This section provides an overview for corner cubes as well as their applications and principles. Also, please take a look at the list of 10 corner cube manufacturers and their company rankings.
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A corner cube retroreflects incoming light and returns it in the direction of incidence. The reflected image is inverted. Unlike mirrors, which are retroreflective only at an angle of incidence of 0°, a corner cube is retroreflective even at large angles of incidence. This feature is frequently used for difficult optical-axis adjustment or to reduce working time. The corner cube has three reflective surfaces. The maximum allowable angle of incidence at which the phenomenon of total reflection of light can be obtained is theoretically limited to 5.7°.
Corner cubes are used as a reflector for laser-based length measuring machines. They were developed to measure the distance between the Moon and the Earth, and were installed on the lunar surface when the Apollo spacecraft landed on the Moon.
There are many things around us that make use of this property. The red reflector on the back of a bicycle and the orange or colorless reflectors on and beside roads comprise many very small reflectors. Recently, smaller sealed versions are also available.
There are two types of corner cubes: hollow and prismatic. The basic structure of both types is the same, using reflections on three surfaces.
The three surfaces are placed in an orthogonal relationship with each other. Let the three planes be xy-, yz-, and zx-planes, respectively. For example, when light is reflected in the xy-plane, only the z-component of the 3-dimensional vector components indicating the direction of light travel reverses sign, while the x- and y-components remain unchanged. Similarly, the sign of the x component is reversed for the yz-plane, and the sign of the y component is reversed for the zx-plane. Due to this property, rays of light reflected sequentially in the three planes will have the direction vector [a, b, c] reversed to [-a, -b, -c]. In other words, the light is returned in the direction from which it came. There are a total of six possible combinations of the order in which the incident rays are reversed, which is determined by the position of the incident rays. As a result, the signs of all components are reversed regardless of the order in which they are reflected.
Due to the "optical path difference" caused by the relative speeds of the observation station and the satellite, a reflector with a slightly different orthogonality is more effective than a reflector with an exact orthogonality. Many of the reflectors actually used on satellites have their orthogonality intentionally shifted.
*Including some distributors, etc.
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