Additional information, including how to select the best optical flat for your application can be on our Optical Flat Technical page.
The term optical flat is also commonly referred to as “test plates” or “reference flats” and may be used as a reference (test plate) against which the flatness of an unknown surface can be compared. An optical flat is a piece of glass that has been precision polished to a specific flatness on one or both sides. The term “Optical Flat” is often used interchangeably with other optical components such as optical windows and as a substrate for optical mirrors.
Double Surface Optical Flat/Optical Windows
Advanced Optics offers in stock fused silica double sided optical flats that may also be used as optical windows. Fused silica offers superior transmission characteristics, a high degree of purity, exceptional environmental durability and a low coefficient of thermal expansion.
Dual Surface Optical Flats/Optical Windows are an excellent choice when an optical system requires separation between two environments while passing a specific wavelength(s) of light or for demanding interferometry requirements.
Optical Flat Certification
Advanced Optics optical flats are measured using either a master test flat traceable to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) or peak to valley using a Zygo Interferometer.
Optical Flat Resurfacing
Optical flats become worn and abraded from use and accuracy is lost. This degradation in performance is due to a decrease in the distinctness of the interference pattern, and to a change in figure caused by scratches on either side of the optical flat. Resurfacing or re-polishing the surface of an optical flat back to its original accuracy can be less costly than replacement. Advanced Optics maintains an optical flat refinishing service with a fast turnaround time.
Whether you require custom optical fabrication or one of our many off-the-shelf flats, call today for a competitive quote!
Optical Flat Interpretation
An optical flat is a piece of glass that has been precision polished to a specific flatness on one or both sides and is used as a reference (test plate) against which the flatness of an unknown surface can be compared. In practice, an optical flat can be used to test and certify metal or glass surfaces that have been lapped or polished such as metal rings or seals, optical mirrors and optical windows, prisms, filters and more. A single sided optical flat (single surface optical flat) is polished on only one side and the opposing side is generally left clear, but not precision polished. A double sided optical flat (dual surface optical flat) is precision polished on both sides and may be used as an optical window.
Optical flats are polished to a known flatness and used in conjunction with a monochromatic light source. The optical flat is placed on top of the work to be tested under a monochromatic light of a specific wavelength, typically He-Ne which has a wavelength of 632.8nm and is equivalent to 0.000024 inches per wave. An interference (fringe) pattern of light and dark bands are formed due to the air gap between the work surface and the optical flat. The change in thickness of the air gap or wedge shows the direction and shape of the interference bands. The curvature and distance between bands determines how flat the work surface is compared to the known surface of the optical flat.
To determine the surface flatness of a test piece (work surface) using the interference pattern formed by an optical flat, gently place the optical flat on top of the work piece. Both the working surface of the test piece and the optical flat should be clean and free of dust. Care should be taken to not slide the optical flat across the surface of the part being tested as it may cause damage (scratches) to the optical flat. Scratches or damage to the surface of the optical flat can cause it to become less flat and therefore affect the results of the test. Next use a soft object, such as the new eraser of a pencil, to apply pressure to various points across the surface of the optical flat. Applying gentle pressure will reduce the air gap between the optical flat and the working surface of the part being tested. As the air gap is reduced, a fringe pattern (light and dark bands) will appear. Continue to apply light pressure to spread the fringes so that only a few are visible. Then imagine two straight and parallel lines, one between the ends of any one fringe and the other at the top of that same fringe. The number and curvature of fringes located between the two lines can be used to determine flatness.
|Flatness Error of One Fringe|