In today’s hyper-competitive business environment, companies must continually maintain and upgrade their technological capabilities in order to hold a competitive edge. Over the last year, Andover Corporation acquired several new top-of-the-line pieces of optical filter equipment, and undertook a major overhaul of an important proprietary tool, in an effort to stay at the forefront of our industry. Andover has added new vacuum coating chambers, robotic arm capabilities, an optical comparator, and a white light interferometer. These technology upgrades will allow us to meet more difficult requirements and increase production, all while making our employee’s jobs easier.
New Vacuum Coating Chamber
In December of 2022, Andover Corporation brought up the first of three new advanced coating chambers that will greatly expand our ability to make multi-layer (over 200 layers) hard coat thin films. Taken together with the planned upgrade of our existing vacuum coating chambers, Andover will soon be operating seventeen advanced thin film deposition chambers providing a 30% increase in capacity.
Customers may require a chamfer be applied to all sharp edges of a filter for several reasons: safety, aesthetics, orientation marking, or easier installation. We have multiple methods of applying chamfers depending on the situation, but it often involves a glass fabrication technician standing in front of a manual chamfer station. Each chamfer is applied by hand, which is time consuming and repetitive work. Automating this process with a robotic arm frees up technicians’ time, and helps protect them from repetitive stress injuries. Andover’s newly acquired robotic arm does just that. By employing a highly flexible co-bot system, Andover is able to seamlessly integrate automation into multiple chamfer operations. The new robotic arm is easy to use, requiring minimal set-up time and is already delivering excellent results.
The dimensional inspection of optical filters is critical, since many customers require tight tolerances to allow the optics to fit properly when installed. For simple squares and diameters, these measurements are easy. But when it comes to odd shapes, requiring measurements of radii, angles, and chamfers, it becomes necessary to use an optical comparator. This can require a skilled technician to spend hours in front of the machine, measuring every dimension of each part individually. To improve throughput, Andover acquired the next generation optical comparator system. This allows an engineer to setup a measurement program for one part, which can be saved. After that, our QC technicians can load the entire table up with parts, and run the program with the click of a button. Using a machine vision system with a 20-megapixel camera, the optical comparator will locate all the parts on the table, measure them automatically, and generate a report detailing which parts pass or fail inspection.
White Light Interferometer
New technology is great for many solutions, sometimes you just can’t improve upon older tools. Back in the 1990s, Andover Corporation developed and built a custom tunable white-light interferometer with industry-leading measurement capabilities. Most off-the-shelf interferometers use a laser as a light source, which has a wavelength of 633 nanometers. Unfortunately, many of our optical filters don’t transmit at 633 nanometers, and therefore cannot generate an interference pattern to measure surface quality. Andover’s white light interferometer employs a wide band source, allowing us to use any wavelength in the visible spectrum. The theory and opto-mechanics of that unit are still in a class by themselves, but the software and firmware were showing their age. Andover recently completed a complete overhaul of the entire system that has breathed new life into a critical piece of equipment that remains a critical piece of our quality control regime.
What This Means for You
Andover Corporation had a busy year improving our optical coating capacity and capabilities by acquiring and upgrading technology. We are able to offer a new product line, have improved quality control, and increased throughput in several areas. All of this means we can continue to offer the highest quality products at competitive prices. Get in touch today to start working on upgrading your technology capabilities.