What’s Cooler Than Being Cool? Testing to -40°

At Optikos, we take our customer considerations stone cold serious – especially in our IQ Lab™ testing services.

Every IQ Lab™ testing project starts with a discussion between the customer and our IQ Lab engineering team to ensure that we fully understand the details of their optical system to be tested and the reasons why they contacted us for metrology help. In most cases, our standard laboratory test setups are capable of performing the testing that the customer needs. However, these initial conversations sometimes lead to the development of a new testing capability if it becomes clear to us that customers in a particular industry have a testing need that can’t be met with our standard equipment.  

A good example of this is our range of Thermal Module products that are used to test the image quality of lenses over a temperature range from -40°C to 100+°C. Our Thermal Module accessory was originally developed as a prototype thermal chamber for use on our in-house lens testing benches. This capability was developed at the request of several IQ Lab customers in 2016, and has become a very popular measurement for IQ Lab testing service customers. To date, over 250 customer’s lenses have been tested over temperature by the IQ Lab team.  

The TM-1010 Thermal Module for LensCheck® with Skyhook.

Requests for such broad temperature range testing originated from automotive companies, as testing over temperature is critical in the automotive market where camera performance is a critical safety issue. But, we’ve also tested lenses over temperature for customers building commercial and military products, and their requirements were also considered in the design of the Thermal Module accessory.

Our initial prototype evolved over time as we collected feedback from our IQ Lab customers. Our discussions with them about their temperature testing requirements directly influenced the final design of the Thermal Module that is now an accessory in our OpTest® and LensCheck® product lines.

A key part of our approach to temperature testing is that only the lens is exposed to the broad temperature range – the rest of the test bench is kept at the ambient lab temperature, which means that our standard product components can be used without having to be redesigned to work over the range of test temperature. The challenge with this approach is that the image formed by the lens has to be accessible outside of our chamber so that our image analyzer assembly can relay and magnify the image for analysis.

Our solution to this is a combination of an automated shutter, a unique lens mounting plate approach, and a dry air “curtain” to address turbulence, condensation and frosting issues. 

Preventing frosting in the thermal chamber was a critical issue for the Optikos team to solve.

We also knew that our system had to be able to get the lens under test to an extremely low temperature to meet the needs of our automotive customers. The camera and lens systems used in vehicles experience a wide range of temperature fluctuations in normal use – from the coldest days of an Alaskan winter to the hottest days of a New Mexico summer.

We iterated through several versions of the module, each time extending the temperature range and improving the ease of use until we got the standard module all the way down to the goal: -40°C.

We are always on the lookout for the next test capability to add to our toolbox, and we value the feedback of our customers – after all, our customers are the most knowledgeable about the metrology problems that they and the other companies in their industry face.  If our ability to test lenses down to -40°C proves anything, it’s that the team at Optikos is prepared to take on any metrology testing challenge.

Hillary Balonek

Hillary Balonek is the Metrology Products Manager at Optikos Corporation. She has a BS and an MS degree in Optics from the University of Rochester, and she has been working at Optikos since 2014.

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