A dome is composed of two parallel optical surfaces. Optical domes are unqiue because, unlike any other optical components, the key attribute of the dome is to have no optical effect. Mirrors reflect light, lenses bend light, domes ideally change nothing.
Typically the lead element in an optical system, a dome is often exposed to the environment and protects electronic sensors. Accordingly, domes made from hard ceramic materials are preferred due to their ability to withstand wind and rain erosion. Domes are typically found in single-use defense applications and submersible vehicles for deep ocean exploration.
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In describing a dome, the material, one radius, center thickness, and wall thickness variation (WTV) (Figure 1) must be effectively specified. All other attributes generally follow the specifications typical of a spherical lens.
The image above shows WTV related to radius error, grossly exaggerated for illustrative purposes. Other WTV sources may include irregularity, tilt or decenter of the concentric surface.
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Optimax utilizes deterministic CNC machine tools for predictable removal rates and adherence to tight tolerances. To control WTV, precision tools that maintain surface registration are used. Optimax grinds and polishes most optical materials such as glass, Fused Silica, ALON™, CeraLumina™, Spinel, ZnS and crystals for UV, Visible and IR applications.
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Optimax uses interferometers and mechanical measurement to verify that parts meet the form error specification. Optimax has developed interferometric test techniques for overcoming static fringes.
Optimax’s R&D department is continuously looking for ways to improve our fabrication process and produce higher quality optics. Our current research projects are designed to meet future market needs, such as: