2011

Pre-Finishing of SiC for Optical Applications

A method is based on two unique processing steps that are both based on deterministic machining processes using a single-point diamond turning (SPDT) machine. In the first step, a high-MRR (material removal rate) process is used to machine the part within several microns of the final geometry. In the second step, a low-MRR process is used to machine the part to near optical quality using a novel ductile regime machining (DRM) process.

DRM is a deterministic machining processassociatedwithconditionsunder high hydrostatic pressures and very small depths of cut. Under such conditions, using high negative-rake angle cutting tools, the high-pressure region near the tool corresponds to a plastic zone, where even a brittle material will behave in a ductile manner.

In the high-MRR processing step, the objective is to remove material with a sufficiently high rate such that the process is economical, without inducing large-scale subsurface damage. A laser-assisted machining approach was evaluated whereby a CO2 laser was focused in advance of the cutting tool. While CVD (chemical vapor deposition) SiC was successfully machined with this approach, the cutting forces were substantially higher than cuts at room temperature under the same machining conditions. During the experiments, the expansion of the part and the tool due to the heating was carefully accounted for. The higher cutting forces are most likely due to a small reduction in the shear strength of the material compared with a larger increase in friction forces due to the thermal softening effect.

The key advantage is that the hybrid machine approach has the potential to achieve optical quality without the need for a separate optical finishing step. Also, this method is scalable, so one can easily progress from machining 50-mm-diameter samples to the 250-mm-diameter mirror that NASA desires.

This work was done by Jay Rozzi, Odile Clavier, and John Gagne of Creare, Inc. for Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-15663-1

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