Category Archive: Photonics

What is Photonics?

Various light generation and harnessing processes are often used to cut and finish goods, transfer data, and monitor complex systems. These technologies fall under the umbrella of photonics. Electro-optical devices, optics and fiber-optics, and lasers each play an essential role in creating highly sophisticated products and scanning processes. Almost every industry uses various photonic processes to improve production quality, carry out complex tasks, and analyze systems.

The types of glass used in photonics are not dissimilar from the glass used in any other application. However, the delicate applications of photonics glass often demand tighter tolerance requirements.

Photonics Applications

Photonic technologies are used in a diverse range of applications. Across the different sectors remains a constant need for high-quality glass components. Some of the most common applications of photonics in various industries include the following:

Aerospace Technology

Aerospace engineers rely on photonics to create:

  • Navigation: Optical pattern recognition systems, laser-based radar (LIDAR)
  • Operations: HUD displays
  • Testing: Imaging systems


Large-scale farms often use scanning and satellite systems to detect crop patterns, changes in food quality and production, and more. Photonic sensing systems can also help facilitate more precise control for irrigation and planting cycles.


Photonics have enabled a variety of advanced medical procedures, such as laser-assisted surgeries and photodynamic therapy. Lasers and optical devices can also play an important role in creating medical devices, including innovative non-invasive glucose monitors that don’t require a direct blood sample.


Scanning systems can provide insight into site topography, distances, and long-term construction projects. Workers can also use laser technology to read barcodes and track materials.

Electronics Manufacturing and Engineering

Electronics manufacturers need lasers to produce the nanotechnology and microtechnology used in micro-electrical mechanical systems (MEMS) and other components, such as:

  • Circuits
  • Computers
  • Engines
  • Motors
  • Semiconductor chips

Renewable Energy

Photovoltaic devices (PVDs) are becoming more popular and affordable, facilitating growth for the renewable energy sector. They are a crucial component in solar panels.

Environmental Technology

Photonic systems support critical functions for monitoring air quality and pollution. Two examples include the use of Fourier transform analyses to monitor particulates and UV Doppler optical absorption spectroscopy (UV-DOAS).

GPS and Geographic Information

Image processing systems rely on photonics and optical technology to refine data provided by global positioning systems (GPS). This makes images of the atmosphere and space more useful for coordination and tracking applications.

Chemical Technology

Applications for photonics in chemical manufacturing include:

  • Chemical vapor deposition
  • Fluorescence through controlled laser pulses
  • Molecular optical spectroscopy
  • Plasma etching


Optic systems can monitor emissions and inspect international shipping containers. Ring laser gyroscopes also incorporate photonics to assist with navigation.

Homeland Security

Many security-related identification systems rely on photonics, such as DNA, retinal, and fingerprint scans. Photonics are also useful for surveillance and forensics systems, as well as the identification of hazardous materials.


Many cutting processes, such as laser welding, rely on photonics. Multiple metrology tools also use optical systems to facilitate precise readouts.


Technicians use various tools to monitor biotech systems. They also use optical spectrometers to verify compositions.

Solid State Lighting

LEDs are quickly supplanting both incandescent light bulbs and fluorescent lighting in a broad range of applications. LEDs solve for the low efficiency of incandescent bulbs and the mercury used in fluorescent lighting, which can harm the environment. Consumers, businesses, and governments use LEDs for exterior lighting, commercial lighting, and fixtures like traffic lights.

Advances in Photonics

Photonics is continually adapting and progressing to best fit the needs of various industries. Photonic networks, for example, can provide wireless photonic data transfers to distribute information from central locations to remote offices. Both digital baseband and Radio-over-Fiber (RoF) communication systems are popular due to their speed, reliability, and increasing drops in price.

Other advances in photonics include:

  • Metrology, or precise measurement technology
  • Navigation
  • Opto-atomics, which integrate photonics in atomic devices for uses such as extremely precise time-keeping
  • Opto-mechanics
  • Polaritonics

While opto-mechanics, metrology, navigation, and polaritonics are adjacent to photonics, these branches of study use polarization to carry information and perform tasks. Microwave photonics is another adjacent field which combines optics and radio-frequency engineering to create new technologies. These technologies control, detect, distribute, generate, and measure microwave signals.

Contact Swift Glass Today for More Information

Photonic systems are crucial in almost every industry. They help people perform tasks, such as measurement, surgical operations, and manufacturing processes. Photonics also produces advanced scanning and analytics systems that can help monitor emissions, optimize transportation systems, and distribute data.

Swift Glass has a great deal of experience in photonics and related technologies. We offer some of the tightest tolerances in the industry. We can meet custom requirements and tight specifications across a wide range of applications.

Contact us today to learn how our expert team can help you achieve results in your photonics application.

Contact Swift Glass

Swift Glass to Attend Photonics West Exhibition in San Francisco

Elmira, N.Y. — Feb. 2, 2016 —Swift Glass, a worldwide leader in custom glass fabrication, will exhibit at the Photonics West Exhibition at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California from February 16-18.


Hosted by the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), the glass manufacturing conference has been recognized as the flagship laser and optics event for businesses across the biomedical and medical device industries for over 20 years.

