March 06, 2018

Virtual prototyping goes beyond the lens: It's the mechanical components too

Virtual prototyping goes beyond the lens: It's the mechanical components too

Virtual prototyping is about validating a design before creating a physical prototype, and it’s the standard today for optical product development as it can make or break a product’s success. But not all virtual prototyping is created equal. While an optical engineer may be interested in just the lens and the mechanical engineer may be interested in just the mechanical components, in order to incur real cost and timeline savings, virtual prototyping must be viewed holistically as being about the lens and the mechanical components. Companies that are using modern virtual prototyping in this way are seeing huge savings in product development time.

Virtual prototyping is not a new concept. “Decades ago, a drafting board and a slide rule were used to draw up an optical design and technically, that was a virtual prototype,” says Dan Hamann, Zemax Chief Revenue Officer. “Over the last 30 years there has been an incremental digital journey to improve the accuracy and efficiency in designing optics, and those companies on the cutting edge of these changes have enjoyed a competitive advantage, but in the last six years, there's been an exponential change in what is expected from a virtual prototype in all industries. Those companies that are up to date in virtual prototyping are also exponentially more competitive, and are seeing massive benefits over those that are not.”

Challenges companies face bringing optical designs to market

No matter what type of product a company is designing, from virtual reality headsets to cell phone cameras to biomedical imaging devices to heads-up displays, a major concern is time to market. The cost of the product is contingent upon getting to market on time in hyper-competitive industries. So, companies face tight schedules with a “must be right the first time” mandate and the competition breathing down their necks.

How modern virtual prototyping addresses these challenges

Virtual prototyping helps companies get to market faster because it lets companies conduct simulations to catch and correct errors earlier in the process and arrive at a high-confidence physical prototype, so they won’t get stuck in the product development cycle and burn through manpower hours and budgets. But many software providers that claim to do virtual prototyping aren’t offering a complete package: They virtually prototype the lens system only.

Zemax Virtual Prototyping is the only software that lets you simulate the entire optical product. That includes the optics side and mechanical components—and seeing how it all works together. Getting this view of the entire product lowers the number of failed physical prototypes, with their one-off custom-built parts that are very expensive to produce.

Companies that are using the most modern virtual prototyping solutions are the ones that are most successful, most profitable, and serving their customers the best. They're the ones that get to market faster. They're the ones that make sure that their products are offered at a reasonable cost that their customers will pay. “If you’re not virtually prototyping the entire product, both optical and mechanical, then you’re not up to date,” says Hamann. “And you do have to worry about whether your competitors are doing that are not—whether they will get to market faster or not as a result.”

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