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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: January 12th, 2011 09:49 AM CDT

Meet Custom Needs with Standard Optics

Customizing a standard system, rather than building from scratch, reduces cost and speeds development
Edmund Optics
Custom design requirements, such as an inspection system that has the conflicting requirement for both broad field-of-view and high magnification, can be met with standard optical systems and out-of-the-box thinking.
Rather than having an objective that could switch magnifications, the solution realized that simultaneous images at different magnifications met the need just as well.
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By Patrick McKenna

For many complicated visual inspection applications, standard off-the-shelf vision systems simply do not match the requirements. Yet it is still possible to utilize standard optical components to meet the need. The key is to break an application down into its basic elements and seek inspiration in other optical systems with similar basic elements.

While unique vision system requirements may seem to call for custom optics, there are significant benefits to staying with standard solutions. Customizing a standard system, rather than building a system from scratch, reduces cost and speeds development. Off-the-shelf componentsólenses, mirrors, prisms, filters, and beam splittersó easily can be mounted or inexpensively integrated into systems. And because most such standard components are available for rapid delivery, developers with a working prototype can set up additional systems within days or, in many cases, even the next day.

The first step in developing a custom solution from standard system elements is to break the application down to its essence. When a requirement is expressed in simplified terms, it becomes easier to think outside the box of conventional approaches. It also is easier to see similarities with other applications and make the second step, deciding how the solutions to those problems might be applied to the current one.

ONE SYSTEM, TWO NEEDS

One good example comes from an inspection system EO designed that had two seemingly incompatible requirements: high magnification and large field of view. The large field of view was needed so that the vision system could quickly locate an area of interest. The ability to view extremely fine detail on exceptionally small components was needed for part alignment and detailed inspection. But high magnification implies a small field of view, and a small field of view makes it difficult to see which portion of a larger object a system is imaging, making it hard to locate an area of interest (see Figure 1).

This requirement for both detail and field-of view is not uncommon. It arises in many applications, including semiconductor and electronics inspection and biological imaging. Standard vision systems offer varying combinations of detail and field-of-view, but the requirement of this specific application far exceeded the capabilities of off-the-shelf equipment. The problem seemed to suggest that a custom system with an ability to change magnification as desired would be needed.

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