What NEO can do for you.

While lens design and ray tracing are a some of my strengths, I am far more than just a ray bender. My diverse background and proven record of successful product development allows me to do much more to make your optical project a success.

You will usually find that hiring an experienced, competent optical consultant will actually save much money. When developing a practical optical system, experience counts more than in most engineering fields. I can help you avoid many pitfalls and dead-ends that might otherwise waste your engineering resources.

Here are some more specific ways I can contribute to your project:

The following is partial list of some of the types of the individual lens modules I have created to incorporate into products, usually much larger optical systems:

UV/Vis Schwarzchild microscope objective, 1X reflective microscope objective, Long working-distance refractive UV/Vis microscope objective, Off-axis aspherical reflective microscope objectives, Refractive UV/vis microscope tube lens, Double Gauss visible relay lens, laser triplet objective, Arc lamp condensors, various spectrometers/spectrographs/hyperspectral imagers, LWIR retro-focal camera lenses, MWIR retro-focal camera lenses, Off-axis aspherical reflective IR relay optics, projection lenses, microscope illuminators, fiber coupling optics, small-format macro lens.

Creating the product concept and architecture are probably the most important steps in any development project. Experience, creativity and the ability to find the best balance among trade-offs are very important at this stage. I am proud to say I fulfilled this role in creating the initial optical subsystem for probably the most successful line of thin film thickness measurement equipment in the semiconductor industry.

Design of compact spectrometers and spectrographs is a subspecialty of mine. This requires some unique expertise. Among other concerns, every interior surface has to be treated as an optical surface in order to minimize scattered light.

There are many commercially available spectrometer components and accessories on the market of widely varying quality. I can help determine which, if any of the these, are suitable for your application, and help you put together the system you need from components.

Many of the instruments I have helped design, build, test, and debug were based on ellipsometers of a few different varieties. (ellipsometers measure the effect of a sample on polarized light to measure film thickness and refractive index extremely accurately.) Optics for precision polarization metrology require extremely careful design and construction. There are many subtle effects that must be dealt with in such designs. I thoroughly familiar with the types of optics used for both laser and UV/White light polarization based instruments.

Even if you already have a lens design prescription, more than 50% of the work still lies ahead to get it manufactured. Usually the surface radii must be modified to fit the vendor's tooling. A tolerance analysis is essential both for the optics vendor and the mechanical engineer who must design the housing. Tolerances depend strongly on how the optical surfaces are referenced relative to each other. A good optical engineer will decide on a mounting strategy that will minimize the need for tight tolerances. The type of AR coatings also must be decided.

After all the lens components are built and assembled according to the drawings, it is still necessary to test the completed assembly. I can create the test procedures and criteria that will make sure the optical assembly will work in your application. To control costs, it is important to understand what specifications do not need to be tested for each unit. For example, if the wavefront error and focal length is in spec, it is highly unlikely that the chromatic aberration will be out of tolerance assuming the tolerances were calculated reasonably in the first place. I have much first hand experience performing optical tests that allows me to create practical and easy-to-follow procedures.

Too often, an engineer or scientist designing a complex optical system will add more degrees of freedom than is really necessary, and hope to figure out how to align the thing later. This not only adds cost, but it makes alignment much more difficult and time consuming. If I am involved early in the design process, I can help determine exactly which adjustments are necessary and devise an alignment procedure and tooling (if necessary) before the assembly is built.

A good bag of tooling tricks contains so much more than the ubiquitous laser centered on a target screen. In fact this technique is not usually very accurate and has limited usefulness.

Ideally, the tooling is considered early in the process so it can be designed together with the optics to achieve the best accuracy and simplest procedure.

Most of the instruments I have designed in the past were microscope-based. I can evaluate what commercial components or systems would best suit your needs and help integrate the system for you.

I have had to create several different autofocus systems for various microscope-based instruments. There are many ways to do this. Usually, we would try to implement a design that works best with the existing optics in the rest of the system. There are also several patents in this area that have to be observed.

Any complex system often will not work as anticipated when first put together. Optics are no exception. I have probably spent more of my professional career debugging the work of others than anything else. Often the design requires more careful analysis than was done initially.

While I am definitely not a lawyer, I am an inventor on more than 20 patents or patent applications, and am quite familiar with language of patents and basic patent law. I can help your lawyer evaluate the technical merits of patents in my field and testify if necessary.

As shown by my record of patents, I am not just adept at adapting tried-and-true technologies. I have a talent for creating novel solutions when needed. Innovation will help distinguish your product from the field.

Most optical projects require at least some mechanical design and perhaps some electro-optical design. I can work with your engineers to provide the information they need for the project to be a success. If needed, I can recommend consultants or vendors I have worked with in the past.

For a prototype, it frequently makes sense to purposely over-specify the optics to avoid spending engineering time determining exactly what the specs should be. When it comes time to put the design into production, however, this practice can add significantly to the cost. Unfortunately the needed redesign is not often put into the project plan (engineers are reluctant to admit they over-specified to save time). I can help re-evaluate your specs and determine exactly what your application needs to minimize costs.

While I no longer write computer code professionally, I have several years experience writing algorithms and code to measure thin-film thickness from reflectance spectra, as well as writing software to analyze semiconductor overlay measurements. I can help you develop algorithms for your optics-related software.



Copyright 2005, 2010  Adam E. Norton