Aixtooling GmbH aims at the establishment of precision molding of optical glass as a standard technology for the optical industry especially in Europe. The company has extensive competence in every significant step of the process chain for replicative fabrication of precision glass optics. Core competences are mold design, process layout, and the fabrication of ultraprecision molding systems. Using production-ready molding machines, molded optics can be prototyped and small lots molded on a case-bycase basis. Good strategic partnerships, the use and mastery of excellent equipment, extensive technological expertise, trusting collaboration with customers, and the trend towards wider use of complexly shaped optics are the fundamental principles of Aixtooling GmbH, and in the past few years they have led to successful corporate development.
In precision molding, glass blanks are heated to a viscosity state where they are molded to the desired shape using a molding tool. This permits the manufacture of ready-toinstall optics with no subsequent machining required. Time-consuming grinding and polishing processes are needed only during the mold making. The true potential of replicative molding processes is therefore in the expansion of geometrical complexity. This is where the crucial economic advantage in replicating a costly shape a hundred or a thousand times takes effect. For this reason, precision molding has found its main application in the area of high-precision aspherical optics. Aspherical optics are frequently used in optical systems nowadays and usually aim at eliminating imaging errors. This task must otherwise be accomplished using multiple-lens correction systems. Aspheres thus reduce weight and volume, and are therefore very desirable for mobile applications (e.g. cameras and cell phones).
However Aixtooling offers new solutions even for highly complex free form optics and lens arrays. Lens arrays are required in optics for a number of reasons. It can have the goal of installing the entire array directly into the optical system (e.g. slow-axis collimators for highperformance diode lasers) or it may be used as a wafer-based optics carrier in which the individual lenslets are separated after molding using dicing processes. Convexly curved cylindrical lens arrays e.g. can hardly be conventionally produced - that is, using grinding and polishing processes - since particularly the sharp intermediate zones cause problems. However, in precision molding it is possible to replicate these intermediate zones with extreme precision since the molding tool with its negative geometry can be given an extremely sharp edge. Even the molding of two-sided arrays is possible, since the high-precision alignment of top and bottom tools can be solved. Since the centering accuracy is generally in the micrometer range, tools must remain positioned relatively to one another in the same size range.
In summary, the main advantages of precision molding are: