Mar 11, 2020

Automatic conversion of optical designs into CAD parts accelerates manufacturability

Category: Product News
Automatic conversion of optical designs into CAD parts accelerates manufacturability

As you may know, Zemax recently launched a new product called OpticsBuilder, which enables CAD users — such as mechanical engineers and optomechanical engineers — to develop better products more quickly and with greater design fidelity. OpticsBuilder does this by helping users convert optical designs more efficiently, analyze how their packaging impacts optical performance, and create optical drawings for export to manufacturing. In this blog post, we showcase one of the features that’s getting a lot of positive attention, namely the flawless conversion of lens design data from OpticStudio into native CAD parts in OpticsBuilder.

Challenge: Time wasted manually converting optical designs to CAD formats

Because optical engineers and optomechanical engineers work in disparate software programs, optical designs need to be converted to CAD parts in order to begin the mechanical packaging design phase, as well as to ensure accuracy of the packaging. This requires manually recreating optical designs within the CAD environment, a process which can take hours if not days — and which needs to be repeated whenever starting a new project. The burden on CAD users is significant, impeding their ability to quickly produce the highest-quality packaging designs.

* Solution: Automated, push-button conversion of lens design data to CAD

Through smooth integration with OpticStudio, OpticsBuilder automatically converts design data to CAD parts. Here’s how it works. (Note that OpticsBuilder is currently available for SOLIDWORKS, with a Creo version releasing in May. Both require the use of OpticStudio release 20.1.)

OpticsBuilder sits within SOLIDWORKS. A feature in OpticStudio called Prepare for OpticsBuilder saves the optical designs in a format called a .ZBD file. The .ZBD filetype is a powerhouse, providing everything the OpticsBuilder user needs, including a .ZAR file, sequential and non-sequential designs, a set of critical rays, intended paths, ISO 10110 drawing data, and more. Prepare for OpticsBuilder maintains the design fidelity intended by the optical engineer through hand-off to optical team members.

* After December 31, 2021 OpticsBuilder for SolidWorks is no longer available.

Sample file conversion

Launch Video

This video depicts the automatic conversion of an optical design file saved in the .ZBD format from OpticStudio into OpticsBuilder. The sample file is a Heliar camera lens example. Note that OpticsBuilder is creating the geometries for each of the components in the optical design. And it isn’t simply loading the .ZBD file but instead converting the optical data using the SOLIDWORKS API, which then makes calls to create all of the components into native CAD parts. To generate all of these items manually within CAD might take hours, but within OpticsBuilder it takes about a minute. 

Note also that, at the end of the conversion, OpticsBuilder populates the critical rays that were sent from OpticStudio, so that the CAD user can begin designing the packaging right away without needing to run an initial simulation. These critical rays may be turned off or on with the click of a button at any point during the design phase.

As shown in the video, OpticsBuilder eliminates the need to recreate optical geometry. This saves valuable time, allowing users to get to the design phase faster without errors that can be introduced manually. And optical fidelity is maintained through the loading of the entire optical design, including lens materials, positions, sources, wavelengths, and detectors. Mechanical engineers can design packaging faster by being able to easily view boundary rays and by using mathematically-driven optical geometry.

Check out our webinar for more about OpticsBuilder

Zemax Product Manager Lisa Clauson and Zemax Product Marketing Micah Merek recently hosted a 30-minute webinar where they provided an in-depth discussion of the fast and flawless conversion of optical designs in OpticsBuilder, as well as other key features. Please register to view the webinar, or explore the resources on our OpticsBuilder page.