ZEISS and ModuleWorks Team Up to Create Unified CAD/CAM System for Optics Machining
Andrew Wheeler posted on June 27, 2017 | 2675 views

Creating a custom CAD/CAM system to produce ultra-precision parts that require sophisticated machining such as optical parts is not an easy feat to accomplish. It isn’t easy because machining sophisticated optical components requires a combination of traditional CAM processes and ultra-precision machining.

ModuleWorks creates CAD/CAM software for simulation and machining. ZEISS is a legendary manufacturer of optical components and cameras—including the ZEISS Contarex 35mm camera that U.S. astronaut and pioneering spacewalker Ed White used to take the first picture of a spacecraft in orbit during NASA’s second Gemini mission.

On June 3, 1965, Ed White took this picture in third orbit as he backed away from the Gemini spacecraft while floating high above the Pacific Ocean. (Image courtesy of NASA.)
On June 3, 1965, Ed White took this picture in third orbit as he backed away from the Gemini spacecraft while floating high above the Pacific Ocean. (Image courtesy of NASA.)

Together, these two companies are creating a CAD/CAM system for machining optical parts that combines the utility of traditional machining with powerful ultra-precision machining.

Optical parts require traditional CAM machining for non-optical areas and ultra-precision machining (accuracy within a few micrometers—1 µm equals one-millionth of a meter, roughness down to the nanometer—1 nm equals one-billionth of a meter) for optically effective areas.

Creating an integrated process chain for machining optical parts within one CAD/CAM system should reduce process programming bottlenecks—from cutting complex freeform surfaces to increasing the cost-efficiency and quality of ultra-precision optical parts.

This new unified system is enabled by ModuleWorks’ 64-bit optics kernel, which is based on the company’s five-axis technology for toolpath generation. The ModuleWorks optic kernel was developed with the goal of satisfying an increasing demand for ultra-precision machining of parts designed with newer and more complex geometries.

One of the key elements of the ModuleWorks optics kernel is multi-threading support for optical components, includes molding tools, lens arrays and lenses. Multi-threading has two distinct benefits: It allows users to work on other tasks while toolpaths are being processed and decreases the overall toolpath processing time.

Grinding and diamond turning are supported in this new CAD/CAM system for optical parts. It is also optimized for creating grinding patterns—anything from drilling, roughing and chamfering to slotting and contouring.

To meet the increasing demand and complexity of machining the geometries of optical parts and components, a unified CAD/CAM system designed to combine the necessary elements of traditional machining and ultra-precision machining with powerful material removal simulation software and multi-threading toolpath processing will be an interesting system to track as ModuleWorks and ZEISS continue their collaboration.


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