Aug 30, 2021
CTO Industry Insights: Optic Innovation Plays Key Role in the Consumer Electronics Improving the Quality of Our Lives
During the past year and a half, we have seen the role that optics plays in making lives better through its role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic – through products developed for diagnosis, sterilization, and more. But the quality of our lives is also improved by the tools and services that make tasks easier to accomplish and increases our pleasure in leisure activities. These improvements are often provided by consumer electronic devices, from wide-screen projectors to flat screen TVs, from cell phones to virtual reality headsets. Optics play a key role in many of these products, and the significant innovation that is occurring in the design and development of consumer electronics is being driven by advancements in optics.
A main catalyst for innovation in the consumer electronics space is the drive to miniaturization. Supporting this drive is the increasing use of modern geometries (aspheres and freeforms) and diffractive optics and the increasing role of computational imaging. Leveraging these technologies to create the next generation of electronic devices requires both accurate simulation and robust manufacturing to produce quality products at the scales required for the consumer market. Zemax customers are at the forefront of both areas, and there is no better place to observe this than during our upcoming Envision 2021 conferences in the US and Europe. Presentations will cover topics ranging from advancements in the design and production of metasurfaces and metalenses for applications such as camera lenses and virtual reality systems, to the use of complex freeform designs and computer-generated holography for mixed reality headsets. In addition, presentations will highlight advances in both materials and manufacturing techniques that enable design innovation and scalable production of these systems.
For projectors, TVs, and mixed reality systems (among other consumer devices), system illumination plays a key role in the product design. Zemax OpticStudio is uniquely positioned to provide simulation capabilities for both the illumination and imaging components of the system, with its support for both sequential and non-sequential modeling in an integrated package. This is critical when optimizing performance across the full system, especially as smaller systems require designing higher efficiency miniaturized sources. As an example, I recently participated in a panel discussion led by McKinsey & Company to review a recent paper (e.g., 1) they published on the growing role of laser technologies across the optics and photonics industries. As touched upon in that paper, applications in industrial manufacturing, communications, and defense represent areas of high growth for lasers, but laser systems are also anticipated to have an increased presence as illumination sources for consumer electronic devices, such as in VR displays (e.g., 2) and cell phone facial recognition systems (e.g., 3,4).
In the highly competitive landscape of consumer electronics, innovation is critical to gaining an edge in the development of next generation devices. With advancements in the simulation and manufacturing of the optical components that constitute these devices, the consumer electronics market is poised for continued, fast-paced growth now and into the foreseeable future!
Chief Technology Officer