DigiLens and Mitsubishi Ready Low Cost Plastic Waveguide Optics for AR

DigiLens, creator of waveguide optics, today announced a “deep” partnership with Mitsubishi Chemical to bring to market a plastic version of its waveguide technology. The companies claim that the plastic variant achieves “almost the same” performance as its glass counterpart, while being lighter, cheaper and safer, with the ultimate goal of allowing a “consumer price” for AR glasses. .

DigiLens is one of a handful of waveguide manufacturers competing to position themselves as the best optical solution for a next wave of consumer-driven AR glasses.

The company’s waveguide technology uses a photopolymer manufacturing process that involves forming light guiding nanostructures (gratings) in a thin film coated with glass. As light enters the waveguide from a source, it is redirected through the grids, bounced along the glass, and then redirected through another set of grids to reach the user’s eye, allowing for incredibly thin and light optics.

Due to its optical characteristics, glass is used by most waveguide manufacturers, even though it is expensive. In an effort to make waveguide manufacturing more affordable, DigiLens announced today that it is ready to begin offering a plastic version of its waveguides, in part through a “deeper partnership.” With Mitsubishi Chemical, which is an existing investor in the company and possibly a supplier of the plastic used in the new waveguides.

DigiLens claims to manufacture the “very first” plastic waveguides suitable for AR applications that do not require nanoprint lithography (another, apparently more expensive manufacturing process). The company also claims that the plastic versions “perform at almost the same level as glass,” while reducing costs, weight and increasing safety for hazardous use cases (i.e. eyewear protection).

DigiLens does not give a clear picture of the magnitude of the cost reductions of the switch to plastics, although the company hopes to provide waveguides for mass production, even small savings can accumulate over time. .

However, the company sets clear expectations when it comes to weight differences. The glass variant of the DigiLens Crystal30-G waveguide weighs 4.39 grams, while the plastic variant weighs only 2.73 grams (almost 50% lighter), despite being 27% thicker.

Image courtesy of DigiLens

While a few grams less seems to be trivial, in a space where AR glasses would ideally weigh no more than 80 grams, saving 1.7 grams per lens begins to accumulate, especially as the lenses get bigger with the demand for a wider field of view.

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While DigiLens is not keen on making AR headsets on its own, the company announced a hardware development kit called Design v1 earlier this year to help accelerate the consumerization of AR glasses by allowing other companies to experiment more. easily their own helmet designs. which would naturally include DigiLens waveguides. We were able to discover the Design v1 helmet in an exclusive practice.

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