Planning for manufacturing
The right time to start planning for production is at the start of an optical engineering project. Design is closely tied to manufacturing and early choices will be greatly impacted by the anticipated production method. It is also not unusual during the duration of product development cycle to use more than one production method. For example, one might design an early prototype using off-the-shelf lens elements, then switch to custom glass elements for low volume production and finally an injection molded design for high volume.
Selecting an optics producer
Optics manufacturers are often highly specialized and finding the right vendor can be difficult. Vendors may specialize in certain materials (glass, plastic, crystal) production processes (molding, grinding), sizes and volume. To help find the right partner we recommend using a service like www.optics-sourcing.com.
Responsible optics producers respond within 1-2 days and provide information about their terms for quoting. The entire quotation process should takes no more then 1-2 weeks, however it is common for vendors to ask questions about you and your company or about the design.
After identifying potential production partners you may be asked to update your design to better match a vendor’s production or assembly method. Vendor A may request two elements be glued together while vendor B may insist they be screwed together, vendor C might request to use a different glass type and require a new optical simulation.
You will also want to discuss in detail the quality control and acceptance test procedures used by each vendor.
It is a good policy to request quotes from at least three vendors to provide a better understanding of possible pricing. In recent projects we have seen pricing for the same design and same volume vary by as much as 20 times! You will also see significant price break based on volume and should provide the vendor with an understanding of your expected annual volume.
Depending on the lens, material and production method delivery times will range for 6 weeks to 6 months, so be sure to factor this into your product release schedule.