The world of photography, television, and cinema revolves around the camera lens; a marvel of optical engineering. The process of camera lens manufacturing is a fascinating blend of precision, expertise, and meticulous attention to detail. This article provides an in-depth exploration of this process based on the process you see in the video below… from the initial cutting of optical glass to the final quality inspection of the assembled lens.
The embedded video from YouTube, is about how TV lenses are made. However, the same basic principles apply to Digital and Film camera lenses too, so this is a really interesting look into the manufacturing process. The video comes from Discovery Channel.
How Camera Lenses are Made!
The process of manufacturing television camera lenses is complex and precise. It involves an intricate series of steps, to transform the raw materials into high-quality lenses that are capable of capturing clear and detailed images for us to enjoy.
The lenses are being made at JML optical, a maker of photographic lenses, irises, shutters, and other such equipment. Enjoy!
Step 1: Precision Cutting of Optical Glass
The journey of a camera lens begins with a block of specially selected optical glass. This glass is meticulously sliced into thin pieces using a diamond blade, a process that requires precision to minimize waste. The slices are then drilled to create puck-sized discs, the first step in lens shaping.
Step 2: Precisely Shaping the Lens
Each glass disc is expertly sculpted into the shape of a lens using a specialized device. This process transforms the flat disc into either a convex or concave lens, depending on its intended use in the lens system. Every lens undergoes a meticulous inspection for any chips or imperfections, ensuring the highest quality in the final product.
Step 3: Applying Protective Pitch Backing
The edges of the lenses are safeguarded with tape to contain a tar-like substance called pitch. This pitch is applied to completely coat the underside of the lens, a crucial step in the lens manufacturing process. The pitch not only protects the lens but also aids in the subsequent grinding and polishing process.
Step 4: Sealing the Lenses
The pitch-covered lenses are placed in a metal shell and sealed using a hot aluminum dome, known as a blocking body. This step ensures the lenses are securely attached to the blocking body, ready for the next stages of production.
Step 5: Lens Grinding and Polishing
The blocking body, now acting as a holding device, oscillates on a spinning grinding shell, smoothing and making the surface of the lenses uniform. This grinding process is followed by polishing, which uses a very fine abrasive to make the lenses smooth and transparent, and gives them a precisely curved profile.
Step 6: Cutting Lenses to Size
The lenses are removed from the block and cut down to the desired size. This process requires a diamond blade and a skilled technician to ensure each lens is perfectly centered and cut to the correct diameter. This step is crucial to ensure that the lens fits perfectly into the lens barrel.
Step 7: Applying Protective Lens Coatings
The lenses are grouped and placed in a vacuum chamber for the application of a protective coating. This coating is crucial for the longevity and performance of the camera lens, protecting it from scratches and other potential damage.
Step 8: Cleaning and Cementing Lenses in Place
Each lens is meticulously cleaned and inspected for any residue or imperfections. A special optical cement is applied to join a convex lens and a concave lens together, ensuring stability within the lens barrel. This cementing process is crucial to prevent any movement of the lenses that could lead to image aberrations such as blurring.
Step 9: Engraving the Lens Barrel
The barrel that will house the lenses is prepared, and technical details such as focal length, the f-number, and the size of the aperture opening are engraved onto it. These details provide photographers with crucial information about the lens’s capabilities.
Step 10: Assembling the Lens System
The assembly of the lens system is a careful process, with each lens and spacer placed into the metal barrel in a specific order. This assembly process is crucial to prevent image aberrations such as blurring and to ensure the perfect alignment of all the components of the lens system.
Step 11: Final Quality Inspection
The final step in the camera lens manufacturing process is a thorough inspection. Each assembled lens is examined from all angles to ensure it meets the highest standards of quality. This quality inspection ensures that each lens that leaves the factory is ready to capture stunning images… And that’s it!
Camera Lens Manufacturing is Not Easy
This painstaking process is why we appreciate the result so much! The entire process of camera lens manufacturing takes a total of six weeks per lens, highlighting the precision, care, and expertise required in creating these essential components of photography, television, and filmmaking. This intricate and time-consuming process underscores the value and importance of high-quality camera lenses in capturing the perfect shot. Let’s go out and put these lenses to good use.
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