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Prisms and corner cubes

Prisms are multi-faceted, solid optics which are used to redirect light. The light entering a prism may reflect off one or several surfaces before exiting, or it may be refracted as it passes through the material due to the varying thickness of the prism body. Light passing through a right angle prism reflects off a single surface and is redirected 90 degrees from the incoming beam.

A corner cube retroreflector is a prism which returns an incoming beam directly toward its point of origin, regardless of the beam’s angle of entry.  Corner cubes find widespread applications including satellite communications, surveying and range-finding and laser resonator cavities.

Manufacturers need to control both the surface quality of each face of a prism or corner cube as well as the relative angles between the faces. The challenges of measuring these optics are similar to those encountered when measuring flat optics: every facet in the optical path reflects some light back to the measurement system, resulting in a complex interferogram which is difficult or impossible to interpret. Measuring the front face of a prism proves particularly challenging as the extremely bright return signal can wash out the fringes altogether.

4D Technology’s AccuFiz SIS Fizeau laser interferometer uses a short coherence source that isolates the fringes for each face of a prism. Use the AccuFiz SIS to measure prism angles and faces—even the front face. The short coherence source also allows you to isolate fringes to measure corner cube surfaces, as well as measuring dihedral angle errors and retroreflection errors.

4Sight Software, included with all 4D interferometers, includes both corner cube and prism analyses that make it easy to characterize angles and faces of coated and uncoated prisms.

Added Technical Resources


Measuring a Corner Cube with AccuFiz

AccuFiz laser interferometer with 4Sight software makes it simple to characterize the errors in corner cubes, including angle error and retroreflection calculations.


Setting the Wedge Factor Tech Note

The Wedge Factor scales results to account for the geometry of an optical test setup. This tech note explains how to set the parameter for measuring wavefront error and surface height in common configurations.

Products for Prism & Corner Cube Measurement


Excels at fast, repeatable measurement of surface shape and transmitted wavefront error of flat and wedged optics. It is the most versatile Fizeau available, for any production environment.

AccuFiz SIS

Measures both sides of transparent, parallel optics as thin as 200 microns, surfaces in multi-surface optical systems, remote cavity test setups, and solid cavities such as etalons (laser rods).

Optical Profilers

NanoCam HD  systems measure surface roughness on coated and uncoated flats to ensure the quality of polishing processes. 

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