Insights from industry

Enabling Aerospace and Defense Applications with Precitech Solutions

In this interview, Mike Tanniru, Business Director, Ametek Precitech, talks to AZoM about how they can enable defense and aerospace applications with their range of products.

What are the most prevalent applications for Precitech’s technologies in the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry?

The primary application for ultra-precision machining in the Aerospace & Defense industry is diamond turning aspheric and diffractive infrared (IR) lenses, which are used in night vision, surveillance cameras, and thermal image firing systems, among others.

For over 30 years customers have been using Precitech diamond turning machines for this purpose. Most of these lenses are still made on Precitech machines today.

You indicate that aspheric and diffractive IR lenses are made on diamond turning machines. Why aren’t spherical lenses also made in this way?

Spherical lenses can be made by traditional grinding and polishing processes on much simpler and less costly machines.

Diamond turning machines were specifically designed to machine more complicated aspheric and diffractive optical elements.

What are the main challenges and solutions to machining aspheric and diffractive IR optics?

One major challenge is the high level of machine productivity required since these type of lenses are in high demand. Using an oil hydrostatic B axis allows the machining of lenses up to 3x faster.

Another challenge is the difficulty in machining silicon (Si), which is a very desirable material for optical system designers. Its hardness requires 10x more machining force and stiffness than other IR crystals, such as germanium, and leads to more rapid diamond tool wear.

Machine stiffness can be significantly improved by utilizing dovetail slides, which are dynamically stiffer than comparably sized box slides. Tool life can be addressed with the use of Laser Assisted Machining (LAM).

How does Precitech implement Laser Assisted Machining?

LAM is a new technology that utilizes a Nd:YAG laser beam that passes through the diamond tool. Its purpose is to heat and soften the small area where the workpiece is being cut as it contacts the diamond. This results not only in prolonged tool life, but also in improved surface finish and higher productivity.

Are there any other major A&D applications for diamond turning?

Yes, the manufacture of molds for Head-up Displays (HUDs). Diamond turning is used more often for this application because of an increase in the surface finish and form accuracy of these molds.

What are the key challenges and solutions here?

The main challenges stem from the size and weight of the workpieces and finished parts. Machines with large swing and load capacities are required.

Also, the parts take much longer to cut, decreasing machine productivity compared to lens cutting. The longer cutting time also increases the effect that temperature fluctuations have on the accuracy of the part.

Precitech offers several large-frame machines with varying swing capacities that address these challenges. They all feature high load capacity water cooled spindles that reach thermal stability 5x faster than conventional spindles.

On the software side, our machine controller features Adaptive Control Technology (ACT), which allows users to make better parts faster. It eliminates repeatable errors thus enabling faster production with minimal loss of form and finish.

Why should the aerospace and defense industry choose Precitech’s range of solutions over others on the market? What sets them apart?

Precitech has been the global leader in producing diamond turning machines for the A&D industry for over 30 years. We understand what customers in the A&D industry need and have designed our machines specifically to address these needs.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Jaromir Chalabala

Where can our readers go to find out more?

Our website, www.precitech.com, features product information, application notes and white papers.

About Mike Tanniru

Michael K. Tanniru joined Ametek Precitech in November of 2012 as Business Director. Michael joins Precitech from Emerson Electric Company where he spent the previous 14 years.

Mike brings with him a history of providing innovative solutions to complex customer problems. This strong Solutions focus has further solidified Precitech’s position as a Global Manufacturer of Innovative Ultra Precision Machining Solutions.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

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