Coating of plastic optics

Individual functionalization of plastic optical surfaces


The processes used for coating glasses are not easily transferable to plastic optical components. The special properties of polymers must be taken into account, e.g., water and gas exchange with the environment, expansion coefficients and interactions with high-energy radiation.

Along with the optical performance (usually as an antireflective function, AR, antireflection coating), the adaptation of intrinsic layer properties plays a decisive role in this context. Additional functions such as higher scratch resistance, antifingerprint or antifog properties are often requested and incorporated into the coating development.

Your partner for coatings on plastics

Our team has been successfully developing optical and functional coatings for a wide variety of polymers and requirements for more than 25 years.

The entire process development is covered, ranging from coating design and manufacturing to the characterization of coated components, such as climate stability testing. At Fraunhofer IOF, standard plasma-assisted deposition equipment is available, making the processes easily transferable to industry.


Our services and expertise


We offer our customers a wide range of polymer-specific coatings for plastic optics made of PMMA, polycarbonate, Zeonex, polyamide, CR-39, Iupizeta EP, OKP, silicones and many others.

The range of services includes advising industry on the development and enhancement of coatings, including the investigation of failure mechanisms.

Broadband antireflective coating systems incorporating AR-plas® nanostructures are one of the key areas. Licenses and trainings are offered for various coating designs and processes.

Diagrams for antireflection coating of plastics
© Fraunhofer IOF
1 - Polycarbonate Makrolon with AR-hard® Entspiegelung. 2 - ZeonexE48R with AR-plas® structuring. 3 - PMMA with AR-structuring AR-plas®.

Nanostructured antireflection coating by plasma etching processes


Antireflection coating using plasma IAD coating


Further functionalization of surfaces

Scientist examines anti-reflective structures using a scanning electron microscope.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Analyzing antireflective structures with a scanning electron microscope (SEM).

Markets and applications for coated plastic optics


Plastic optics are used in many different industries and applications. These include the markets of consumer electronics, automotive industry, medical technology, display technology and lighting. Our customers address the following application areas:

  • Antireflection coating of lenses for miniaturized cameras
  • Multifunctional coating systems for eyeglass lenses
  • Scratch-resistant antireflection coatings for LIDAR and display covers
  • Beam splitter coatings for head-up displays
  • Antireflective coatings with antifog function for lighting and transparent windows
  • Antireflective coatings for laser optics
  • Reflector coatings on plastics
  • and much more ...
3D exploded view of a smartphone camera with the multiple lens setup.
© stock.adobe
AR-plas2 antireflection coatings significantly reduce flare on smartphone camera lenses and increase the overall transmission.
Amature board in the car with different anti-reflective plastic windows.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Display on the left: Uncoated glass Display on the right: The AR-hard® coating increases the transmission of the polycarbonate display cover and simultaneously improves scratch resistance.
Partially antireflection coated plastic lens for headlights in vehicles.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Partially antireflection coated plastic lens for headlights in vehicles.

Your advantages of working with us


For more than 25 years, our work has been based on systematic materials research and on the continuous development of technologies. All processes are developed for modern industrial plant technology, which enables short and reliable transfers to industry. For our patented processes we offer licenses specially adapted for your application.

Technical equipment for the coating of plastic optics

AR-plas®/ AR-plas2 optical coatings and nanostructured antireflection coatings are manufactured by means of plasma IAD. Two vacuum deposition systems are available for this purpose, which also allow small-scale production series. Hydrophobic nanolayers (top coatings) can be produced with another special evaporation system.

The coating processes are very well suited for plane as well as curved optical parts with a size of up to about 250 mm and a tilt angle of up to 50°. For complex shaped 3D parts, ALD is a suitable process.

Plasma ion source and electron beam gun for coating optical components.
© Fraunhofer IOF
The advanced plasma source APS is used to support vapor deposition on polymers.

Our research strength


Research reports

The articles in the annual report show, among other things, the research strength of our experts at Fraunhofer IOF. Every year, selected research results from the previous year (archive annual reports) are published in the annual report. You can find the articles on the development of coatings for plastic optics from the past years in the following list:

  • "Antireflection of polycarbonate for LIDAR applications" (Annual Report 2020, pages 66-67)
  • “AR-plas® antireflection of 3D-printed hybrid polymers” (Annual Report 2019, pages 42-43)
  • “Hybrid materials for the preparation of stochastic nanostructures” (Annual Report 2018, pages 52-53)
  • "Antireflection coating AR-plas2 for glass- and plastic lenses" (Annual Report 2017, pages 46-47)
  • "Organic-inorganic functional coatings by Co-Evaporation (ORKO)”(Annual Report 2016, pages 68-69)
  • “Broadband antireflection coatings for optical lenses” (Annual Report 2015, pages 64-65)

Full texts of research reports


Excellent scientific publications and patents

A large number of scientific results are published by our researchers in scientific journals and a wide variety of developments have already been successfully patented. We offer adapted licenses for our patented processes.

A list of scientific papers as well as patents on the functionalization of optical plastic surfaces can be found below:

Selection of scientific publications

Selection of patents

Scanning electron microscope image of a plastic optic coated with AR-plas2.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Scanning electron microscope image of a plastic optic coated with AR-plas2.

Do you have questions about our services?  

In a personal meeting, we will advise you on our (individual) range of services and our core competencies. Please contact us. 

Are you interested in a cooperation? Contact us!

We develop special and visionary solutions - tailored to the needs and wishes of our customers. Let us talk about your idea(s).


You would like to work with us?
Then apply with us!

We are always looking for creative minds and committed people who want to develop innovative solutions with light together with us. Visit our job portal or send us a speculative application: