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Greenlight Optics
Design and Production of Optics with Plastic
Friday, February 16, 2018

Nowadays firms are using plastic to design and manufacture optical devices as it not only allows designing more unique designs, it also reduces the cost. Production with the help of injection molding is well-suited to translucent polymers instead of glass.

The products that are manufactured with plastic are more resilient to breaking, are cheaper and extremely reliable. For some applications, polymer plastic works best on its own while others favor combining polymer with glass for better results. Glass, when embedded in polymer, strengthens its structure and can be combined in different proportions to alter the properties of the end product. That said, there’s no single material that can solve all problems of optical design and combination mostly involves tradeoffs between different materials.

Advantages of Using Plastic
The main advantage that comes from using translucent polymers is that it does not cause significant damage when broken or shattered. Due to this reason, optical devices made from plastic are used in medical applications for diagnostic of internal body parts or to work with sensitive tissues like that of an eye.

Two prominent examples where polymers work best include arthroscopy (the process in which an endoscope or arthroscopy is interested in a joint) and optical devices that are mounted on the head i.e. night vision goggles. If the device fails in both these cases, it would damage the human body tissues and since plastic causes less damage in comparison to glass in case of a failure, it’s better to use polymer in optical devices that come in contact sensitive tissues.

Plastic simplifies the process of mounting as often plastic optical devices can be manufactured by using special fittings or tabs to ease connection with the bigger device. This means more robust production, less parts and cheaper assembly costs.

Commonly Used Plastic
The optical plastic that’s most commonly used is Acrylic. This material was introduced before World War II and was mostly used in airplane windshields and similar things. Today, Acrylic is used in furniture, consumer products and medical devices.

In the applications where strength is not the top priority and scratch resistance is important, Acrylic is mostly preferred. Some other commonly used translucent plastics include Polycarbonate (renowned for its extreme strength and broad operating temperature range) and Polystyrene (useful for optical components that are not subject to external contact).

In a nutshell, plastic is an excellent alterative to glass because it lowers production costs, causes less damage when broken or shattered, can be used for optical devices that come in contact with human tissue, more flexible in design and can be integrated more easily with other components. The major refractive property of glass can also be incorporated in plastic optical devices by combining polymer and glass materials in a single product.

At Greenlight Optics, we specialize in plastic optics, so if you’re looking for a reliable company to manufacture plastic optical devices, contact our experts to help you with your needs.


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Loveland, Ohio 45140
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