Optical and Photonic Solutions Blog


It’s Great to Be Back At IODC, the “Olympic Games” of Optical Design

Where can you find a gathering of people who share the same interests in optical design, want to further developments and research, and compete in solving challenging problems? We’re talking about the International Optical Design Conference (IODC), which was held in person this year in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, on June 4-8.

IODC, held every four years, is the “Olympic games of optical design,” according to Henning Rehn, one of the meeting chairs. IODC was co-located with the Optica Design and Fabrication Congress. To start off the week, a welcome breakfast on Monday provided a good time to network with colleagues in the industry.

“IODC is a special conference that brings together the optical community and provides a ‘snapshot in time’ of what has happened over the last four years,” said Dr. Bill Cassarly, one of the conference organizers.

Julius Muschaweck, Bill Cassarly, Henning Rehn, members of the Illumination Guild
(Not pictured: John Koshel, Lien Smeesters)

This year, the illumination design problem required a solution to reattach the unicorn’s horn to save the Kingdom of Lambert. Designs needed to be modeled in single commercial software package and follow specified criteria. John Hygelund, a student from the University of Arizona, was the winner of this challenge.

The imaging design problem, also called the Shafer Cup Competition, challenged designers to model a maximum-etendue lens with diffraction-limited image quality over the field of view at 550 nm and yet have bad on-axis image quality at 540 nm when evaluated at the same image location. The coveted Shafer Cup was awarded to the entry with the highest merit function, which was submitted by Arnaud Davenel of Safran in France. The student winner for this year’s Shafer Cup lens design problem was Guillaume Allain from University of Laval.

“I want to recognize the tremendous effort of the winners who created some really complex systems,” said Henning, who was also a member of the Illumination Guild. The Illumination Guild creates the illumination design challenge for every IODC.  We heard that Georg Nadorff from Garmin had great fun trying to come up with a solution using Chat GPT. The good news is that we still need the expertise of human optical designers to solve these optical design problems!

Arnaud Davenel’s winning design for the Lens Design Problem

IODC included many inspiring talks and great discussions. Following is a summary of presentations by Synopsys staff and selected industry colleagues.

Recent Advances in Tolerancing Illumination Optics
Tolerancing is a critical step in creating successful commercial products. Bill explored recent advances in tolerancing illumination optics with particular emphasis on surface perturbations and extended sources.

Dr. William Cassarly, Synopsys Scientist, Synopsys, Inc

Validation of a Ray-Based Tool for Metalens Design and Analysis
A ray-based metalens design tool can bridge the gap between the metalens (macro-optics) and the optical property of the meta-atoms (micro-structures), hence reducing the complexity of the metalens design workflow. Joy presented validation results of a ray-based metalens design tool through the following design examples: (1) single metalens; (2) hybrid refractive lens and metalens; and (3) two metalenses.

Dr. Yijun Ding, Senior Applications Engineer, Synopsys, Inc.

Characterizing Finely Structured Ghost Images Using Physical Optics Propagation Methods
It is difficult to calculate the peak irradiance of ghost images that have extremely fine features.  Eric described a method for determining the peak irradiance of such ghosts using physical optics propagation methods.

Dr. John Rogers, Synopsys Scientist; Mike Zollers, R&D Engineer; Eric Herman, R&D Engineer; Synopsys, Inc

The Importance of Lens Mounting Details in Passive Athermalization: A Design Example
Lens mounting details are important in passive athermalization. Eric presented a 10-element lens that is athermalized with one mounting structure (seats), and yet performs poorly over temperature if assembled using a different mounting structure (spacers).

Eric Schiesser, Senior R&D Engineer, Synopsys, Inc

The Continued Importance of the Abbe Sine Condition
Optical design veterans are familiar with the Abbe Sine Condition, but many newer designers are less aware of how fundamental and powerful it is. Nick described the Abbe Sine Condition, its history, and continued application to modern systems with emerging technologies (e.g. flat optics, metalenses, etc.).

Nick Takaki, Senior R&D Engineer, Synopsys, Inc


Leveraging Confocality and Cartesian Reflectors in Freeform Optical Designs
Freeform systems often benefit from staying close to conic base surfaces .However, sometimes the drive to obtain better performance  leads to increased departures and therefore dimished benefits of conic surfaces.Nick discussed how carefully controlling departures from conics can allow a designer to achieve the enhanced optical performance of freeform designs and still retain the null test advantages of conics.
Nick Takaki, Senior R&D Engineer, Synopsys, Inc (Joint talk with Jonathan Papa, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
Metasurfaces for Lens Designers
Simon’s presentation provided a thorough introduction to metasurfaces with a focus on how to apply metasurfaces in optical engineering. As long as they are made on flat substrates, coma will affect imaging performance and metalenses will serve mainly the low etendue realm. On the other hand, metalenses may do a great job when combined with “ordinary” optics. Simon also discussed specific ghost effects of metalenses.
Simon Thibault, Université LavalCanada
Alignment Verification of the Roman Space Telescope using Machine Learning
Joseph demonstrated how machine learning algorithms are used to analyze shadows of system obstructions to verify the pupil alignment between telescope and instrument.
Joseph Howard, NASA Goddard

Freeform Manufacturing Process Optimized by Automatically Generating a CAD Model
Yiwan presented a tool that interacts with CODE V to automatically generate high-accuracy CAD models of freeform elements with datums and fiducials, facilitating fabrication and measurement. They can also generate technical drawings automatically based on the CODE V plot.

Yiwen Fan, University of Rochester
Hybrid Fresnel-Diffractive Lens Design for Virtual Reality
Yang designed and prototyped a hybrid lens with a high-index Fresnel lenses made of ZnS and a diffractive lens made of liquid crystal polymer for virtual reality displays.
Yang Zhao, Meta Platform, Reality Labs Research
Improving Weight and Imaging Performance of a Very Fast f/0.75 Lens Using Optical Co-Design
Marie-Anne described how using a surrogate merit function that combines the classical merit function with weighted constraints that enforces MTF and PSF invariance is fast to optimize and provides a good solution when deconvolution is used in post processing.
Marie-Anne Burcklen, Angenieux and Thales


Synopsys and other companies exhibited at the conference. Synopsys staff passed out IODC 2023 commemorative t-shirts, a tradition for Optical Solutions to give out at every IODC. This year’s shirt featured the skyline of Quebec City and highlighted that we are celebrating 60 years in optics!

Synopsys booth at IODC

Eduardo Gonzalez from Edmund Optics receives a t-shirt from Carl Klinges, Sales Manager, at the Synopsys booth

François Riguet from Safran REOSC wearing the Synopsys t-shirt

IODC also served as a reunion for many attendees. Tina Kidger, who partners with Synopsys, had the opportunity to meet with current and past Michael Kidger Scholarship winners. Ankur Desai was this year’s Kidger Scholarship winner and received the award at IODC.

Tina Kidger with several current and past Michael Kidger Scholarship winners at IODC.
Ankur Desai is pictured on the far left.

Nick Takaki, a past Kidger Scholarship winner and R&D engineer at Synopsys, sums up the entire experience:

“IODC is a vibrant gathering of global authorities in optical design, exemplifying the passion, camaraderie, and expertise of this community. Attending, presiding, and engaging in after-hours discussions were thrilling experiences that leave me excited to be a part of the future of optical design.”


Thanks to Henning Rehn, Bill Cassarly, Joy Ding, and Nick Takaki for contributing to this article.