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Spie Press Book

The Design of Plastic Optical Systems
Author(s): Michael P. Schaub
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Book Description

Many items we use in our daily lives--the traffic signals, motion sensors, fingerprint readers, cell phone cameras, bar code scanners, and DVD players--rely upon plastic optical systems to perform. Consequently, there is a growing need for individuals who are knowledgeable in the design, development, and production of such systems.

This book provides an overview of the design of plastic optical systems and is structured along the lines of a typical development project. Following a brief background discussion, the advantages and disadvantages of plastic optics are considered. Next, the available materials and their properties are described, as well as the issues of material selection and specification. Various manufacturing methods are reviewed, followed by a chapter on design guidelines, leading into several design examples. Following the examples, the prototyping and testing of a design is covered. Finally, bringing the design to production is discussed.

Several groups will benefit from the material presented, including optical engineers, technical managers, and engineers of other disciplines who need to design and develop plastic optical systems but lack the knowledge or training to do so.

With the help of this book, readers should understand the benefits and limitations of plastic optical systems and be able to determine if this technology is appropriate for their applications. They will have the basic knowledge to undertake the design of these systems, should they choose to do so themselves, or they will be able to have the appropriate conversations with the individuals or companies they ask to perform the work.


Book Details

Date Published: 30 July 2009
Pages: 226
ISBN: 9780819472403
Volume: TT80

Table of Contents
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Preface
Acknowledgements
Chapter 1: Introduction.
1.1 Background.
1.2 When to Use Plastic Optics?
Chapter 2: Optical Plastics.
2.1 Plastic Versus Glass Maps.
2.2 Material Properties.
2.3 Material Selection.
2.4 Material Specification.
Chapter 3: Manufacturing Methods.
3.1 Casting.
3.2 Embossing and Compression Molding.
3.3 Machining.
3.4 Injection Molding.
Chapter 4: Design Guidelines.
4.1 Design Basics.
4.2 Tolerances.
4.3 Plastic Versus Glass.
4.4 Shape and Thickness.
4.5 Aspheric Surfaces.
4.6 Diffractive Surfaces.
4.7 Athermalization.
4.8 Coatings.
4.9 Optomechanical Design.
4.10 Stray Light.
4.11 Special Considerations for Small and Large Parts.
4.12 Drawings.
4.13 Vendors and Vendor Interaction.
Chapter 5: Design Examples.
5.1 Singlet Lens.
5.2 Webcam.
5.3 Cell Phone Camera.
5.3 Infrared Multiorder or Harmonic Diffractive Lens.
Chapter 6: Testing.
6.1 Parameters, Equipment, and Techniques.
6.2 Making Testing Easier.
Chapter 7: Prototyping.
7.1 Optics.
7.2 Mechanical Parts.
7.3 Assembly and Test.
Chapter 8: Production.
8.1 Transition to Production.
8.2 Steady-State Production.
References

Preface

We routinely come into contact with and utilize plastic optical systems in our daily lives. As an illustration of this, consider the following events that may occur during a typical weekday. Traveling to work in our car, traffic signals change color to regulate the flow of vehicles. Arriving at work, as we enter the building, motion sensors turn on the hallway lights. At our desk, a fingerprint reader grants us access to our laptop computer. In the lab, we take and send pictures of the latest prototype, using the camera in our cell phone, enabling others to see the hardware. After work, stopping at the store, the bar code reader brings up the prices of our items. Back at home, we enjoy the latest movie released on DVD.

All of these devices - the traffic signals, motion sensors, fingerprint reader, cell phone camera, bar code scanner, and DVD player - rely upon plastic optical systems to perform their function. As a result, there is a growing need for individuals who are knowledgeable in the design, development, and production of such systems. This tutorial text is written with this need in mind. The book is an elaboration upon the material covered in the SPIE short course "The Design of Plastic Optical Systems." It is meant to provide an overview of the design of plastic optical systems and is structured along the lines of a typical development project. Following a brief background discussion, the advantages and disadvantages of plastic optics are considered. Next, the available materials and their properties are described, as well as the issues of material selection and specification. Various manufacturing methods are reviewed, followed by a chapter on design guidelines, leading into several design examples. Following the examples, the prototyping and testing of a design is covered. Finally, bringing the design to production is discussed.

There are several groups that should be able to benefit from the material presented. The first group is optical engineers, who often have received training in optical system design, particularly with glass optics, but who are unfamiliar with the special design characteristics of plastic optics. The second group is technical management, who need to understand the advantages and limitations of plastic optical systems. The third, and by far the largest group, is engineers of other disciplines who find they need to design and develop plastic optical systems but lack the knowledge or training to do so.

The text is written at an introductory level. No familiarity with plastic optical parts, or their design, is assumed. Any background knowledge of optics and optical design will be useful, but not required, to understand most of the subjects covered. Discussions of many of the subjects covered in this text can be found distributed amongst various publicly and/or commercially available sources. There is a wealth of information on plastic optics available in articles, conference proceedings, trade journals, books, the Internet, and various patent databases. We reference many of these throughout the text and encourage the reader to utilize them as additional sources of information, knowledge, and possibly, creative inspiration.

The plastic optics industry tends to be somewhat secretive, with the details of many vendors' processes, techniques, and tooling methods considered proprietary. In spite of this, there are many well-established relationships amongst both individuals and companies in the field. It is a relatively small community, and it is not unusual for individuals to have worked for several plastic optics companies, repeatedly coming into contact with people from throughout their career. Referral to and assistance from competing companies is not uncommon. While the proprietary aspects of the field may be frustrating for some readers, not knowing all the intimate details of a particular process will not prevent the successful design of a plastic optical system.

Having completed this book, readers should understand the benefits and limitations of plastic optical systems and be able to determine if this technology is appropriate for their applications. They will have the basic knowledge to undertake the design of these systems, should they choose to do so themselves, or they will be able to have the appropriate conversations with the individuals or companies they ask to perform the work.

Michael Schaub

Tucson, 2009


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