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January 29, 2016Lap Polished Flats, Spheres and Prismatic Components – Buyers Guide Chapter 3

In this blog the measurement of optics with a Fizeau interferometer that have been lap polished is discussed.

What interferometer is needed to produce good parts? Each manufacturing process requires a specific measurand, the quantity to be measured, to provide the feedback necessary to control the process and produce good parts.  In the following posts several applications will be discussed with optional systems highlighted. 

Random, Near of Full Sized Tool Polishing

Classic Spindle Polisher/Grinder

The historic method to manufacture optics has been random polishing on a spindle polisher.  The procedure of rough forming the surface

shape, grinding to near polish and then lap polishing has been used for hundred of years.  The beauty of lap polishing is the random nature, averaging over large areas of the sphere, which self corrects, and lead to high quality surfaces.  Further the mid-spatial frequency ripples, the residual surface features remaining after the removal of 36-Zernike polynomials, tends to be suppressed due to averaging. There are limits and caveats as always, yet in general these are reasonable assumptions. Thus the measurand is simply the shape of the surface as defined by 36 Zernike polynomial coefficients. 

The Old Zygo® Mark II Optics Sufficient

Since the meaurand is simply low spatial frequency shape, in this application, a continuous zoom imaging interferometer, with the inclusion of phase measurement is sufficient. This is why the Mark II architecture as been useful for over 35 years, it was sufficient for nearly all optics produced until this century. The low spatial resolution of the imaging system (no matter the camera resolution), and inherent image distortion of the zoom lens up to ~2%, and slope induced errors have little effect on measurement uncertainty of flats and spheres when measured at a null fringe condition.

Vibration Tolerant Data Acquisition Important

More important than the optical system for this application is the data acquisition and analysis software. This starts with vibration tolerant phase data acquisition as found in modern systems to report phase data without the influence of the production environment vibration. (We plan to discuss the history and development of vibration tolerant PSI in a future blog.) Further the software must be compatible with standard industry standards including ISO and data formats (.dat formats), and be easy to use.

Upgrading an Old Interferometer Is a Good Option

To stay current and meet the the requirements of lap polished optics there are two choices: Buying new or upgrading. The first option is purchasing a newly constructed system with classic optical components that has a new data acquisition system. The second is simply upgrading a classic system to a modern data acquisition system (with vibration tolerant algorithms). The performance of each will be equivalent, with the upgrade being much less expensive.


Lap polished Flats, Spheres and Prisms in a normal production environment are sufficiently measured with a continuous zoom system, where the value choice is often a system upgrade.  

In the next post we’ll explore what is an appropriate interferometer for transmitted wavefront measurement.

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