Infrared optics manufacturer applies machining capabilities to ceramics

Spectral Systems uses an OptiPro ultrasonic machining center to enhance productivity.

August 15, 2016

Spectral Systems produces Zinc Selenide rods that are 5" long and 3mm in diameter.

Spectral Systems LLC, based in Hopewell Junction, New York, offers precise infrared (IR) optical components, coatings, systems integration, and services from original concept through final production. The company routinely works with 16 infrared materials and has a broad range of proprietary coating solutions for supplying infrared transmission windows, infrared lenses, mirrors, attenuated total reflectance (ATR) crystals, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) beam splitters, anti-reflection coatings, or infrared microscopy optical elements.

Spectral Systems’ state-of-the-art facility has the latest polishing, coating, and inspection equipment to ensure all optics are fabricated consistently and efficiently.

With the company experiencing continuous growth, management decided to increase capacity by purchasing a CNC milling center. After extensive research, company engineers determined that the OptiPro OptiSonic 830 ultrasonic machining center would meet their manufacturing requirements. Spectral Systems is still at the early stages of putting the machining center into full production, but its employees are already impressed.

Employees at Spectral Systems receive training on the OptiSonic 830.

“The Optisonic 830 is able to focus on several areas of applications. This is an asset to our production requirements,” says William Weckesser, Spectral Systems’ production manager. “A precise tool path, high-speed cutting and drilling, all while maintaining accuracy and surface quality, is just what we were looking for in shaping crystalline materials. We strive to exceed our customer expectations and we are excited to have this machine to help us do so.”

The OptiSonic 830 integrates the latest ultrasonic technology on a platform that provides 800mm of X-axis travel. The machine is built on a stiff, heavy meehanite base to provide vibration dampening and uses high-quality spindles for reliable performance. Three axes of motion (X, Y, and Z) allow for operations such as lightweighting, pocketing, core drilling, small hole manufacturing, rastering, and deep drilling. The ultrasonic machining capabilities of the OptiSonic 830 allow manufacturers to process materials ranging from soft optical glass – such has BK7 – to hard ceramics, including silicon carbide and sapphire.

How it works
Complex geometries – such as a calcium fluoride crystal with a series of wells and micron precision steps – can be reproduced all in one setup.

The process of ultrasonic machining involves a cutting tool oscillating at a frequency as high as 30kHz while rotating between 1,000rpm and 18,000rpm. Ultrasonic vibration of a rotating tool allows for free cutting of material, which offers:

  • A significant reduction of force on the workpiece during machining, enabling increased processing speeds and feeds
  • Faster cycle times, longer tool life allows companies to produce more parts while purchasing less tooling
  • Faster cycle times compared to standard milling machines
  • Reduced force on the part imparts less force on the tool, specifically the diamond section
  • Minimized tool wear, longer tool life

OptiPro’s IntelliSonic software for the OptiSonic 830 allows the oscillation of the cutting tool to stay at an optimal level to ensure the machine is performing efficiently and producing predictable results. Two main features of the software deliver this advantage. First, the operator selects the tool used for the job during the initial setup. Subsequently, the software analyzes the tool to determine the ideal oscillating frequency. IntelliSonic’s graphical user interface lets the operator perform this and other aspects of the initial setup. Once the ideal frequency is determined and the cycle starts, IntelliSonic automatically adjusts the frequency based on changing machining conditions in order to maintain the ideal tool oscillation.

As a precision infrared optical components manufacturer, Spectral Systems required a machine that would be able to meet strict tolerances and work with small parts. High quality machine components and proprietary IntelliSonic software on the OptiSonic 830 helps deliver the required precision.

“One capability that stood out for us was the special features of the OptiSonic head. The 830 is capable of fly cutting crystals more than 2,000mm a minute,” Weckesser explains. “Another feature that directed us to this machine was its ability to drill diameters smaller than 1mm in hard and soft crystalline materials and glass types. The Optisonic 830’s ability to perform the most basic to the most complex operations with speed and accuracy will allow us to increase our productivity and optimize our material yields.”

Minimal runout – less than 4µm – on ZnSe parts as well as the quality of the surface finish allowed the rods to be sent directly to polishing without any secondary process.

As with any purchase of manufacturing equipment, service and support after the sale from the original equipment manufacturer is critical to ensure customers realize the full potential of the machine as soon as possible. This includes onsite training.

“When it came time for training, we found the OptiPro team as not only knowledgeable and friendly but dedicated to having our team understand and learn how to operate the machine,” Weckesser says. “They even went a step further and established benchmarks for us to work with. Our success at Spectral Systems with the Optisonic 830 is in great part due to the training technicians at OptiPro.”

Spectral Systems LLC

OptiPro Systems LLC