Five Important Things to Consider when Constructing an Optical Design

The use of ray tracing software is common when creating an optical design. But, the software presents some challenges. When you buy or make the optical components, you must look for a way to mount, assemble, and align the system. When constructing optical design, it is important to include considerations for mechanical design, assembly, and alignment to save time and minimize the need for costly alterations and component redesign later. These considerations include the following:

Package Size and Weight

When planning how to mount optical components, consider the possible size or weight limitations it may drive the overall approach to the optics’ mounting design. Things such as limited amount of space, setting up prototype components on a breadboard with an entire tabletop, and how it is carried will limit the number of potential mounting and/or alignment options. You must also take into account where the object, image, and system stops are located and if you have to access them following the final assembly.

Is It a One-Time Assembly or Designed to be Reassembled?

If disassembly is not necessary, use adhesives or other permanent mounting methods. But, if disassembly is a must, consider how this will be carried out in advance. In case you will be swapping out parts, determine if you can easily access those components and if you have to maintain the component’s alignment.

Motion and Alignment Requirements

In a lot of cases, optical components should be aligned properly and adjusted during use to maintain the required design performance. As you make an optical design, think about the possibility of adjustments for decenter, axial motion, angular motion, and in when components like waveplates, polarizers, or diffraction gratings. These adjustments are necessary for individual components like the light source, the entire system, or the camera.

Stray Light

Stray light in the optical design can lead to many problems such as ghost images, glass failure, and reduced image contrast. Typically, standard ray-tracing software comes with some level of first-order stray light analysis you can use for assessment if you have to deal with stray light in the application of optics.

Environmental Impacts

When you design an optical system using modeling software, the system is likely to see a lot of adverse environmental conditions that include acceleration, stress, vibration, and temperature fluctuations. In fact, it may have to operate underwater or in another substance. While the majority of optical design programs can stimulate some aspects, you will need more programs to complete environmental analysis.

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