retardations. Wedges are optical elements with plane-inclined surfaces. Windows are optical elements with sides that are parallel to high degree of accuracy.
Optical manufacturing services produce optical components and optical elements which differ in terms of wavelength, surface quality, and surface flatness. There are three main choices for wavelength: ultraviolet, visible, and infrared (IR). Optical manufacturing services that produce components for X-ray or microwave wavelengths are also available. Surface quality consists of two measurements: dig and scratch. Both are expressed in millimeters (mm). A dig is a defect on a polished optical surface that is nearly equal in terms of its length and width. A scratch is a defect on a polished optical surface whose length is many times its width. Common scratch and dig measurements include 10-5, 20-10, 40-20, 60-40, and 80-50.