There are many times when a standard model of optical equipment will not perform the functions need for a particular application, such as in certain types of surgery, diagnostic procedures, electronics, security and surveillance, astronomy, military use, and other specialized uses. In this case, a custom manufacturer must be found that can make the custom optics to your particular specifications, or even help you design custom optics from the ground up.
Some examples where custom optics may need to be designed and manufactured can include:
- bar-code, passport and ID scanning lenses
- automotive rear-view cameras, and car license-plate readers
- provide a 360º field of view panoramas, using multiple imaging devices
- very small fish-eye lenses
- non-standard sized HDTV lenses
- ultra-zoom lenses for security applications
- endoscope lenses with non-standard fields of view
- very small video conferencing lenses
- specialty photography and imaging
- military optical components
Custom Optics – There are Many Stages Involved in Developing
There are many stages involved in developing custom optics. The first stage is coming up with a prototype. Glass optics is usually fabricated using jigs and templates, and involves grinding, polishing, and other precise operations. Then various types of coatings need to be considered, such as for use in scratch-resistance, anti-fogging, UV screening, etc…. Once the unit has been made, it must be subjected to rigorous testing, under a variety of conditions. Then the results are evaluated, and if necessary, corrections are made, and another unit is fabricated and tested once again. When they are satisfied, the unit then is shown to the customer for approval. Once approval is granted, the unit then goes into full-scale production. Custom optics will usually require special plastic fittings and housings. Jigs and tooling using must be fabricated to verify the manufacturing ability of the design and test the performance.
Once the design is tested, and the prototype optics approved, the tooling can be scaled up for full-production. Most custom optics will also require some mechanical optical components. These are prototyped using aluminum, matte-black finished to minimize reflection. Once the prototypes are fabricated, tested and approved, production can begin. In most cases, the aluminum components are adequate, but rarely, plastic versions will have to be made for particular uses.
Once a prototype has been fabricated, the entire assembly is subjected to vigorous testing under the actual conditions it will be operating under. To accomplish this, testing equipment and fixtures must be designed and made to hold the optic assemblies during testing. Tests on the final assemblies can include, but are not limited to:
- Optical performance
- Any other functional or cosmetic requirement.
Customizing optical equipment allows greater control over the efficiency and desired purpose of the required parameters of the unit. Precise readings and very precise optics are required both for proper imaging, calculations, and other applications. A small deviation could very well be a matter of life or death for someone. A very small optical error could result in serious calculation errors, not exactly something an astronaut orbiting the earth would be very keen on.