The injection molding of an optical grating was studied using two different polycarbonates. The grating had period 10 μm and peak-to-valley distance ∼1 μm. Parts were molded using different holding pressures and mold temperatures. After production, the parts were annealed at 100°C. The replication was investigated using white light interferometry (WLI) before and after annealing. WLI was performed using high definition vertical-scanning interferometry (HDVSI) to resolve the details of the molded gratings with a noise level below 2 nm.
It was observed that increasing the holding pressure could have either a positive or a negative effect on the replication. When the microfeatures were not fully filled, an increased holding pressure improved the definition of the features. However, for both polymers, it was observed that the replication as a function of holding pressure started to drop when the holding pressure was increased above an optimal value. This could be due to an elastic recoil occurring after releasing the holding pressure.
The peak-to-valley distance of the grating was reduced after annealing. This effect was larger for parts molded using a low mold temperature. This is probably due to a higher cooling rate giving higher internal stresses, which will relax during annealing.
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