The 2016 Photonics West Exhibition will host more than 1,250 companies and 20,000 attendees as industry thought leaders discuss the latest findings in lasers, photonics, and optical glass.

Throughout the three-day conference, Swift Glass will showcase its latest optical glass products at Booth 631. It will also have the opportunity to network through forums, luncheons, and 67 SPIE courses and workshops featuring topics such as Photonics in Dermatology and Plastic Surgery, Laser 3D Manufacturing, and Emerging Liquid Crystal Technologies.

The Swift Glass team will meet with conference attendees and industry leaders face-to-face to share the company’s latest glass product offerings, including chemically strengthened glass. Interested guests can register for the event online to join the Swift Glass team for this invaluable networking opportunity.

An ISO-certified and ITAR-registered company, Swift Glass proudly offers custom glass manufacturing capabilities including chemical strengthening, CNC machining, waterjet cutting, edge grinding, thermal tempering, surface lapping, polishing as well as drilling.

With a wide variety of glass in stock from leading manufacturers such as Corning, GE, and Schott, Swift Glass provides customers with unique solutions for applications in the biomedical, optical, aerospace, appliance, and commercial industries.

For more information about Swift Glass’ services, visit the company’s website.

Glass Wafers: How Optics, Computers and Photonics Get the Right Glass

Computers, optical and other technological manufacturing industries require glass wafers as a carrier substrate for safe fabricating of delicate products like thin silicon wafers.

Glass Carrier WafersGlass wafers are also essential to the semiconductor, electronics, and biotech industries in a variety of applications.

Making Glass Wafers

Glass wafers are highly technical products that demand a highly technical production process, often requiring their own proprietary technologies. Here’s how Swift Glass utilizes its expert team and technology to craft these complex products:

  1. 1. Material Selection

Glass wafers begin with the highest quality glass. We typically work with Borofloat, Borosilicate, Quartz, and Eagle XG, selecting the most consistent glass sheet from the best batches. Wafers are cut from these sheets to be further processed.

  1. 2. Shaping

The carefully selected and cut material is then ground to build out the wafer’s general shape.

  1. 3. Edges and Details

The edge profile of the wafer is machined to specifications with the use of diamond tools. For example, a wafer could be crafted with a flat or notch, depending upon the design, and with an edge profile that is either flat-ground or pencil-ground. The notch, if designed, serves as a precise locator.

  1. 4. Lapping

The product is lapped, and the profile accuracy gets checked.

  1. 5. Polishing

Both sides of the wafer are polished.

  1. 6. Inspection

Glass wafer inspection must be highly controlled in order to guaranteeprecision — the product is taken to a clean room with climate control, and the profile is recorded by laser.

The laser passes over the glass three times while another gauge reads the wafer’s total thickness variation (TTV). The larger the wafer, the more critical the TTV.

Glass Wafers from Swift Glass

After more than eighty years of glass manufacturing, the Swift Glass Team has developed highly specialized design and production capabilities. We are proud to take on the complex challenges that come with specialty products like glass wafers.

For more information about our processes, check out our library full of free resources.

Photonics, Optics and the Tech of the Future

Swift Glass among the Region’s Optical and Photonics Specialists

Vice President Joe Biden recently visited Rochester, the “optics capital of the world,” to announce that our region has been chosen to host a new $600-million Integrated Photonics Center.

The creation of a national photonics institute means more than jobs and industrial growth; it’s the beginning of the next generation of American manufacturing.

optical-components-photonicsPhotonics research contributes to the function of countless daily tools: smartphones, high-speed Internet and wireless controllers, to start. It is closely related to optics: technology harnesses light for the development of smaller, faster and more energy-efficient devices.

Photonics touches a broad spectrum of industries: for example, manufacturing, global information technology, telecommunications, medicine, energy and national defense.

The idea is to transition devices from electron-based operations to using photons, or light. This includes the transfer of data from the internet, phones, TV, and radio with tools like lasers, fiber optics and optical detectors.

As a longstanding member of the optical community — and as a close neighbor to Rochester — Swift Glass is proud to have the specialized skills to bring new designs like these to life with working products and system components. Our glass materials alone carry unique traits applicable in modern technology, but our custom fabrication capabilities are where real innovation happens.

The skilled technical team at Swift specializes in every step of development, from prototyping to large-scale part production. Our state-of-the-art machining solutions and capabilities include:

  • Bending and Convexing
  • Chemical Strengthening
  • Beveling
  • Counterboring
  • Cutting and Drilling
  • Double Sided Lapping & Polishing
  • Flat Polish and Pencil Polish Edging
  • Milling
  • Pattern Cutting
  • Sagging
  • Seaming
  • Silk Screening
  • Surface Frosting
  • Tempering

We’re proud to have spent eighty years here in the Rochester area, sharing in the research, technology and thriving energy of the optical industry. As the oldest supplier of tempered glass in the United States, it’s inspiring to see these types of developments in the industry

Lighting, appliances and optics are part of the Swift Glass DNA, and we can’t wait to see what technology is to come. If you’re working on a custom project or prototype of your own, reach out to the team today — they’d be happy to help.


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