In this chapter, we discuss guidelines that apply to the design of plastic optical systems. We begin by reviewing some basics of optical design, consider tolerances and their effects, and cover various element parameters, such as thickness, shape, and different surface types. We also discuss guidelines for optomechanical design, stray light prevention and analysis, issues associated with drawings, and interacting with vendors.
We noted in the last chapter that injection molding is the most popular method of producing plastic optical elements. As such, most of the guidelines discussed are associated with the injection-molding production process. In some cases, the guidelines for injection-molded optics may differ from optics made from other processes, such as diamond turning. In these situations, I will attempt to point out the differences.
It should be kept in mind that what we discuss in this chapter are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. The guidelines presented are based mostly on practical experience (often bad experiences) and an understanding of the manufacturing process. Various designers and vendors may have different opinions regarding any given guideline, and trades can often be made between cost, performance, and producibility.
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