Innolite GmbH, based in Aachen, is an expert in producing machines used to fabricate plastic and metal optics by means of ultra-precise diamond turning. Innolite, as a Fraunhofer spin-off, today works closely together with local and international research facilities and other experts in this field. One outstanding example for machines developed here is the ILCentric, used for lathe centring of mounted lenses.

Every projector – either digital or analogue – needs lenses to project pictures onto the broad screen. Manufacturing them is a tricky process that needs high-end machinery. Lenses for cinema projectors are only one example of ILCentric’s multiple areas of application. A bit less spectacular but none the less important are, for example, medical technology, metrology or sensor technology that need optical lenses as much as more traditional instruments like microscopes or binoculars. Developing machineries that allow the fabrication of high-quality optic lens systems is one of Innolite’s specialities.

ILCentric1620

ILCentric. © Innolite GmbH

A start-up with close connection to Germany’s best technical university

Innolite GmbH was founded in 2008 as a Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology spin-off. The institute itself has more than 30 years of experience in all fields of production technology. Innolite in contrast has specialised even further: The initial and today’s core business is on the one hand ultra-precision mould making for replicating plastic optics, on the other hand direct manufacturing of metal optics. Innolite closely cooperates not only with the Arburg, the world leading manufacturer of injection moulding machines, but also with the IKV, the Institute of Plastics Processing at RWTH Aachen. After an already successful start, in 2011 Innolite started developing and constructing its first ultra-precision machines.

Clustering experts for the usage of light and laser technology

Only recently, Innolite moved to the Innovation Center Digital Photonic Production, a part of the Photonics Cluster at the RWTH Aachen. The Innovation Center unites 25 industry and five science partners specialised in researching and developing procedures to generate, form and use light especially for tools used in industrial processes and production. In comparison to other methods light or laser beams is far more precise and easier to operate.

An Innolite machine currently in focus because of its innovative technology is the ILCentric, a compact ultra-precision machine with aerostatic bearings and a perfect centring solution for mounted lenses. Those working with equipment relying on the precise fitting of lenses will know that the performance of complex lens systems relies on the correct position of lenses in the system – in this case speaking about a micrometre range. Normally inaccuracies might occur when lenses are glued or fixed into place and thus later need to be corrected by machining the mounts of the lenses with respect to the optical axis.

Innovation Center Digital Photonic Production1620

Innovation Centre, digital photonic production. © Innolite GmbH

Solutions for adjusting lenses

When not using the innovative ILCentric, there are other, older methods to adjust lenses: One means gluing or fixing in the lenses by hand, which need not only precision, but years of experience. That makes the process quite insecure and requires a great deal of time and often enough one cannot even tell how precise the lens will fit in in the end. The second possibility is using mechanical chucks – here the setup effort is quite high as well.

In cooperation with Opto Alignment Technology, Innolite has developed its novel machine, the ILCENTRIC, for an easier and more precise centre turning operation. ILCentric is able to measure the optical axis and, on basis of the so gained data. it machines the socket that holds the lenses with great precision. The machine replaces the mechanical chucks with computer software supported through highly dynamic axes. In comparison to simple centring lathes, the ILCentric reduces the handling time even further. But the functionality does not stop with the adjustment. ILCentric offers every other functionality of high-precision lathes and is widely applicable and cost effective. Innolite therefore offers a fully automatic solution for centring lenses – effective, precise and fast. ILCentric is not a Prism Awards Finalist for nothing.

The machine is only one example for the innovative machinery developed here. Innolite not only offers clients flexible solutions and especially tailored ultra-precise moulds for either plastic injection moulding or hot embossing processes, but upon request also produces small series in their own production hall.

innolite.de

TEXT: JESSICA HOLZHAUSEN

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