Optical lens design

Optical lens design

Optical lens design refers to the calculation of lens construction parameters (variables) that will meet a set of performance requirements and constraints, including cost and schedule limitations.

Construction parameters include surface profile types (spherical, aspheric, holographic, diffractive, etc.), and the parameters for each surface type such as radius of curvature, distance to the next surface, glass type and optionally tilt and decenter.


Design requirements

Performance requirements can include:

  1. Optical performance, i.e., image quality: quantified by encircled energy, modulation transfer function, Strehl ratio, ghost reflection control, and pupil performance (size, location and aberration control); the choice of the image quality metric is application specific.
  2. Physical requirements such as weight, static volume, dynamic volume, center of gravity and overall configuration requirements.
  3. Environmental requirements: ranges for temperature, pressure, vibration and electromagnetic shielding.

Design constraints can include realistic lens element center and edge thicknesses, minimum and maximum air-spaces between lenses, maximum constraints on entrance and exit angles, physically realizable glass index of refraction and dispersion properties.

Manufacturing costs and delivery schedules are also a major part of optical design. The price of an optical glass blank of given dimensions can vary by a factor of fifty or more, depending on the size, glass type, index homogeneity quality, and availability, with BK7 usually being the cheapest. Costs for larger and/or thicker optical blanks of a given material, above 100mm to 150mm or so, usually increase faster than what would be proportional to just the increase in physical volume. This is primarily due to increased blank annealing time required to achieve acceptable index homogeneity and internal stress birefringence levels throughout the blank volume. Availability of glass blanks is driven by how frequently a particular glass type is mixed and poured by a given manufacturer, and can seriously affect manufacturing cost and schedule.


Lenses can first be designed using paraxial theory to position images and pupils, then real surfaces inserted and optimized. Paraxial theory can be skipped in simpler cases and the lens directly optimized using real surfaces. Lenses are first designed using average index of refraction and dispersion (see Abbe number) properties published in the glass manufacturer's catalog and though glass model calculations. However, the properties of the real glass blanks will vary from this ideal; index of refraction values can vary by as much as 0.0003 or more from catalog values, and dispersion can either remain about the same or vary slightly. These changes in index and dispersion can sometimes be enough to affect the lens focus location and imaging performance in highly corrected systems.

The lens blank manufacturing process is as follows:

  1. The glass batch ingredients for a desired glass type are mixed together in a powder state,
  2. the powder mixture is melted together in a furnace,
  3. the fluid is further mixed while molten to maximize batch homogeneity,
  4. poured into lens blanks and
  5. annealed according to empirically determined time-temperature schedules.

The glass blank pedigree, or "melt data", can be determined for a given glass batch by making small precision prisms from various locations in the batch and measuring their index of refraction on a spectrometer, typically at five or more wavelengths. Lens design programs have curve fitting routines that can fit the melt data to a selected dispersion curve, from which the index of refraction at any wavelength within the fitted wavelength range can be calculated. A re-optimization, or "melt re-comp", can then be performed on the lens design using measured index of refraction data where available. When manufactured, the resulting lens performance will more closely match the desired requirements than if average glass catalog values for index of refraction were assumed.

Delivery schedules are impacted by glass and mirror blank availability and lead times to acquire, the amount of tooling a shop must fabricate prior to starting on a project, the manufacturing tolerances on the parts (tighter tolerances mean longer fab times), the complexity of any optical coatings that must be applied to the finished parts, further complexities in mounting or bonding lens elements into cells and in the overall lens system assembly, and any post-assembly alignment and quality control testing and tooling required. Tooling costs and delivery schedules can be reduced by using existing tooling at any given shop wherever possible, and by maximizing manufacturing tolerances to the extent possible.

Lens optimization

Optical design is partly a science because ray paths and wavefront structure can be very accurately calculated anywhere along the propagation path through the lens. Glass and coating optical properties can be measured and modeled with sufficient precision for use in lenses. If tolerances are included during the design, parts can usually be manufactured accurately enough that the resulting lens assembly performs acceptably close to the paper design.

Optical design is also partly an art, though, as the multi-dimensional design space within which a constrained lens design is free to roam is literally beyond human imagination if more than a few construction parameters are free to vary. The number, type and placement of optical elements are partly driven by physical requirements, but are also often based on previous similar designs obtained from published data, patents and textbooks. Skill and intuition in lens design are acquired over years of experience spanning hundreds to thousands of different lens design projects, preferably leading to additional experiences (and headaches) dealing with fabricating and aligning systems.

