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3 Questions with Ulrike Fuchs of asphericon GmbH

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Photonics Media recently got in touch with Ulrike Fuchs, who, as vice president of strategy and innovation, oversees all R&D topics at asphericon GmbH. Fuchs is known to like to mix things up and is a proponent of including both men and women on her teams because she believes solutions come about more quickly with different styles of thinking.

Optical design seems like a dynamic profession that balances creativity with precision. When you begin a design, does it start as a creative process or a technical one?

In most cases the first considerations are of a technical nature and deal with the questions of the general feasibility of the desired system. Of course, the established solutions come to your mind first and you consider whether you can reach your goal by modifying known principles. The design of this requires a certain amount of creativity and the knowledge of how to elegantly translate the requirements of the system into specifications for the lenses or mirrors.

Ulrike Fuchs

Ulrike Fuchs

In general, it becomes more exciting if this approach does not lead to a solution because, for example, there are restrictions in installation space. I love the challenges at this point to find creative solutions based, for example, on other physical principles. But even with this creative process, the simultaneous technical feasibility is always in the back of my mind.

Congratulations on winning the OSA Kevin P. Thompson Award in 2018. As VP of strategy and innovation for asphericon, your creative solutions certainly played a role in your recognition. Are you inspired by technology in other fields as a source for optics-based solutions? If so, which ones, or how?

My inspiration comes mainly from linking the many different optical fields, all of which have their own models and methods. Before my time at asphericon I worked in the field of micro-optics and ultrashort laser pulses. These two extreme areas of application have greatly broadened my horizons and my view of what optics can do, and I benefit from it time and again.

Do you have a vision for optics manufacturing in the next 10 to 20 years? What things do you hope will change? What things do you hope will remain the same?

Optics manufacturing is a traditional craft, which in the last 30 years has been led into the modern age by the use of CNC (computer numerical control)-based grinding and polishing processes. Nowadays it is possible to manufacture aspheric and freeform optical elements, which form the basis for high-performance optical systems of which one could only dream in the past.

Of course, the aspect of being able to manufacture the best quality at ever lower costs is always in the foreground. Classical manufacturing, as we can now do it, will certainly always have its raison d’être in the coming decades. I think that current niches, such as the additive manufacturing of optics, will increase considerably, also because they have the potential to significantly save material in very extreme geometries. In general, the ecology of manufacturing is, in my opinion, a future topic that we have to deal with more and more. The main focus here is on continuously shortening processing times while maintaining consistent quality and minimizing the use of materials.

Photonics Spectra
Sep 2019
asphericonKevin P. ThompsonopticsOptics Special Section

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