In the years since the founding of OFH, we've learned a few lessons about the process of designing optical products. Here are a few important ones to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t assume an off-the-shelf lens is the lowest cost option.
    • It's not uncommon to find  a custom lens saves money at production volumes as low as 25 units.
  2. Do make sure your mechanical engineer has a good understanding of optical tolerances
    • To manage design trade-offs, close collaboration between your optical engineer and opto-mechanical engineer is essential.
  3. Don’t forget to build into your schedule the time it takes to make custom optics.
    • Custom plastic imaging optics could take as much as 8 months (really!) for mold making, glass optics are more traditionally 8-10 weeks lead time. Depending on the material and requirements other options do exist for faster prototyping. 
  4. Don’t assume a Zemax designer who specializesin illumination will also be skilled in imaging designs.
    • Zemax is a powerful tool for designing optics, but it can take a long time to become proficient. An engineer who has mastered illumination design will not necessary also be as skilled at designing a camera lens.
  5. Do make sure you have a good understanding of key lens design trade-offs.
    • Over specifying your requirements will lead to a higher production costs
  6. Don't assume an off-the-shelf 5mp camera actually can deliver 5mp of image quality.
    • The sensor might be 5mp but if the lens has  a low quality the system will too.
  7. Do get multiple lens manufacturing quotes. 
    • We've see quotes for the same part in the same volume, have a 10x price difference from one vendor to another.
  8. Do make sure you consider thermal and environmental stress in your design.
    • Depending on the tolerances for your system and the materials used, changes in temperature could degrade optical performance.
  9. Don't  assume a 'final design' is 'final' until you have sign off from a manufacturer. 
    • Different lens vendors prefer different glasses and use different assembly methods. It isn't unusual for last minute changes to be required.
  10. Do look for engineering partners who can deliver turnkey systems including optics, mechanics and electronics. 
    • There is a close interplay between opto-electronics, opto-mechanics and optics, having a partner capable of all three reduces the risk of conflict down the road.