Abstract

The demand for reaction-bonded silicon carbide (RB-SiC) mirrors has escalated recently with the rapid development of space optical remote sensors used in astronomy or Earth observation. However, RB-SiC is difficult to machine due to its high hardness. This study intends to perform ductile mode grinding to RB-SiC, which produces superior surface integrity and fewer subsurface damages, thus minimizing the workload of subsequent lapping and polishing. For this purpose, a modified theoretical model for grain depth of cut of grinding wheels is presented, which correlates various processing parameters and the material characteristics (i.e., elastic module) of a wheel’s bonding matrix and workpiece. Ductile mode grinding can be achieved as the grain depth of cut of wheels decreases to be less than the critical cut depth of workpieces. The theoretical model gives a roadmap to optimize the grinding parameters for ductile mode grinding of RB-SiC and other ultra-hard brittle materials. Its feasibility was validated by experiments. With the optimized grinding parameters for RB-SiC, the ductile mode grinding produced highly specular surfaces (with roughness of 2.22.8  nm Ra), which means the material removal mechanism of RB-SiC is dominated by plastic deformation rather than brittle fracture. Contrast experiments were also conducted on fused silica, using the same grinding parameters; this produced only very rough surfaces, which further validated the feasibility of the proposed model.

© 2017 Optical Society of America

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