Software Packages Simplify Complex Optical System Design

Posted by Jason Wickersham on

Designing a custom optical system can be a daunting task, especially if it requires use of custom lenses not available from stock. Fortunately, several off-the-shelf software packages, including at least one new package that claims to offer enhanced capabilities, are available to make the job a little easier.

Specifying the light source

One frequently used light source specification package is Zemax optical and illumination design software, available from Radiant Zemax, LLC. The company’s newest product, Zemax 13 Release 2, provides easy access to a number of useful design tools including a stock lens matching tool, a BSDF (Bidirectional Scattering Distribution Function) material model library, and a 600+ Radiant Source Model online library with measured source data from more than 60 manufacturers in eight categories. The Radiant Source Model allows designers to access and download measurements of the spatial and angular characteristics of various light sources with accurate results given in both the near and far field. It also provides access to the online Radiant Source catalog of light sources, which is under constant development with new sources being added regularly. Additional features include a source spectrum library, comprehensive data on surface and bulk scattering materials, a number of example files and glass and lens catalogs from all leading manufacturers.

Designing custom lenses

OSLO (Optics Software for Layout and Optimization), available from Lambda Research Corporation, is a powerful lens design software package useful in determining the optimal sizes and shapes of the components in optical systems. In addition to classical lens design features, OSLO combines advanced ray tracing, analysis, and optimization methods with a high-speed macro language for developing specialized optics and lens design software tools for modeling, testing, and manufacturing optics systems. OSLO is designed to work seamlessly with the company’s TracePro software to provide a complete and comprehensive design environment.

Optica, an even more advanced system available from Optica Software, a Division of Barnhart Optical Research, is a new generation of optical design software. It offers unprecedented flexibility and builds upon the enormous repertoire of symbolic, numeric, and graphic capabilities in Mathematica, renowned as the world’s ultimate application for computations and the only development platform fully integrating computation into complete workflows. With its searchable component database of more than 6800 commercial optical parts, Optica permits design of optical systems faster than ever before and is not limited by predefined components, nor constrained by limited script languages.

Optica has a modular building-block architecture that enables easy addition of custom components such as aspheric lenses and custom surfaces, limited only by the designer’s imagination and the vast possibilities of Mathematica. If a component or analysis function doesn’t exist in Optica, the simple building-block architecture of Optica makes it easy to learn how to design it.

Fabricating custom lenses

But designing custom lenses is only the first step in building a custom optics system. Fabricating custom lenses can be even more challenging, especially if it involves working with not only standard optical glasses such as BK-7 and industrial, UV and IR-grade fused silica, but also exotic materials like Germanium (Ge), Zinc Selenide (ZnSe), Silicon (Si) and Zerodur™ among others. Esco Optics works with glasses from all major glass suppliers and manufacturers like Corning, Schott, Ohara, Tosoh, Hoya and others. and will be happy to work with you to fabricate custom lenses in quantities from a few to several thousand that precisely meet your needs and stay within your budget.

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