Optical Design

Custom Optical Design and Assemblies Manufacturing in the UK

/Optical Design
Optical Design2019-10-04T16:10:51+01:00

Optical Lens Design/Consultancy

Kingsview Optical can offer a fully integrated mechanical and custom optical design/consultancy service in the UK. Our optics design team have worked across a wide range of industries over the years. In that time helping them to take concept ideas to fully working prototypes and then on to full scale production. We are also pleased to say that our design practices have been fully audited to the latest ISO 9001:2015.

If you are interested in our optical design services please get in touch and we would be happy to discuss it. You can download our optical design requirements template here. This document just gives you an idea of the type of information we will need to start looking at the project. If there are any questions on the form that you don’t know the answers to yet it is no problem. Just get in touch and we can go from there.

Optical design software

For custom optical design work it is important to have the right software packages. That is why our optical design engineers have access to Zemax and Solidworks software packages.

Zemax is one of the most recognized lens design software on the market. It allows us to have the upmost confidence in what is being designed achieving what is manufactured in reality. This leads to savings in the design cycle as well as reducing your time to market. Zemax allows tolerance analysis to be performed giving you an understanding of actual production performance. Optical design drawings can also be created giving the optical manufacturing engineer all of the information needed.

Solidworks is seen as by many as the industry standard for computer aided design. This really helps with the optomechanics as the optical lens design can be taken directly from Zemax. This is a great help in achieving the highest accuracies where sometimes to the micron precision is important.

Optical design engineering

At Kingsview we pride ourselves on having first hand experience of the complete optical production process. This means we design with manufacturing at the forefront of our mind. This leads to a more economic design and better real world performance.

Zemax is a great software package but it is not a substitute for manufacturing experience. Some common problems we see a lot.

  • Incorrect glass choice

There are hundreds of different optical glasses out there but they don’t behave the same and they certainly don’t cost the same. All optical glasses process slightly differently.

Some are prone to cracking due to a change in temperature which is a problem as there are many instances in the manufacturing process that add heat.

Others are extremely soft which makes it difficult to keep a good surface finish and hold tight centre thickness tolerances.

Letting Zemax optimise your material choice it will usually pick the most expensive glass it can without thought for it’s production characteristics. This can lead to increases in production costs which aren’t necessary.

  • Overcomplicated designs

This happens when lens surfaces are added too quickly. The problem with adding more surfaces the tighter your lens tolerances need to be. As the deviation from the normal start to multiply the performance can drop off a cliff if not met.

This results in higher costs as the number of optical components, metalwork and assembly time go up. If the complexity gets too much and the tolerances get too tight for a manufacturer to hold consistently this actually gives you worse real world performance but still at that high price.

The key is knowing what is good enough and what is manufacturable. There are actually times where it is better to have slightly worse theoretical performance that is met 95% of a production run then one that is slightly higher where in production only 20% are acceptable.

  • Lens geometry not suitable to manufacture

Zemax can tell you what is a perfect design but it can’t tell you if it can be manufactured or to what tolerance is possible.

Some lenses with small edge thicknesses can be a particular problem as lenses are generally manufactured to a bigger diameter and final edged and centred last. So a steep bivex lens might have to be manufactured to a knife edge leading to chipping and an increase in rejects.

Large diameter lenses with thin centre thicknesses can cause problems holding tight irregularity tolerances.

Very shallow radii are extremely difficult to hold tight radii tolerances on.

These just offer a snapshot of some of some of the potential difficulties for the manufacturer if not allowed for in the design. Most of them are common sense but if you don’t have experience of manufacture you don’t see these potential problems.

Project Roadmap

Initial Discussions

The first stage of the project is to get a better understanding of what exactly you are requiring. If you don’t know what information is required a optical design requirement template can be found here. This document gives an idea on the sort of questions we will need to know to move forward with the project. Some of these questions might not be relevant to your project or you don’t know the answers yet it no problem get in touch and we can guide you on it. At this stage if you want to get an NDA signed and in place that is no problem.

Feasibillity

The next stage is to start formulating a project scope of your requirements. Design simulations will be run through the software to see what will be required and how close we can get to your objectives. Once a good idea of what can be achieved has been established a formal project scope will be written with the high level requirements detailed. This document will be used to evaluate the final design to assess whether the project has been met or not. This is why this document will have to be approved by the customer and it is important it details everything the customer requires.

Detailed Design

With the project scope finalised and agreed the real design work will begin. Zemax optical design software will be used to generate the lens layout that meets the requirements. Then this can be imported into Solidworks to wrap the metalwork around it. The tolerance analysis will then be completed with optical design drawings created. Once the design has been finalised a design review will be carried out making sure all of the agreed requirements have been met. This is an important milestone because it reduces the chances of the design not meeting the set out goals saving time and money.

Prototype production

Once the design  has been finalised the prototype batch will be manufactured here at our site in the UK. The lens will then be assembled and tested to make sure it meets the agreed scope.

Deliverables

The customer can then decide how they want to progress. You can choose to purchase the design rights this will include us supplying the optical drawings and mechanics. Alternatively we can also offer a price to supply finished assemblies of the customers chosen batch size.

Why choose us?

The advantage we have is all parts of the optical design team and the manufacturing are in the same building. Communication is vital as all parts of the team can work together and understand what each side is trying to achieve. As a result we can come to solutions that work but also that are sensible to manufacture. This is key in achieving the shortest possible project times.

Over the years we have worked on a wide range of projects for customers including Mahle Engine Systems and NPL. We have worked on a couple of projects for the Crick institute. They wrote a scientific paper on a project that we were involved with the optics on which you can find here.

We just encourage you to get in touch with your aims of the project. If you need an NDA in place it is no problem and hopefully we can work with you to get your ideas to working prototypes.

For inquiries please send an email to [email protected] and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.