50 Years of Precision by Dr. Peter de Groot, Executive Director, R&D, Zygo Corporation"We need to establish criteria for the name of the new company," suggested Carl Zanoni. "Short, not our names or initials, ...but it must be pronounceable in foreign languages, something like Kodak or Xerox." Paul Forman and Carl each took a dictionary. Paul started from the front and Carl started from the back. Carl found 'zygo,' which means "bridge" or 'connecting link,' symbolic of the cooperation between academia and industry represented by the two major investors, Wesleyan University in New England and Canon in Japan. So it was that Paul, Carl and Sol Laufer found the name for their new company, and on June 23, 1970 Zygo Corporation and its trademark ZYGO® logo were born.
ZYGO was founded with the goal of creating optical components well beyond the state of the art at the time. As Paul put it, "our vision is to be the best at whatever we set out to do." One of the Company's first major projects was a machine to product aspheric lenses at an unprecedented speed and precision. The aspheric generator used air bearings, a rigid structure between the grinding wheel and the work piece, and innovative closed-loop computer control. The machine-generated surface was so smooth that it was hard to tell it wasn't polished. The Canon FD55 mm f/1.2 AL was the world first interchangeable 35 mm SLR camera lens employing an aspherical optical element to achieve sharp definition over the maximum aperture, thanks to ZYGO's aspheric generator.
A priority for ZYGO has always been to build world class optical fabrication facilities for producing the highest precision plano surfaces.
ZYGO began as a maker of optical components of unparalleled high quality. The tradition continues with these planar amplifiers for high energy lasers.
laser Fizeau interferometer for testing optical components as an additional product line to supplement the fabrication business. The "Interferometer System Model GH" brochure issued on December 6, 1972 describes the product's unique operating features: interchangeable reference flats, a quick and easy setup, simultaneous viewing and photography, and an unrestricted test workspace. The system could "...perform virtually all the measurements required of coated and uncoated optical components, surfaces, and systems."
In 1977, ZYGO introduced ZIPP – the ZYGO Interference Pattern Processor – as the first commercially available method of quantitative interferogram data reduction, either from an interference pattern displayed on a video monitor or from a Polaroid® print.
ZMI product line continues this legacy, with ZYGO-built stabilized lasers and proprietary acousto-optic crystal modulators, complex optical systems for simultaneous monitoring of linear displacement, tilt and tip angle, and high-speed electronics capable of monitoring reticle and wafer stage motions with nanometer precision at speeds of several meters per second.
white-light microscopes liberated the technique from these constraints, making it possible to measure nearly any surface type. ZYGO's first coherence scanning system, the NewView™ 100, measured machined, ground, or highly textured surfaces as well as super-polished surfaces with speed and precision. By the beginning of the 2000's, ZYGO was pioneering the application of high precision non-contact interferometry for automotive components, improving fuel efficiency and reducing air pollution in manufacturing environments previously considered inappropriate for such instruments. The product line has continued to grow and there are now thousands of ZYGO optical profilers installed worldwide, addressing markets from semiconductor manufacturing to precision machining.
Electro-Optics Group based in Irvine, California. The project history of the E-O Group includes beam line optics for the first laser-based corneal cutting equipment, a 3D imaging system for teeth, and athermal polychromatic imaging lenses. The E-O Group developed one the earliest examples of a high-performance mixed reality system – the advanced helmet mounted display (AHMD). – which overlays computer-generated scenery on the real-world environment in flight simulator applications In addition to these achievements, the ZYGO E-O Group today is the single largest supplier of telescopes for compact, space-based, earth imaging satellites.
Mx™ platform for all the interferometric metrology products. The flagship Nexview™ interference microscope significantly expanded the range of applications for optical non-contact metrology on complex structures, including surface on additive manufacturing components and partially-transparent thin-film layers.
The ZYGO Compass™ RT system measures the aspheric shape of microlenses as well as key relational parameters such as tilt and decenter.
Extreme Precision Optics (EPO) Division was formed in 2010 from former ASML assets in Richmond, California. EPO produces some of the most accurately-made optical components in the world, from EUV projection lenses for lithography to the test masses for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO).
This small optical sensor is part of the ZPS absolute position measurement system.
After the retirement of the Founders, it was time for ZYGO to look to the next generation of leadership and position itself for the future. In 2014, ZYGO joined the Ultra Precision Technologies Division of AMETEK. The UPT Division includes sister metrology companies Taylor Hobson, Solartron, Reichert and Creaform, as well as precision engineering leaders Precitech, Sterling Ultra Precision and TMC. The ZYGO tradition continues with new products and innovations, building on a solid tradition while enjoying mutually-beneficial collaborations with its new AMETEK sister companies.
From the beginning, ZYGO's business plan has been founded on the ambition to take on the tough problems that address critical unmet needs in industry. In Sol's words, "We can do it... There are no boundaries, there are no limitations." This means hiring top-notch employees, including leading engineers that can drive new solutions from idea to product introduction. The patent literature has over 8,200 citations to ZYGO's portfolio of 375 issued US patents. Scientific journals, textbooks and conference proceedings includes hundreds of papers, book chapters and review articles authored by ZYGO employees. ZYGO scientists are actively engaged in professional societies, standards committees, university collaborations, and professional publication activities in applied optics and precision manufacturing disciplines.
From small beginnings grew a company that is today a recognized institution in precision optics fabrication and interferometric metrology. The ZYGO name has become synonymous with instruments that measure surface form and texture, and optical components and systems that define the state of the art. ZYGO has also stayed true to the idea of forming a bridge between international markets and centers of excellence worldwide. The mission of the company continues to be to "enable customer success by delivering innovative precision optical and metrology solutions." This spirit remains strong as we set our sights on the challenges ahead. It's amazing to think that after 50 years, we still feel like we're just getting started.
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