Story #7: Digitalization of the manufacturing environment and its potential
"The software CorsS has incredible potential for further development." Looking back and looking ahead with Dr. Ulrike Fuchs, VP Strategy & Innovation.
Dr. Ulrike Fuchs and her team are responsible for all application consulting activities at asphericon. They're also in charge of product development as well as managing R&D projects with external partners. Dr. Fuchs joined asphericon in 2010 as Head of Optical Design. A mother of two, she graduated in physics before being awarded a doctorate for her thesis on how focused ultrashort laser pulses interact with silica glass. She was born with a fascination for physics. With several close relatives working in occupations with a physics or even optics background, some might say the optical sciences run in the family. Whenever she talks about her field, her voice fills with passion. She speaks enthusiastically about her research and her team, with whom she constantly pushes the boundaries of what's possible. It comes as no surprise to learn that alongside her job, she holds voluntary positions in various professional and industry associations. In 2019, Ulrike Fuchs was elected a Fellow Member of the Optical Society (OSA), the leading professional association in optics and photonics – an honour she received for her outstanding and sustained contributions to research.
At asphericon, Dr. Ulrike Fuchs specializes in the development of sophisticated optical designs for aspherical and freeform optical systems, combining them with aspects of manufacturing and measurement. Her goal is to develop concepts that enable a system’s performance to be predicted during optical design and tolerance processes. “Being a physicist, I have a very pronounced play instinct when it comes to physics. Over the past ten years, I’ve developed additional features for asphericon’s digital heart, the CorsS software. We can now retrieve a lot of data from the system and use it for simulations that are very, very close to reality. This helps us to produce better components and systems for our customers.”
Ulrike is especially interested in the creative possibilities in her field. Whereas traditional optics companies tend to plough the same old furrows, at asphericon she has the freedom to invest her time and skills in design and development. This may be partly due to the fact that asphericon was originally founded as a software startup and only later moved into lens production. “The processes have been greatly simplified and standardized by our software. It contains all our manufacturing knowledge from previous projects. Another aspect about our software which I find so fascinating is its high precision.” She adds that it’s often only a matter of what questions you ask the database in order to obtain suitable solutions or derive conclusions for the next production operation. “CorsS has incredible potential for further development and added value for customers,” says Dr. Fuchs. Its high level of quality has been confirmed by feedback from customers: “These days, customers are increasingly attracted by product quality – and this is something that people associate with asphericon.”
When Dr. Fuchs is asked how things will pan out over the next few years, among the many things that come to mind, one particular topic stands out above all else: artificial intelligence. In her view, AI harbours enormous advantages – not just technological progress, but also making work less onerous for her team and other colleagues at asphericon. “Once we can make the CorsS system learn by itself and weigh up different aspects and data, our highly trained professionals at asphericon will be able to use their time more productively – for instance to develop important new items or tackle more intricate matters.” She explained that automation and AI will be very beneficial for the workplace in future as results will become more comparable – which, too, will make work less arduous. CorsS already provides enormous benefits: digital optical design, manufacturing, measurement, technologies, sales, and coordination between departments. Everything that happens at asphericon is digitally shared and archived.
Ulrike Fuchs looks back with pride at the development of aspheres in optical design over the past twenty years. When she first started working in optical design, the use of aspheric lenses wasn’t yet widespread. Nowadays, aspheres are found everywhere and there’s no getting around their use. “The previous limitations no longer apply and so aspheres can now be manufactured at an extremely high level,” declared Dr. Fuchs. “I’m delighted that asphericon has contributed so significantly to this development.”