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Appl Opt. 2007 Dec 20;46(36):8668-73.

Microforging technique for rapid, low-cost fabrication of lens array molds.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering, BioInstrumentation Laboratory, MIT, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Interest in micro-optical components for applications ranging from telecommunications to life sciences has driven the need for accessible, low-cost fabrication techniques. Many microlens fabrication processes are unsuitable for applications requiring 100% fill factor, apertures approximately 1000 microm with high numerical aperture, and scalability to large areas (e.g., tens of centimeters to meters) with millions of lenses. We report on a flexible, low-cost mold fabrication technique that utilizes a combination of milling and microforging. The technique involves first performing a rough cut with a ball-end mill. Final shape and sag height are then achieved by pressing a sphere of equal diameter into the milled divot. Using this process, we have fabricated molds for rectangular arrays of 1-10,000 lenses with apertures of 25-1600 microm, sag heights of 3-130 microm, interlens spacings of 250-2000 microm, and fill factors up to 100%. Mold profiles have a roughness and figure error of 68 nm and 354 nm, respectively, for 100% fill factor, 1000 microm aperture lenses. The required forging force was modeled as a modified open-die forging process and experimentally verified to increase nearly linearly with surface area. The optical performance of lens arrays injection molded from microforged molds was characterized by imaging the point spread function and was found to be in the range of theoretical values. The process can be easily adapted to lenticular arrays as well. Limitations include milling machine range and accuracy.

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