Optical and Photonic Solutions Blog


Are You Up for the IODC Challenge?

Optical designers, consider participating in the lens design or illumination design competitions at next year’s International Optical Design Conference (IODC). This conference occurs every four years, and gathers optical designers, scientists, and engineers from around the world to discuss the latest developments in the optical design industry. A wide variety of optical design disciplines and topics are covered in both informal and formal settings.

It is an IODC tradition to post the optical design problems months in advance, and then present the winning solutions at the conference. Each challenge is created by a committee of industry experts, and the contest is open to anyone. This is an opportunity to flex your optical design skills and get recognized for solving a complex optical problem. We’ve been informed that this year there will be a special category for best student submissions.

Even if you don’t plan to enter the contest, the story behind the illumination problem can be a fun read.

The Curse of Prince Lambert (Illumination Design Problem)

Prince Lambert was a good ruler, though being tired and old, he was cursed by the evil sorcerer Étendue.  All that is left is two million scrambled pieces of this fair ruler that must be put back into his bed. With the help of four members of The Illumination Guild, more clues were left to unscramble Prince Lambert so that he can return to his full, glorious power.  The people of Lambert are calling all illumination wizards and apprentices to assist in this epic quest.  Can you help the Lambertians?

The Down Under Lens (Lens Design Problem/2021 IODC Shafer Cup Competition)

All lens designers “up here” (north of the equator) know that light travels from left to right. However, what is not well known is that “down under” (south of the equator), light travels from right to left. This causes problems if a design prescription done “up here” is sent “down under” to be made. One might think that all would be fine as long as the design is a “reversible lens.” But even that will not work. For those “up here,” for a ray traveling from left to right that sees a concave surface curved towards the left, towards the ray, the surface has a negative radius. But “down under,” a ray traveling from right to left that sees that same concave surface would see the surface curving away from it, and hence the surface would have a positive radius. Thus, when a “down under” person reads “up here” lens prescription values, the resulting lens may not work because of the difference in interpreting the signs of the radii.

The contest problem is to design a lens that images well whether it is made “up here” or “down under.”

To encourage participation, these IODC design problems should ideally not be commercially viable. It should be optically challenging, should not be easily solved with a global optimizer, and should not favor one design program over another by its requirements. Are you up for the challenge?

IODC 2021 will be held on June 27 to July 1 in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. The Optical Society (OSA) have more information on hotel and registration on their website. The expectation is to meet in person, though it might turn into an online conference due to the current health crisis. Either way, we’ll be there, and hope to “see” you there as well!

References to past IODC problems can be found in the SPIE Digital Library by searching on “IODC”.