The last major SPIE meeting on lens design was held about two years ago. The next international conference on lens design will be held in about a year and a half. It is appropriate to consider what has happened to lens design in the past two years and provide some speculation upon the technology that drives the near term future of the subject. Some things that were predicted to happen two years ago seem to have happened, but a number have not. Some may by the time of the next meeting.
In this talk I would like to review some of the things going on in lens design, and attempt a few predictions of things to be heard from soon. Obviously these thoughts are somewhat personal, and cannot be presumed to be all inclusive.
The field of lens design has continued to remain healthy. The number of inquiries from companies seeking to employ lens designers has not decreased over the past two years. Any of our students who can report that they have done well in the lens design course have no difficulties in finding employment somewhere in the United States, unless they have some additional problem (such as lack of permanent residency or citizenship).
Many of the questions that are being asked of lens designers seem to be much the same as those traditionally asked, leading to a concern whether the same problems are just being studied over and over instead of developing into a continuing production of useful hardware. There does seem to be wider interest (and some greater understanding) in design by all levels of engineers. There is significant, and growing, interest in the design of optical systems that use some of the novel technologies for fabrication of optical components, especially using aspheric or holographic surfaces.
This emulates the continuing development of new technology. The use of holographic optical components for laser systems, including optical data storage systems, appears to be increasing. Heavier use of aspherics and gradient index materials is probable in the future. The use of precision molded glass elements has increased, with some indication that the approach to design has changed as a result of the new options possible in fabricating non-spherical surfaces in quantity. New systems, such as aperture arrays, which add a novel twist to traditional optics continue to be of interest. New technologies, such as diode laser arrays, integrated optical systems and x-ray lithography will provide some new opportunities for inventive optical system designs.