Meet the Team: Don Morrison, Manufacturing Engineer, Shares His Diamond Turning Expertise

Posted by The RPO Team on May 28, 2017 9:50:00 AM

Described as the guy who takes the craziest projects and makes them not only possible but also affordable, Don Morrison is a problem solver by nature. When he isn't solving complex optical designs, Don enjoys autocross racing at different tracks including Watkins Glen International Speedway.

He has an extensive background in diamond turning and takes a unique interest in solving new challenges and working with new materials. Don shared his expertise and some insight on what he is currently working on.

 don-morrison-engineer-racing1.jpgWhy did you choose to join RPO?

That's an interesting story actually. I was working for a company that had a lens design that couldn't be diamond turned and we were looking for a glass molder. The work ended up coming to RPO, but it required me and the quality engineer to visit in order to troubleshoot some issues with the design. During the visit we toured RPO and I became interested in their capabilities and problem-solving. When the opportunity came up to join their team I jumped at it.

At RPO I am able to use my expertise and skill set in a variety of departments. I love working with the different teams; we have a great company culture. Everyone is positive and focused on making the best products possible. I have been in optics for 37 years and I'm still learning, which makes things exciting.

What projects are you working on right now?

Currently, our team is working to improve a non-optical component. The part has tight mechanical tolerances, which is right in RPO's skill set. However, the customer wants to use a material that is not a commonly used, so we have to work through the challenges that will pose.

I’ve also been working through a project that required some core design changes in order to scale up. I took the design back to the basics, sort of an old school method, and once I rethought the creation process we were able to solve manufacturing issues and hit volume production demands.

How did you get your start in diamond turning?

I was part of the initiative that brought diamond turning to Bausch + Lomb for contact lenses to solve turnaround time issues and improve the manufacturing process. But I actually sold diamond turning machines for a while; I'd set up the machines and train customers. My experience with programming machines and designing fixtures led to opportunities in single point diamond turning (SPDT).

What are the common questions from customer’s prototyping optics?

At the prototyping stage, customers sometimes haven't worked out the design details yet. It's a chance for us to work with the customer. Our optical design Discovery Service can be quite useful for optical design troubleshooting.

Managing expectations is also important. Over-toleranced designs drive up cost without adding performance, but if we can get to the basics of what they plan to use the product for we can find a way to relax the tolerances without sacrificing performance. Occasionally a customer will want to use a material that's very difficult to mold. In this case, we will suggest a different material for manufacturing as well and then we will reconfigure the design in order to improve performance and price.

Most often there are questions about compatibility and whether or not we can diamond turn on a specific material. For customers who are new to SPDT, I think there is still confusion on what materials can be used. Customers ask about diamond turning glass and 99.9% of the time we cannot, but we are working with a new Laser Assisted Diamond Turning accessory that is improving our ability to successfully diamond turn silicon and certain glass types.

We are often asked about tolerances and turnaround times. A lot of that is material dependent. We have reconfigured our process some in order to improve our turnaround times; we typically have the lens blank designs and fixturing all set before we receive materials.

What’s next for you?

We have been doing a lot of work with chalcogenides lately, which provide design advantages such as broader range of wavelengths. However, chalcogenides have a level of toxicity. To diamond turn chalcogenides, I’ve been working on the set-up of our clean rooms to contain particles.  

We're also testing new prototyping methods to eliminate the inherent differences when moving a design from SPDT to injection molding.  Right now, there are always small differences in characteristics and performance of these lenses. Surface finish and repeatability are better with the molded manufacturing method, and tolerances can be tighter with diamond turning. Understanding these characteristics, we're working on rapid prototyping molding and trying to get it to the same turnaround timeframe as diamond turning. As we work on the molded prototypes we're working to increase predictability as customers scale up.


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Topics: Meet the Team, Single Point Diamond Turning