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Optic Tables

1. Introduction

Optical breadboards are vital to most optics-adjacent experiments. They allow for easy connection of optical elements to predefined axes along which light is usually required to travel. The traditional solution for this is a heavy floating table with built-in threads for attachment of optical apparatuses. These tables are usually stationary and fixed in terms of working area. Our solution is an affordable, robust, modular optical table capable of extension, by stainless steel rods. In addition to being modular itself, it supports modular connections, capable of hosting connectors with M6 and ¼” threads which are not mutually exclusive as in traditional optical tables. Additionally, these connectors are not limited to lying on a lattice, each connector has 5 mm of free movement along its socket. 

 

 



 

 

 

 


Figure 1 Various configurations of the modular optical table.

 


2. Description and Materials

As a modular piece, the optical table is expandable to a wide variety of configurations, each of which can host any component in the K-Optics ecosystem of parts as well as most traditional parts with M6 / ¼” threads. The table is available in a variety of horizontal configurations as well as a vertical one. Whatever experiment or demonstration you would like to prepare, our optical tables have a configuration that’s right for you.
Our optical tables are comprised of two main parts, in addition to auxiliary parts – e.g., legs, stoppers, and extension rods. The first, a lattice of connection sockets, injection-molded using carefully, and professionally selected engineering-grade glass-filled polymers, allows attachment of optical elements to rigid axes as usually required in optical experiments. This polymer was chosen for its reflective properties, or lack thereof, as well as its mechanical properties. Optically, this material is opaque and matte-black colored, therefore it will absorb any residual LASER light which happens upon it. Due to these optical properties, this material is widely used to replace metal in traditional optical housings. These housings are required to have no internal reflections, which is usually achieved by coating the metal with special nonreflective paint, however when substituting injection-molded parts, this material can be used to achieve the same outcome, but cheaper.

 

 

 


Figure 2 The optical table is comprised of an injection molded top part and a metal plate on the bottom.
 


Operating Principle

Extendibility is a big part of what makes these tables so incredibly useful, it therefore must maintain the standard of mechanical properties. To that end, extensions are designed around stainless-steel rods which fit snugly and are firmly fastened between two adjacent tables, as well as corner connectors which serve to level the entire assembly.

 

 

 

 



Figure 3  Assembly of two baseboards into a  table.

Following assembly, these tables can be set up with various optical elements, each of which is affixed to a tilt mount which is, in turn, mounted to the table by means of threaded connectors. These connectors, or locking nuts, serve to fasten the mounts to the table. Modularity is the name of the game, as such connectors are also designed modularly so that a user is not limited to a single threading choice. Any user who happens to have elements with both types of threading (M6 or ¼”) can use both in tandem. This also opens component sourcing options which are not generally afforded to users of traditional floating tables, specifically due to compatibility issues.
These connectors can be placed at any socket on the table lattice. Since the mounts are able to slide along the axes of the lattice, this means that components can be placed anywhere along these rigid axes, much like a floating table, but with more flexibility. More specifically, they can be placed between lattice points, which is not as easily achievable in floating tables.



From a mechanical perspective, the table is robust and unyielding, and together with the second major part – the metal plate – the entire baseplate forms a table highly resistant to twisting and shear stresses. The metal plate completes and closes the plastic profile, endowing the entire system with significantly more mechanical stability and rigidity than it would have otherwise had.
The tables rest on adjustable legs that facilitate the leveling of the entire assembly, and each leg is equipped with a stopper so it can be locked from extending or contracting after adjustment. These legs can be found under each outer corner of an extended table, as well as any outer edges where exactly two baseplate corners meet.


Figure 4 A leg with its stopper, connected to a corner socket.

An extended table is prone to issues involving alignment of different baseplates. These alignment issues might spell disaster for such a system, among other things, prohibiting proper movement of optical components along the grooved axes, or misaligning the entire setup altogether. Luckily, our baseplate connectors are designed to keep them aligned so that the user can hardly distinguish the interfaces between baseplates. Each meeting of two baseplates is equipped with a corner connector to which a leg is attached, conversely, a meeting of four baseplates is aligned by the legless four-corner connector. Finally, each singular corner has a single corner piece which connects to a leg – each table has exactly four of these.
 

The optical table is comprised of an injection molded top part and a metal plate on the bottom
Various configurations of the modular optical table.
A leg with its stopper, connected to a corner socket.
Assembly of two baseboards into a  table.
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