Article | March 20, 2023

Why Flexibility Is Important In Optics Material Selection

By Dan Bukaty Jr., President of Precision Glass & Optics

In my 40 years of experience in manufacturing optics, I have never seen such challenging times as those brought on by the global pandemic.

The impact of the pandemic on the industry has been far-reaching, including a global shortage of optical materials. This has presented significant challenges for optics manufacturers and has highlighted the importance of being flexible and open-minded when it comes to material selection.

One situation that illustrates this challenge occurred when a customer recently requested a large, fused silica window and the material specified on the drawing was Corning 7980. We are accustomed to lead times of 6, 8 or even 10 weeks, so when we 3600 W. Moore Ave. / Santa Ana, CA 92704 / 714-540-0126 / / ©2023 Precision Glass & Optics contacted Corning for a quote, we were told that lead time was "to be determined". This left us in a difficult position, as we couldn't provide a definitive lead time to our customer.

To address this issue, we engaged in a discussion with our customer about alternative materials. We provided them with specifications on various options, and they eventually agreed to switch to a different material. This example demonstrates the rigid approach photonics engineers have typically had when choosing materials that has been prevalent in the industry for decades.

For years they have relied on the same materials, such as Corning 7980, without considering other options. While this approach has worked in the past, it has become a hindrance in the face of the recent shortage of fused silica. The reliance on a single material is problematic, as it creates a situation where there are few options when that material becomes unavailable. This can lead to delivery problems, increased costs, and longer lead times, which can be frustrating for both manufacturers and customers.

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