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 not unusual to use more than one production method during the product development cycle. 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 production.
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. We recommend using a service like www.optics-sourcing.com to help you find the right partner.
Responsible optics producers respond within 1-2 days and provide information about their terms for quoting. The entire quotation process should take no more than 1-2 weeks. 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 a significant price break based on volume and you should provide the vendor with an estimate of your expected annual volume.
Depending on the lens, material, and production method, delivery times will range from 6 weeks to 6 months, so be sure to factor this into your product release schedule.
Need assistance designing a custom optic or imaging lens ? Learn more about our design services here.