Skip to content
Reading time: 2 minutes
kuhn and lewis with 3d printer
IfA Astronomer Jeff Kuhn and Kevin Lewis from MorphOptic adjust glass in commercial 3D printer before laser testing.

Large reflecting mirrors lie at the heart of the world’s most powerful telescopes that observe distant galaxies, stars and planets. A company formed by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA) scientists and students through UH’s innovation incubator has demonstrated a new way to shape thin mirror surfaces using high-power lasers. These mirrors depend on precise surface shapes that are accurate to just a few millionths of an inch.

Up until now such glass surfaces have been shaped using a slow, painstaking process of repeated grinding and measuring. The newly formed company, MorphOptic Inc., applied for a patent for a much faster, more efficient technique called “curvature polishing” that achieves better mirror surfaces.

The technology uses a large 3D printer and an industrial CO2 laser to create a highly reflective and curved surface. MorphOptic Inc. has demonstrated it can even shape window glass to create optical-quality mirror surfaces.

“These methods have the potential to decrease the cost and fabrication time of mirrors as big as five meters across by a factor of 10 or more,” explained MorphOptic CEO and IfA Astronomer Jeff Kuhn.

The company’s process generates thin mirrors with an ultra-smooth reflective surface that can preserve the focusing power of a mirror without scattering the incident light.

“We hope to develop this novel technology to create a unique manufacturing capability and in so doing, support job growth and also establish a new ‘green’ high tech industry unique to Hawaiʻi,” said IfA Scientist Joe Ritter, who founded MorphOptic.

The company expects the first communication-industry mirrors to be completed within 12 months. UH is a co-owner of this new technology. The UH Office of Innovation and Commercialization will also play a leading role in its patenting and commercialization efforts.

kuhn and lewis looking at glass
3D printer melts glass surface using computer algorithm to shape optical components
Back To Top