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October 11, 2021

The Importance of Optics: From the Nanoscale to the Macroscale

The old adage, “seeing is believing,” is especially true when consumers evaluate products. The human eye is impressively perceptive when it comes to noticing different screen resolutions, high beam brightnesses or glare, for instance. Ansys Speos excels at simulating how humans and sensors perceive light for a given system or environment. But optics – the study of light – isn’t just what you see. How light behaves and interacts with matter begins on a nanoscale, includes the construction of devices that transmit or detect light, and then carries through to how light is perceived in the world. From photons to electrons and back, the study of optics enables our electronics to display and detect light with the pixels that make up our TVs, monitors and digital cameras.

With Ansys’ recent acquisition of Zemax, engineers will have an end-to-end optics solution to simulate how light behaves at the nanophotonic level with Ansys Lumerical, how light is manipulated with instruments and lenses using Ansys Zemax optical design software, and what the human eye and cameras will see at the system level using Speos. This end-to-end workflow will leverage the strengths of each tool while speeding the optical design and development process by integrating different underlying simulation technologies and facilitating collaboration.

Zemax OpticStudio model of a wide-angle field-of-view camera used in applications such as autonomous vehicle sensors and aerial drones

Shining Light on End-to-End Optics Simulation

The ability to accurately simulate optics is needed across many industries – from robotics used in health care and industrial settings, to cameras and screens prevalent in consumer electronics, to the sensors that are critical to advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), and more. Many products depend on precise optical raytracing and reliable lens design, yet imaging system creation is an intricate task complicated by strict requirements for precision, tolerancing and manufacturability.

Take ADAS for example, where each optics component must be optimized for a specific use case, which considers its position on a vehicle and its primary function. For example, an optical component might support a back-up camera used in parking lots, or a front-mounted camera that triggers the emergency braking system when a pedestrian is detected on the road ahead. Optics may or may not need to have strong peripheral vision. They almost universally need to function well under a range of weather and lighting conditions.

These performance characteristics influence a range of design choices, from lens shape and profile to the architecture of the camera pixels used to capture light. All these factors combine to make the task of ADAS optics design extremely complex. Equally complex is the job of verifying that these optics will perform reliably when mounted on a vehicle and exposed to real-world driving conditions.

That’s one of the reasons Ansys began partnering with Zemax. Zemax’s OpticStudio, Ansys Speos and Lumerical are often used in combination to design the camera sensor and lens, then simulate its performance in a static or dynamic driving situation. These tasks are often managed by different teams, which necessitates hand-offs and collaboration.

Now, with the acquisition of Zemax, Ansys customers will benefit from an even deeper integration among Lumerical, Zemax and Speos. Plus, Ansys’ breadth of multiphysics simulation solutions opens the door to analyzing even more physics that can affect optics including thermal and strain effects. This comprehensive offering will enable users to create optimal designs more quickly by streamlining the workflow and communication among photonics, optical, mechanical and manufacturing engineers.

“Zemax has been a leader in optical simulation since our founding 30 years ago," said S. Subbiah, CEO of Zemax in a recent press release. "Our mission is enabling customers to design sophisticated optical products and bring them to market faster. By joining forces with Ansys, we will quickly deliver Zemax's gold-standard imaging products to a wider audience and have an even greater impact on optical product development. It is a winning combination for our customers and for Ansys users across the globe."

For more information, visit the Ansys Optics and VR page, as well as the Ansys Photonics page.

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