May 13, 2021
Join Zemax CTO in Celebrating the International Day of Light
As we celebrate the International Day of Light, there has never been a better time to recognize the role of optics and photonics in our daily life. Throughout the past year I have highlighted the important contributions of optics and photonics to the life sciences, specifically in the fight against COVID-19. Significant innovations in diagnostic and treatment have been – and will continue to be – driven by light-based tools.
For applications in the life sciences, consumer electronics, automotive, and more, optics and photonics are becoming increasingly essential to product and system manufacturing. This can be seen in a variety of ways. For example, as system size continues to shrink, traditional fabrication techniques often run into limitations, and technologies such as laser cutting and welding continue to gain traction as methods for creating sharper, cleaner parts. These laser systems can also be used for additive manufacturing and 3D printing, technologies that are playing a growing role in the rapid prototyping of custom components for complex, innovative applications. For systems in which the optics themselves are being driven to smaller and smaller sizes (e.g., cell phone lenses, mixed reality goggles, or 3D image sensors such as LiDAR), the use of 3D printing technologies and plastic molds are common fabrication methods whose popularity continues to increase. Finally, optics are enhancing the manufacturing process itself, as machine vision systems are being used to confirm the accuracy of fabrication and assembly on the production floor, while robots that assist with manufacturing tasks require high-precision camera sensors to function reliably.
In many of the applications described above – as well as in a host of others – structural and thermal loads can have a significant impact on system performance. High-powered laser systems used in cutting or welding include optical components for focusing the laser beam to the necessary size, but the properties of those components – and thus their focusing behavior – change as they get heated by the laser itself. Small cell phone lenses created using 3D printing or plastic molds can be stressed during the fabrication process – and can be heated and stressed with over time with usage – impacting both their shape as well as their material homogeneity. Camera sensors used for machine vision or manufacturing-assist robots will be impacted by environmental factors such as factory temperature, pressure, and humidity. Traditionally, such effects may have been considered unavoidable and needed to be accounted for when considering product yield or lifetime. However, simulation tools are providing new insights into the impact of structural and thermal effects on product performance, enabling engineers to account for these effects as a part of the design and manufacturing process. At Zemax, I am excited about the upcoming launch of our STAR (Structural,Thermal, Analysis and Results) module to aid engineers in this effort.
A product design is only as good as it can be built. As manufacturing requirements are becoming tighter and tighter, across all markets and applications, the influence of optics and photonics on the next generation of product designs is only growing. On this International Day of Light, it is exciting to see the opportunities in front of our industry, and to be driving those opportunities forward through my role at Zemax.
Chief Technology Officer