How much does a custom lens cost?

Published by Optics for Hire.

A straight forward question but not one that’s easy to answer.

A glass lens with one element made in quantity 10, including NRE ( non recurring engineering) could cost $200 per unit. But that same lens made from injection molded plastic at volume 500,000 units could cost $0.20 per unit.

Here are some pricing guidelines to consider:

1.) Design costs: $1,500- $75,000

Design work includes optical design of the lens elements, creating the optical layout of elements, preparing tolerances, creating lens manufacturing drawings, developing an opto mechanical design and creating production drawings for the lens barrel and mechanical elements.

The design cost will be primarily driven by lens complexity ( is it a 1 element lens or a 12 element UV objective lens?) and requirements; including resolution, distortion, F#, field of view, wavelength range etc

2.) Tooling costs: $0- $30,000 per lens element

For plastic lens made from injection molding there generally is a tooling cost, cost drivers include application ( imaging lenses have tighter tolerances and therefor higher costs than illumination lenses) as well as volume ( a 8 cavity mold costs more than a 1 cavity mold)

For glass lenses depending on the vendor that can be no fee to a few hundred dollars per lens element.

3.) Lens production costs: $0.20 per unit to $75,000 per unit.

Cost drivers include materials, ( there can be wide range in prices for glasses with different optical characteristics), production tolerances on the lens elements, mechanical parts and their tolerances and assembly costs.