Manufacturers and inventors hear about the benefits aspheres can bring to products or ideas. Even though an aspherical lens can reduce the number of parts needed, or make their product more efficient, they're not always ideal. You need to evaluate whether you can do just as well, or better, by using regular optics.
Dealing with Calibration
Regular, spherical optics come with a huge benefit that you can't get with aspheres. Regular optics have known parameters. You know some spherical aberrations will exist, but in knowing that, you can account for it. In most cases, just using achromatic lenses can help with that.
It's possible for an inventor to pick up a set of non-custom lenses, and use them in a project. It's not possible to do that with an aspherical lens, even though there are off-the-shelf versions. With an asphere, the inventor would be tuning the project to use the asphere, rather than tuning the lens to work best with the project.
Assessing the Costs
Aspherical lenses cost more to use. They cost more to research, design, develop, test, and implement. You can usually get a lot of the same performance from regular optics for far cheaper. Of course, you will lose out on the benefits that aspherical lenses provide, such as parts reduction, and better efficiency.
Also, it's not a given that regular optics will come out cheaper all the time, just in most cases. It depends on various other factors
- How many spherical lenses your application needs
- The tolerances required
- The type of optical glass
- The type of coating that works best
Of course, these things factor into aspherical lenses as well. But with an asphere, it will all come down to a single lens.
How Much Time do You Have?
If you need to get a project out to market quickly or you have a short deadline, then regular optics may work best for you. A customer aspheric lens design won't come quickly. It's an intensive project that requires a lot of development cycles and testing. That's because aspheric lenses are highly sensitive and require perfect calibration for their applications.
Transitioning from One to the Other
One way to get the best of both worlds is to develop with your project with traditional spherical lenses to start. This will help you make it to a finished product faster. It will also help you figure out precisely what kind of optical system will work best for your application.
Once you know the parameters you need, you can then start to work on an asphere that can accommodate those needs in a single lens. One of the benefits of an asphere is that once you do get the parameters just right, then the manufacturing time is fairly quick.
Many manufacturers do things this way. That's why you'll occasionally see a product hit the market, and then when the second iteration of the product comes out, it's lighter, smaller, and more efficient.
Instead of jumping straight into an asphere R&D cycle, you can spread the costs out. Most aspheric lens manufacturers are also experts in other optical lens types. Speak to a manufacturer about what can work best for your specific project. To learn more, contact a company like R. Mathews Optical Works, Inc.