Prism Scanner Old School Technology : Back to The Future!

Prisms: Old and New Technology

Prism scanner.  An article I read years ago talked about the idea that if you wanted to see ten years into the future, you just needed to look 20 years behind.   I am amazed at the number of patents on what people would call new technology these days, only to find nearly the complete idea in a journal or patent filing 20 to 30 years back.  At this point, an old idea brings me to the concept of using old technology.  An example of old technology is the use of prisms.  When optical telecommunication technology was booming, you could see old technology being brought forward to compensate for diode laser beam shape, either compressing or magnifying.  One such system was the use of anamorphic prism pairs.

Anamorphic Prism Pair Beam Expander

Using a matched pair of wedge prisms; an elliptical beam is either compressed into a more uniform round beam or if reversed, expanded into a single elongated axis.  It was a unique idea and one that had been around for a long time.  With the development of extremely fast voice coil motors, the question is, can a prism scanner be created using these techniques.  The second image is a somewhat complex prism to fabricate, but using three prisms and linear voice coil motors it is conceivable that a 2 Axis scanner is viable. BOLD Laser Automation

This design was built years ago by my team at a company called Hitachi Via Mechanics (now called Via Mech), but in the end, the controls were not sufficient to dynamically control the positioning accuracy.  I always loved this idea because of its simplicity.  Now ten years on, can motion control technology on the market today do the trick?   The point of this post is to say, before trying to reinvent the wheel, take a serious look at past ideas and do your due diligence looking at journals, reviewing patents, talking to colleagues and introducing yourself to elders in your field.  Many ideas shelved years ago due to technological limitations or abandoned for lack of interest at the time might be found.  I highly recommend joining an optical/laser society such as SPIE The International Society for Optics And Photonics, OSA Optical Society of America or Laser Institute of America.  Join and engage your peers.

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