Optical physics defines a number of mathematical functions that govern the direction of propagation of light. Each of these optical functions relates a local mechanical geometric variable (for instance, the angle of incidence, ϕ) to an optical variable (for instance, the angle of reflection, ϕ0). One of the tasks of an optical designer is to determine the optimal physical geometry to achieve the preferred optical performance (image quality). The optical designer’s solution to this problem is published in the physical optical prescription.
The challenge for the mechanical engineer is to understand how small variations in the physical geometry (due to tolerances, elastic deflections, or temperature changes, for example) will affect the optical variables, and thus the image, in the design. With this understanding the mechanical engineer will be positioned to guide the mechanical design to minimize the adverse effects that the mechanical variables will have on the optical performance of the system.
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