If you need optics quickly, stock or off-the-shelf (OTS) optics may appear to be the best option. However, there are alternative options for getting your optics in time for a deadline and with specifications. There are advantages and disadvantages of both custom optics and off-the-shelf optics.

Off-the-Shelf (OTS) Optics

Being the first to market offers a significant advantage. To get a head start, one way to remain ahead of the competition is to use stock or off-the-shelf optics. OTS optics are often less expensive than custom optics and provide an advantage in terms of speed. The costs for tooling and nonrecurring engineering for custom optics are reduced. As a result, even for small quantities, pricing for stock optics is cost-effective, making them a good choice for prototyping.

On the other hand, OTS optics have certain drawbacks: there is no design flexibility, and you are limited by the properties of the stock products. You could potentially modify stock optics to save money upfront and get an optic that better meets your needs. There are different processes to customize standard optics that will require these processes to be completed.

Ultimately though, customizing OTS optics does not provide a lot of design flexibility. Stock optics require a significant amount of time to modify. For some applications, this is good enough. For others, however, you will need far quicker optics. What you save in upfront costs, you will spend on engineering and modifications costs.

Benefits of OTS Optics

  • No tooling expenses
  • Low unit costs even for small volumes
  • Short lead times

Drawbacks: OTS Optics

  • No design freedom
  • Modifying stock optics still takes a long time and limits your design options

Why Custom Optics

For many projects, your business may have depended on stock optics or modified stock optics. However, you might want to convert to custom-tailored optics that better fit your business demands.

When the optical system must comply with strict unique properties, size, and weight limits, custom optics may be a better choice for your project. While a stock optics design achieves the same performance as a uniquely tailored component design, the stock design may require numerous operations to obtain the same results as a single custom optics design.

It’s important to note, in the early stages of development, sometimes a stock component is used in place of a custom component due to availability and low cost. This is often the case when trying to obtain funding for complete product development. Designers may choose to utilize a stock optic component to conduct a demonstration or in a proof-of-principle prototype.

Before establishing definitive final optical performance criteria, a prototype optical element may be required to help develop and evaluate other system elements. If prototyping includes several design iterations, custom optics could eventually become prohibitively expensive. That’s why it’s vital to work with an optics and mechanical design company with the expertise you need for a successful product.

Apollo Optical Systems specializes in custom optics prototyping and production. With our advanced in-house production technology and decades of experience on Apollo Optical’s team, you can have the custom optics you need for your project in a reasonable timeframe.

Every optic we make is one-of-a-kind. As a result, the constraints imposed by using OTS optics are removed.  Because AOS can produce custom optics in both prototype and volume production quantities, you can discover the benefits of a custom optical solution without necessarily spending a lot of money on tooling.

Thus, we can work quickly and efficiently as a result of our well-organized processes. Apollo Optical is an excellent choice for the development and manufacturing of polymer optics.

Benefits of Custom Optics

  • Design freedom
  • Prototypes available without investment for tooling
  • Get your product with a short lead time
  • No minimum order quantity for development of different products

Drawbacks of Custom Optics

  • Adjusting to a new way of working may take some time; we are here to assist!

Get Custom Optics Solutions with AOS

Apollo Optical Systems (AOS) focuses on developing customized products with innovative technologies including single point diamond turning (SPDT), diffraction of optics, polymer injection molding, microlens arrays, evaporative coating, metrology, etc. Contact us for more details.

About Dale Buralli

Dr. Dale Buralli has served as the Chief Scientist for Apollo Optical Systems since 2003. In this role, Dr. Buralli is responsible for the design and optical modeling of various optical systems. These systems include virtual or augmented reality, ophthalmic and other imaging or illumination systems. Additionally, he provides support for optical tooling of lens molds and prototypes, including the development of custom software for both production and metrology. Dr. Buralli got his Ph.D. in optics from the University of Rochester in 1991. Now he is an Adjunct Professor of Optics at the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics.

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