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Proceedings Paper

Digital diffractive optics: Have diffractive optics entered mainstream industry yet?
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Paper Abstract

When a new technology is integrated into industry commodity products and consumer electronic devices, and sold worldwide in retail stores, it is usually understood that this technology has then entered the realm of mainstream technology and therefore mainstream industry. Such a leap however does not come cheap, as it has a double edge sword effect: first it becomes democratized and thus massively developed by numerous companies for various applications, but also it becomes a commodity, and thus gets under tremendous pressure to cut down its production and integration costs while not sacrificing to performance. We will show, based on numerous examples extracted from recent industry history, that the field of Diffractive Optics is about to undergo such a major transformation. Such a move has many impacts on all facets of digital diffractive optics technology, from the optical design houses to the micro-optics foundries (for both mastering and volume replication), to the final product integrators or contract manufacturers. The main causes of such a transformation are, as they have been for many other technologies in industry, successive technological bubbles which have carried and lifted up diffractive optics technology within the last decades. These various technological bubbles have been triggered either by real industry needs or by virtual investment hype. Both of these causes will be discussed in the paper. The adjective ""digital"" in "digital diffractive optics" does not refer only, as it is done in digital electronics, to the digital functionality of the element (digital signal processing), but rather to the digital way they are designed (by a digital computer) and fabricated (as wafer level optics using digital masking techniques). However, we can still trace a very strong similarity between the emergence of micro-electronics from analog electronics half a century ago, and the emergence of digital optics from conventional optics today.

Paper Details

Date Published: 13 May 2010
PDF: 16 pages
Proc. SPIE 7716, Micro-Optics 2010, 77161J (13 May 2010); doi: 10.1117/12.859086
Show Author Affiliations
Bernard Kress, USI Photonics Inc. (United States)
Vic Hejmadi, USI Photonics Inc. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7716:
Micro-Optics 2010
Hugo Thienpont; Peter Van Daele; Jürgen Mohr; Hans Zappe, Editor(s)

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