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Schott and Lumus agree to co-develop waveguides for AR applications

09 Jul 2020

New strategic partnership in which R&D will be undertaken by Lumus; optics manufacturing by Schott.

International optics and photonics technology group Schott, which also manufactures materials and components for Augmented Reality (AR) waveguides, has joined forces with Israeli company Lumus, a developer of reflective waveguide displays. Under the agreement, Lightguide Optical Element (LOEs) offered by Lumus, including the Lumus Maximus, are now manufactured by Schott.

"Lumus is proud to announce this strategic partnership with Schott to enable mass scale manufacturability of our waveguides at a competitive cost," comented Ari Grobman, CEO of Lumus. "With our upcoming Maximus 2D waveguide architecture ready to take advantage of the fast-approaching consumer AR market, Schott is the ideal partner to help scale our unique technology."

The partnership adds a new range to Schott’s offerings to the AR industry. Schott’s RealView high refractive index glass wafers are already a key enabler for AR devices using refractive waveguide technology with ever-wider field-of-view (FOV). Under the new partnership, Schott broadens its technology offer to the market, in manufacturing optical components based on reflective waveguide technology.

Image quality

“Reflective waveguides are acknowledged for excellent image quality. Achieving this quality requires the tightest control of manufacturing processes,” said Dr. Ruediger Sprengard, Head of Augmented Reality at Schott. “Our integrated set-up covers all relevant process steps from material science, melting, processing of substrate and coatings, to final assembly and metrology, allowing us to meet extremely tight manufacturing tolerances at favorable costs.

“Reflective waveguide LOEs complement our product portfolio giving our customers the option to pick the technology suited best for their application and underline our commitment to the AR industry.”

In their announcement, the partners also commented on the potential of the emerging AR market sector: “The innovation roadmaps of leading tech giants around the globe include AR solutions as the next big thing in consumer electronics. End user-adoption of this technology requires uncompromised image quality, widest FOV, and a small, sleek device light enough to be worn on the face comfortably for extended periods.

“The AR/MR industry widely believes that a waveguide-based optical design will be a key enabler for end consumer adoption. In order to deliver images with uncompromised quality, those waveguides require optical glass of most pristine quality and surfaces manufactured to unprecedented precision.”

Schott added, “Our customers use different technologies to manage the input and output functionality in such waveguides, among which surface gratings and volume holographic structures, all of them already using RealView wafers defining the industry reference in quality and mass manufacturing maturity. Another waveguide technology, widely acknowledged in the market for its image quality, is the reflective waveguide approach pioneered by Lumus.”

Cooperation arrangement

Within the new cooperation, Lumus is responsible for research and development on the optical design of the reflective waveguides, as well as their commercialization. Schott’s focus is the manufacturing of the LOEs, leveraging its international production network with high-end optical glass melting in Germany; its field-proven substrate processing lines in China, operated as a joint venture with Crystal-Optech, being already the hub for RealView, and its component factory in Malaysia, where the LOE assembly line is located. Dedicated engineering hubs in Germany, Switzerland, and China support required process innovation and metrology development.

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