Increasing Profit Margins on Diamond Turned Optics Orders

3 Things Your Company Can Do

When your optics project requires diamond-turning to process optical lenses or opto-mechanical assemblies, it is critical to select the right provider for project success and ensure the best profit margins for your company. While out-of-pocket costs are important, finding a reliable partner that delivers on promises, works with you to provide creative solutions, and pulls out the stops to ship your optics on time, all add up to keeping loss to a minimum.


Increase Profit Margins On Optic Fabrication By Selecting The Right Vendor 

If your project requires a unique optical material that can be diamond-turned, a vendor that can make recommendations as to which SPDT optic materials can be used or even substituted for lower overhead, will all work to widen your profit margin.

When selecting and reviewing diamond turning or metal machining optics vendors, they are aware that you rely on them to provide custom optical design support, metrology & inspection as well as on-time delivery. Some customization offerings eliminate additional delivery costs and shipping time to complete. These can be functions such as metal plating and coatings options, add-on assembly services, custom tooling, or final inspection and reporting.

During the selection process, look for a provider with knowledgeable and experienced staff that can handle unexpected issues. Look for vendors that offer prototype-to-volume manufacturing support. The ability to craft a one-off optic for proof of concept and then turn around multiples of that design will eliminate the re-design phase when time is of the essence.

Some vendors can also project manage in order to offer options such as custom optical lens design software for integrated photonics projects, opto-mechanical systems, and engineering to provide drawings and specifications as part of the complete production experience.


Review Diamond-turned Optic Vendor Experience, Lead Times, Quality Programs, Certifications 

A willingness to share lead times and delivery information, along with posted certifications for current ITAR compliance, AS9100D certification, ISO certification, and any awards won, all combine to help to build trust and rule out any vendors that are not certified to work in government, aerospace or military areas. Memberships with SPIE and other industry-leading non-profits help to promote partnerships.

Stay Current On Industry Trends with Optic Fabrication Companies 

Keeping up with current industry trends in optics can be a challenge for any optics fabrication company, as current technologies are progressing rapidly. Driven by military and commercial applications such as ARVR, LiDAR, life science, HUD, semiconductor, spectrometry, and a myriad of other industrial needs, the optics community works hard to keep up with new technologies in a rapidly changing environment. 

Diamond-turning microlens fabrication, plano concave lenses, custom optical assemblies, and others, require up-to-date engineering understanding as customer needs and specifications change to adapt to new usage requirements and demands.

Optic materials needed for robust and demanding applications must also be vetted for performance qualities. New materials have recently been developed that have proven to circumvent some of the traditional issues with glass. Asking your vendor about these types of options can save you time, investment and overhead, as well as increased durability or performance.    

Working with an optics manufacturer that can walk you through the proper selection of alternative materials and appropriate fabrication methods is invaluable, especially where weight or temperature sensitivity is an issue. 

Not all diamond-turning machines are equal. Look for vendors that use multiple systems to ensure available capacity for quick-turn projects. Multi-axis diamond turning machines enable the ability to create complex off-axis mirrors, double convex lenses, or laser components. A single point diamond turning machine is essential, ask about multi-axis, 5-axis or flycutting machine configurations, as these are essential for manufacturing free-form optics, which are increasingly popular.

A CNC machine is only as good as the mill operator. Ask your potential vendors about their ability to train staff and what quality controls are in place for optical diamond-turning and free-form shape fabrication.

Component integration as an add-on service can be a time saver when working with multi-optic parts. The ability to configure, align and create custom holder components can speed up your time to final delivery, ensure that delivered parts are clean and ready to drop into your system. Precision mechanical components support is a sub-set of precision manufacturing and is not offered at every site.

Exemplary metrology and part inspection is the last step to ensure your margins. Ask about your potential vendor’s inspection equipment and services before making your final selection and agreement. Knowing the type of cleanroom required for your optic will also make final inspection faster and more complete, eliminating parts returned with issues.

For more information on diamond turning process, we suggest reading the following articles:

Fabrication of Optics by Diamond Turning, Richard Rhorer, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Key Trends in Custom Optics for Aerospace
, Tech Briefs, July 1, 2019