Understanding the Use of Optics in the Manufacturing Industry

The use of optics has revolutionized modern-day manufacturing that can improve current manufacturing capabilities and enable new ones. Manufacturers can use light for processing or probing materials from a remote location, or through windows that isolate harsh or vacuum environments. The lack of surface contact makes it impossible for the probe beam to contaminate the process. The application of optics has reached into all aspects of manufacturing, promising to increase in use as well as improvement in accuracy, control, precision, and speed. The industry uses various optical techniques which are vital to manufacturing diverse and basic products like tunnels, chemicals, semiconductor chips, and others.

Optics Applications in Manufacturing

Some applications of optics in the manufacturing industry might be familiar like using high-power lasers to cut, drill, or weld steel. Other applications include the use of optical sensors for monitoring chemical processes in real-time and the use of lasers to align and control structures in the construction industry. Optics application faces certain challenges that are unique to a certain industry. However, universal challenges include the need to hire optics technicians or make reliable and robust equipment.

Here’s how optics are used in manufacturing:

  • Hardening surfaces. Laser delivery systems are quite flexible which makes lasers effective in hardening of steel surfaces, particularly those subject to fatigue or wear.
  • Cutting and drilling. The melting process removes the material in laser beam drilling and machining. Laser cutting and drilling processes often used for batch processes.


  • Welding. Lasers have been used for joining stamped steel panels to make underbodies in the automotive industry. The continuity of laser welds leads to high structural integrity and eradicates the need for sealing.
  • Processing laser materials. Lasers deliver energy to the workpiece without physical contact, offer high localized energy densities and are flexible in the delivery of energy.
  • Aircraft manufacturing. Manufacturers of airplanes have the same needs that feature accuracy in location and alignment or layout of 3D structures over big distances. Electro-optic systems like lasers are employed to save cost and time.

Using Light for Manufacturing

Light has a lot of unique properties and ways to interact with matter. Because of this, optics provides a rich variety of application options for manufacturers. Light’s imaging properties and its ability to induce photochemical reactions the transfer of highly complex mask patterns to photoresist in the optical lithography process. Laser beams that are tightly focused can deliver thermal energy to a product for cutting, drilling, or welding.

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