As an example of the complexity of lens-design space, a simple two-element air-spaced lens has nine variables (four radii of curvature, two thicknesses, one airspace thickness, and two glass types). Even for this simplest case, the design space is thus nine-dimensional, and local or global solutions within this space can at least be imagined as smaller or larger bubbles in a sponge-like 9-D foam-scape. A complex multi-configuration lens corrected over a wide spectral band and field of view, at multiple zoomed focal lengths and over a realistic temperature range, can have an extremely complex design volume, having over a hundred dimensions.

Lens optimization techniques that can navigate this multi-dimensional space and proceed to local minima have been studied since the 1940s, beginning with early work by James G. Baker, and later by D. Feder,[1] Wynne,[2] Glatzel, D. Grey[3] and others. Prior to the advent of digital computers, lens design was an agonizingly slow hand-calculation process requiring high-precision trigonometric and logarithmic tables, reams of paper, plotting 2-D cuts through the multi-dimensional space, and significant patience and understudying from previous masters. Tracing a single ray through a given lens surface could take more than an hour of painstaking calculations and checks, and a lens designer could not design more than a very few complex, high-performance anastigmatic objectives in an entire lifetime.

Modern desktop computers can now raytrace tens to hundreds of millions of rays per second through a lens, and perform hundreds to thousands of optimization cycles per second, rapidly exploring the n-dimensional design volume including hill-climbing in and out of local minima in the search for the best solution.

However, even with lightning-fast optimizers, seasoned experience is still needed to guide solution trajectories through unacceptably shallow local minima and achieve the desired performance requirements. Experience in the mechanical and physical properties of glass, metals, optical coatings and bonding materials is also needed, especially in systems required to give high sustained performance over wide temperature ranges and harsh environmental conditions.

See also


  1. ^ D.P. Feder, "Automatic Optical Design," Appl. Opt. 2, 1209-1226 (1963).
  2. ^ C. G. Wynne and P. Wormell, "Lens Design by Computer," Appl. Opt. 2:1223-1238 (1963).
  3. ^ Grey, D.S., "The Inclusion of Tolerance Sensitivities in the Merit Function for Lens Optimization", SPIE Vol. 147, pp. 63-65, 1978
  • Smith, Warren J., Modern Lens Design, McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1992, ISBN 0-07-059178-4
  • Kingslake, Rudolph, Lens Design Fundamentals, Academic Press, 1978
  • Shannon, Robert R., The Art and Science of Optical Design, Cambridge University Press, 1997.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем написать курсовую

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Optical engineering — is the field of study that focuses on applications of optics. Optical engineers design components of optical instruments such as lenses, microscopes, telescopes, and other equipment that utilizes the properties of light. Other devices include… …   Wikipedia

  • Lens (optics) — For other uses, see Lens. A lens. Lenses can be used to focus light. A lens is an optical device with perfect or approximate axial symmetry which tra …   Wikipedia

  • Optical fiber — A bundle of optical fibers A TOSLINK fiber optic audio c …   Wikipedia

  • Optical amplifier — An optical amplifier is a device that amplifies an optical signal directly, without the need to first convert it to an electrical signal. An optical amplifier may be thought of as a laser without an optical cavity, or one in which feedback from… …   Wikipedia

  • Optical tweezers — (originally called single beam gradient force trap ) are scientific instruments that use a highly focused laser beam to provide an attractive or repulsive force (typically on the order of piconewtons), depending on the refractive index mismatch… …   Wikipedia

  • Lens speed — refers to the maximum aperture diameter, or minimum f number, of a photographic lens. A lens with a larger maximum aperture (that is, a smaller minimum f number) is a fast lens because it delivers more light intensity (illuminance) to the focal… …   Wikipedia

  • Optical disc — Optical media redirects here. For transmission media for light, see Medium (optics). The optical lens of a compact disc drive. In computing and optical disc recording technologies, an optical disc is a flat, usually circular disc which encodes… …   Wikipedia

  • Optical microscope — Microscope Uses Small sample observation Notable experiments Discovery of cells Inventor Hans Lippershey Zacharias Jans …   Wikipedia

  • Fabrication and testing of optical components — Optical fabrication and testing spans an enormous range of manufacturing procedures and optical test configurations. The manufacture of a conventional spherical lens typically begins with the generation of the optic s rough shape by grinding a… …   Wikipedia

  • Optical Society of America — The Optical Society of America (OSA) is a scientific society dedicated to advancing the study of light optics and photonics in theory and application, by means of worldwide research, scientific publishing, conferences and exhibitions, partnership …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”