Optical rails mount to optical tables to support components and instruments in a straight line, while retaining the freedom to quickly change their relative spacing. Together optical rails and bases create an optical mounting system. There are many different types of optical rails. Examples include aluminum optical rails, steel optical rails, optical bases, and optical rail enclosures. An aluminum optical rail is a rail made up of aluminum and is durable in nature. Aluminum optical rails may possess a slotted mounting hole, which allows them to attach to optical tables securely. A steel optical rail is a rail extruded from steel and requires maintenance from rusting, warping, and nicking. An optical base ensures that the components mounted on it remain stable regardless of the type of components. An optical rail enclosure is used to enclose optical rails. Generally, optical enclosures are used for designing prototype optical systems for field or laboratory purposes. Other optical rails and bases are commonly available.
There are several ways in which optical rails function. An optical rail may also employ dovetail construction that allows rapid mounting and secure clamping of optical components anywhere along the rail without getting rid of other components. An aluminum optical rail is usually extruded from 6061 aluminum, and is provided with black anodized in lengths compliant to industry standards. A steel optical rail provides rigidity and stability. However, steel rails may become rusted over time. Therefore, it is important to apply oil frequently to ensure durability. Moreover, it is essential to prevent overloading of an optical steel or aluminum optical rail with very heavy elements as it may cause bending of the optical rail. An optical base should provide ease of mounting of optical systems and should be flexible. An optical base may also provide slotted mounts for adjusting the position of optical systems. An optical rail enclosure should be versatile, practical, and user-friendly. An optical rail enclosure should allow the use of any type of optical rail while designing optical systems. Optical rails and bases are designed and manufactured to meet most industry specifications.
Optical rails are used in many applications. Examples of optical mounting system include designing and building of accurate optical systems such as microscopes, laser spectroscopy instruments, spatial filters, collimators, and interferometers. Optical rails should be developed to suit the needs of the optical system to be constructed and should adhere to industry standards.