Optics design means designing a lens in order to meet a specific set of requirements, where both cost and fabrication limits are taken into account. Optics design is also known as optical design.
What is optical engineering?
Optical engineering is the field of study which focuses on applications of optics. It deals with optics design for instruments such as microscopes, telescopes and lenses. Other prominent optical engineering applications include optical sensors and measurement systems, like lasers and fiber optics communications systems.
An optical engineer designs and builds systems which manipulate light by applying knowledge of optics. Optical engineers use specialized optical software for optical design.
Optical design software
There is a wide range of professional optics design software, including:
- Zemax OpticStudio
- Autodesk Inventor
- MathWorks MATLAB
- Lambda Research Corporation TracePro
- Synopsys Code V
Optical design: performance requirements
Optics design is based on performance requirements, ranging from optical performance to environmental requirements:
- Optical performance (image quality): quantified by metrics like encircled energy, modulation transfer function, ghost reflection control and aberration control, among other metrics.
- Physical requirements: quantified by metrics like weight, volume, center of gravity and overall configuration requirements.
- Environmental requirements: e.g. pressure, vibration shielding, temperature range and electromagnetic shielding.
There are numerous design constraints, some examples:
- Edge thickness
- Maximum constraints on entrance angles
- Maximum constraints on exit angles
- Minimum and maximum air-spaces between lenses
- Index of refraction properties
- Dispersion properties
Then there are also manufacturing costs and delivery schedules which play a role in the optics design process.
Cost effective optics design
As an optical engineer you want to create new products, while on budget and within the allocated time-frame. As a designer you know how powerful optical design software can be. However, it is still just a tool. Interpretation of optimized results is just as important as the input of correct information. With growing demands optical engineers need to take many factors into consideration, in order to make sure the final product can be successfully marketed. Designers will need to be aware of nuances in fabrication, assembly and coating. No software takes all these variables into account, so prototyping, validating and optimizing optics is inevitable.
Mistakes to avoid when designing optics
As an optical engineer you want to make cost-effective novel products, what is the best method to reduce costs and optimize performance? Let us first take a closer look at some of the mistakes to avoid when designing optics.
One of the things to keep an eye on is to avoid too many iterations. Most methods are time-consuming and thus cost a lot. Manufacturing prototypes and iterating on these prototypes can be a costly hassle. Make sure you pick a prototype manufacturing method which enables you to iterate your design in a cost-effective manner.
Tolerancing and Optimization
Tolerancing and optimization with optical systems can be done most effectively in a computer, versus in a lab. This makes it faster and more cost-effective to find the right tolerances for your project. Once you have figured out the tolerances, you can build an optics design that takes these tolerances into consideration and leaves some room for adjustments. Optical simulations are a must in order for this to be done successfully.
(Backward) Ray tracing
If you have light going somewhere where it is not needed, you can figure out where that light comes from in your product. Light rays travel the same path forward as they do backward. This make backward ray tracing a viable solution to avoid costly mistakes in the design process.
Prototyping in order to reduce design costs
Once tolerancing and ray tracing is completed you might want to get your hands on a physical product in order to optimize further. Unfortunately, most prototyping methods have long lead times and are not cost-effective. However, we propose a different solution. Our manufacturing method enables you to have your optics within only a couple of days (instead of weeks). Best of all, you can easily create many variations for your optic, so you can test which optical design works best. Utilize the full potential of rapid prototyping of optics with our unique manufacturing service.
We ship ready to use optical prototypes which we can deliver in only 10 working days due to an innovative production process. All our services are competitively priced so you can take advantage of the competitive benefit of shorter lead times. And there’s more; because of our unique manufacturing process we can handle last minute changes and still deliver your products on time.
Are you looking for a company that can help you with both optical prototyping and series production? Reach out to us to discuss your project.