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Polymer Optics

Polymer optics, also known as plastic optics, are specialized optics made from highly transparent organic polymer materials, or optical polymers. At Shanghai Optics we manufacture high quality polymer optical components and lens assemblies for a wide variety of applications.

These lenses have low density, a high ability to integrate mechanical and optical features, and high impact resistance. A polymer optical system will be light, sturdy, and easy to handle. These systems can be produced in a wide variety of aspheric, freeform and other complex lens designs, and their manufacture requires shorter lead times than traditional glass optics. The relative ease of polymer optical production enables us to produce these optics in a cost-effective manner at a lower price per unit, a savings which is directly passed on to the consumer.

That said, these are not cheap mass-produced plastics. The optical polymers used in polymer optics are produced to a much higher standard than plastic materials manufactured for any other application. Only high-quality, pure materials and well-designed, optimized processes can produce plastic optics that meet our high standards.

Our polymer optics are used in medical devices, mobile cameras, and industrial lighting devices. They also have many other applications including aerospace illumination, fiber optics, laser optics, and thermal sensors.

Composition of Polymer Optics

Materials used in polymer optics include:

  • Liquid silicone (resin)
  • Polyurethane
  • Polycarbonate (PC)
  • Polystyrene
  • Polyester
  • Polymethyl methyacrylate (PMMA, acrylic)

Optical and mechanical properties such as light transmission, refractive index and environmental resistance must all be taken into account when choosing the preferred optical polymer for a given application. For instance, acrylic has good mechanical stability and has an index of refraction of 1.49 at 588nm. Polycarbonate, a more expensive option, has very high impact resistance and performs well over a wide range of temperatures. Its index of refraction is 1.586 at 588nm.

Plastic optics are sometimes called organic glasses because they are formed of organic amorphous materials, in contrast to non-organic glass.

Manufacturing Polymer Optics

At Shanghai Optics we specialize in producing the highest quality plastic optics in a variety of shapes, including aspheric lenses, optical prisms, cylinder lenses, toroid lenses, and free form optics. Our state of the art in house equipment allows us to use the most efficient ways to produce polymer optical components, including single point diamond turning and machining, CNC machining, and injection molding.

Injection molding is the most common way to manufacture large quantities of polymer optics. During the molding process melted thermoplastics are injected into prepared optical forms. Shanghai Optics has extensive experience in optics molding and especially in developing high quality molds for both standard and custom optics. Our optical design team has experience preparing both single cavity and multi-cavity molds, and molding Acrylic (PMMA) lenses, Polycarbonate lenses, Cyclic Olefin Polymer lenses, etc.

In-House Equipment

Our engineering and design team is available to work with you from design to prototype to full scale production. Molded plastic optics can be produced in as large quantities as needed, and our advanced molding techniques ensure all precision optical components are produced with high consistency in both optical quality and dimensional accuracy.

Contact us today for assistance with your custom polymer optics project.


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