International adhesives manufacturer Panacol is the newest member of ACOP (Aachen Center for Optics Production) as of December 2022. ACOP, based in Aachen, Germany, is an initiative of the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology (IPT), with the aim of promoting cooperation between researchers and industry in the field of optics. As a member of ACOP, Panacol joins an expert group of companies that convene to develop sustainable solutions for the manufacturing of optics and optical devices. This includes conceptual design, mold making, metrology, as well as all the developmental steps from first generation prototypes to series production with all required documentation.
Immediately upon becoming a member, Panacol became involved in project discussions, contributing its expertise in the field of adhesives and bonding technology. The project discussions typically involve the traditional use of adhesives as composite materials for optical assembly. However, project work can also be less conventional, such as using liquid adhesive formulations to produce polymer optics. The projects and discussions can be extremely diverse. One project, for example, is concerned with transferring the expertise of glass molding process simulation to bonded optical systems in order to predict characteristics such as shrinkage behavior or other mechanical and optical parameters or to be able to better estimate their influence. Another project identifies suitable cleaning methods for the pre-treatment of optical systems prior to subsequent processing and assembling.
Particularly in the area of free-form optics with liquid polymers, Panacol sees an enormous variety of possibilities for product and production variants. Products from consumer electronics and sensor technology offer much potential for MLAs (Micro Lens Arrays), DOEs (Diffractive Optical Elements), and meta lenses, (i.e. optical components that do not focus light like conventional lenses but are based on nanostructured surfaces). Increasingly smaller designs, more homogeneous signal pickup and distribution contribute enormously to increased performance potential in such applications. However, it is essential to understand and master the overall object or the entire manufacturing chain. The diversity of the partner companies, the open technical discussions, and the resulting synergies that are created greatly benefit each member company. Greater knowledge and new lines of thinking can be applied toward manufacturing technology and the metrology of optical systems.
Panacol has the ability to utilize these new concepts and ideas to assist manufacturers with their own product and process improvements. Together with the other ACOP members in the value chain, Panacol is planning to move forward with proposals that can jointly introduce competitive polymer optics into the market that are suitable for mass production.