Prototyping: Design, Production, Testing

Traditionally, LCD’s and light management devices using liquid crystals were made with glass substrates. The problem with glass is that it cannot be used for high performance eyewear, visors or goggles because (a) it is not impact resistant, (b) it is heavy, and (c) it is rigid and very difficult to conform. The obvious solution is to use plastic substrates. However, the challenge with using flexible plastic substrates for LC devices is a myriad of material-related problems (such as the fact that transparent conductors, polyimides, glues and spacers need to be compatible with low temperature processing) as well as process-related issues (such as the maintenance of a constant cell gap and the handling of thin, flexible substrates).

AlphaMicron’s material scientists and engineers have solved these problems and have created the world’s first, roll-to-roll, liquid crystal film fabrication on flexible substrate that does not use any polymers. Not only can AlphaMicron fine-tune this technology/manufacturing line to create prototype products, but this unique production technology is being licensed to major film fabrication companies for large scale production.

AlphaMicron has an ISO9001-2008 complaint manufacturing system.

Flexible substrates

With a full in-house manufacturing line and over 10,000 square ft of clean rooms, AlphaMicron prototypes and manufactures liquid crystal devices for several industries including military and sports eyewear, protective goggle, automotive mirrors, sunroof and windshields, and architectural applications. Our LC films are compatible with a variety of our liquid crystal technologies including e-Tint®, polarizer based, reflective based and scattering as well as devices with three states (tri-states).

Electronics

To drive the various LC devices carrying different modes of liquid crystal [link → LC devices], driver electronics have to be designed.

AlphaMicron has a full electronics lab that designs, tests and prototypes electronics for driving the liquid crystal devices that are prototyped and manufactured by AlphaMicron. The hardware provides a unique proprietary driving scheme which is tuned to the performance of AlphaMicron’s materials and systems, including e-Tint®. The electronics, which can be Bluetooth enabled, give the user complete control over the optical performance of the device at the touch of a button. The electronics are designed to minimize power consumption and maximize the longevity of the device.

Software

I addition to electronic hardware [Link], AlphaMicron’s has developed iOS and Android compatible software that can be used to allow the user to manage the performance of an electronically driven LC device at a touch of a button, remotely through Bluetooth, or via an external controller directly from their phone. The software is programmed for each application.

AlphaMicron is currently working on allowing voice activation to drive and control various LC devices.

Insert YOUTUBE video of Alexa and sunroof

Design

As a pioneer, AlphaMicron engages and works with industry leaders to create a designed solution that meets the requirements associated with each project.

Since all materials, system parameters, and electronics for each prototype and device are designed and developed in-house at AlphaMicron, the team has developed the requisite in-depth knowledge and expertise that they can use to optimize all aspects of product design. Together with industrial designers, the engineering team at AlphaMicron helps incorporate the technology (liquid crystal device and electronics) into various form factors and assists in system integration.

AlphaMicron designed and created an electronic eyewear that is being sold by e-Tint LLC under the CTRL logo.

ISO 9000-2008 & Testing

As part of being able to provide products to the US Army, AlphaMicron had to undergo the stringent quality assurance requirement of DoD which exceed that of ISO 9001-2008. AlphaMicron’s facility, together with all its areas of capability: processing, manufacturing, shipping & handling, review, quality control, etc. were audited by DoD and are certified to be ISO 9001-2008 complaint.

As part of its TCEP program, AlphaMicron created the capability for the full range of optical and environmental testing. Our laboratories were audited and certified by US Army to be able to self-certify products sent to the Army. The facility is capable of performing full MIL Spec optical (neutrality, color, spectrum) and ANSI optical measurement including Z87.1, Z80.3. In addition to optical measurements, testing labs is equipped for impact testing including high mass and high speed.

Optical Testing

To supply an eyewear product to the US Army, it is necessary to demonstrate that the device meets the stringent optical requirements outlined in MCEP MIL Spec 43211D. These include a series of tests unique to the Army including spectrum and neutrality, color coordinates, haze, scratch and dig, distortion, and resolving power. To be able to perform these tests, the equipment must be certified to within ISO 9001-2008 standards and be maintained in full compliance. AlphaMicron has established and certified its optics lab to be able to perform measurements and certify its eyewear products for the US Army’s Authorized Protective Eyewear List (APEL). This means that the eyewear can be directly purchased from AlphaMicron by the Army units with the expectations that the system will perform as expected.

Environmental Testing

Our testing facility has full capability to perform environmental (UV, thermal, humidity) testing on the devices and components to MIL spec and several of the automotive industry specs. These include UV resistance, temperature cycling, temperature-humidity, scratch and dig, and electro-optic lifetime testing.

Impact Testing

AlphaMicron has an Army certified lab capable of certifying its products for high mass, lateral side protection, and high speed impact testing. These tests conform to the requirements established by ANSI as well as APEL and MCEP MIL Spec. The tests can be performed for a variety of optical devices including spectacle, prescription holders, goggles, and visors.

Conformal Devices

Definition: ther·mo·form·ing
ˈTHərmōˌfôrmiNG/
noun
the process of heating a thermoplastic material and shaping it in a mold.

AlphaMicron’s Thermoforming:

the process of shaping/molding a flexible liquid crystal cell to permanently retain a single or double curvature and function while containing an electro-optically active material

AlphaMicron is the innovator of several unique thermoforming techniques that has made it possible to make LC devices that have high single curve or complex double-curvatures. We hold several world-wide device and process patents in this area.

AlphaMicron was the first to create liquid crystal devices for curved conformal applications including Air Force visors, sunroofs, and automotive cockpit displays.

Why Kent?

The birthplace of liquid crystal displays, the Kent State University’s Liquid Crystal Institute is the world’s first research center focused on the basic and applied science of liquid crystals. Many AlphaMicron scientists studied at the LCI and the proximity of AlphaMicron to LCI has fostered a unique intellectual cross-pollination resulting in a flow of new ideas and spurred innovation!