Technology - Intuitive Optical System Design Software

Intuitive Optical System Design Software

A program that simplifies optical system design by offloading calculations to the computer, making it a more efficient and accurate process.


Existing optical design methods require the user to place and orient individual optical elements in a sequence, slowly building up the optical path by a series of tedious calculations that define the direction of propagation for the optical rays. These methods can be confusing since the actual ray reflection angle is different from the orientation angle of a mirror. These methods are especially complicated for non-planar and non-spherical optics. As a result, most commercial program offerings are very difficult to use and seldom provide easy-to-learn user interface features.

Technology Overview:

This program, developed by SUNY Cortland researchers, simplifies optical system design by offloading calculations to the computer, allowing engineers to work with optical axis components in a way that more closely aligns with their natural thought and visualization processes. This program is based on a “path-first” approach to optical component layout allowing the user to define the optical axis in a 3D space and subsequently place additional components along that axis. Once the path is defined, the software will easily solve for the angles the optical components require to steer the beam on its path. This allows the user to focus on the creative aspects of the design process while avoiding errors that often occur when calculating the orientation angles of optical components. The software uses functions initially developed for online 3D gaming and can be adapted to include non-spherical optics and other advanced calculations, as well as a sophisticated 3D rendering of the virtual object environment.


  • Easy to use: User interface is more intuitive compared to existing optical design tools.
  • Creativity: Allows you to focus on system design.
  • Efficiency: Automates time-consuming and tedious calculations.
  • Accuracy: Avoids math errors that often occur when performing complex calculations.


This program can be use in virtually any optical system design application. These include:
  • Laser systems
  • Photography and imaging
  • Surveillance and remote sensing
  • Microscopes, telescopes, and other research instruments

Intellectual Property Summary:

At present, no patent application has been filed for this technology. Patenting is being considered for the unique methods this system uses to define the optical path of the beam and solve for the mirror angles. Another novel aspect is the way the process follows the user’s own natural train of thought. This is far more efficient than the methods on which exiting commercial optical design options are based.

Stage of Development:

TRL 4 (Component and/or breadboard validation in laboratory environment). Demo executables for both Mac and Windows systems have been created. The core methods and relationship are defined and established in a proof-of-principle first version.

Licensing Status:

The system is available for licensing.

Licensing Potential:

The commercial goal of this project is to create a software program for distribution, potentially with different licensing options for educational, research, and commercial applications.

Patent Information: