Optomechanical Design, Assembly, and Alignment

Course Description

Building optical systems requires multiple disciplines to work in harmony to achieve system performance. An optical design is good only if the lenses can be manufactured and the tolerances can be met during assembly and alignment. Mastering the skills necessary to successfully design, build, and assemble complex optical systems can take years of practical experience. This course distills these concepts some fundamental aspects melded with practical examples to give participants a general background in the field.

2024: Offered remotely and in person from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2:30-5:30 p.m.

This course is offered as a series, registrations for individual lectures will not be permitted.


June 10, Monday

Session 1: Principles of Opto-mechanical Engineering (0.5 days) 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

This session covers the basic concepts needed for this course. It includes terminology, material properties, mechanical engineering concepts, and the intersection between mechanical properties and optical properties. It will cover differences between mechanical and optical axes, reference surfaces, and datums.

Session 2: Benchtop Optical Mounting and Alignment (0.5 days) 2:30-5:30 p.m.

Numerous companies provide a suite of off-the-shelf components and lenses. This session covers optomechanical concepts for using these types of systems, including benefits and limitations. This session will also cover basic alignment techniques using benchtop systems.

June 11, Tuesday

Session 3: Custom Optical Mounting I (0.5 days) 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

High performance optical systems often require custom optical designs and mounting. This is in part due to the limitations of catalog component geometries and implications for packaging. Many custom optical systems use the relatively straightforward concept of lenses in a tube as a design archetype. This session covers some of the design principles and analysis required to put lenses in a tube.

Session 4: Custom Optical Mounting II (0.5 days) 2:30-5:30 p.m.

More advanced optical systems require more advanced mounting and analysis. This session expands the concept of lenses in tube to include bond rings, flexure mounts, and other mounting configurations.

June 12, Wednesday

Session 5: Design for Manufacturing (0.5 days) 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

An optical design is only viable if the components can be made. This tutorial covers the features necessary to design for manufacturing, including lens tolerances and limitations for mechanical mount manufacturing. This session also covers ISO 10110 prints and suggestions for improving the communication between designers and manufacturers.

Session 6: Design for Environment (0.5 days) 2:30-5:30 p.m.

Much like design for manufacturing, designing for the operating environment is a critical aspect of the system design process. This session covers topics related to thermal effects, shock, and vibration in optical systems. This session also covers basic finite element analysis (FEA) concepts, including the limitations of FEA for certain environments.

June 13, Thursday 

Session 7: Design for Assembly and Test (0.5 days) 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

This session covers the last of the integrated design concepts, specifically designing with the assembly and testing process in mind. This is a critical aspect to ensure specifications are met during the testing process. For complex systems, compensators are often included as part of the design. This session also covers practical concepts related to compensators. 

Session 8: The Lens Centering Station (0.5 days) 2:30-5:30 p.m.

Active alignment of lenses requires using a lens centering station to ensure components are aligned to the optical axis. This session covers the fundamental operations of the Lens Center Station, including practical examples of issues with decentration, tilt, wedge, and other optical effects while actively aligning lenses. Additionally, topics related to practical implementation such as precise positioning and fixing during alignment are covered.

June 14, Friday

Session 9: System Assembly Techniques (0.5 days) 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Not all systems are aligned on a Lens Centering Station. This session covers practical laboratory techniques for assembling and aligning optical systems, including alignment telescopes, tooling, datum transferring and referencing, and other concepts.

Session 10: Optical System Measurements (0.5 days) 2:30-5:30 p.m.

Once a system is fully assembled and aligned, it must be tested to ensure performance specifications are met. This session covers techniques for system performance testing, including interferometry, wavefront sensing, MTF testing, Star tests, and others.