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When to use stock vs. custom optics

Mar. 11, 2022

There are many factors to consider when manufacturing optical lenses. From optical system design to production, determining when to use stock lenses versus customizing specific lenses plays an important role in this decision. While most applications can be repaired using stock lenses, depending on the application, it may be helpful to utilize custom options. Working with an optics manufacturer like CLZ can be very valuable when using our expertise to make decisions.

When to use stock vs. custom optics



Designers and manufacturers can benefit from stock lenses during the prototyping phase. Due to the readiness and availability of stock lenses, using stock lenses instead of custom lenses can significantly reduce development and production time. The long lead times for developing custom optics, often up to several months, are eliminated. In some cases, stock lenses can be shipped overnight, allowing testing to begin immediately. While the number of prototypes made is typically less than 10 per prototype, using standard stock optics provides significant cost and schedule savings. Although in some cases, choosing a standard lens over a custom lens requires a trade-off in size, focal length, glass type and available transparency enhancement films.



In almost all cases, the use of stock lenses in the manufacturing process offers greater benefits than custom optics. However, for customers requiring a large number of lenses, there is little benefit to using standard optics, as custom options are manufactured in comparable, and sometimes larger, quantities. Of course, this depends entirely on materials, shape and specifications. Often, stock options are available for consumer products and many medical systems. In addition to saving time and money, stock lenses are initially used to prove concepts and test overall designs, and then some or all of the lenses are migrated to custom designs to optimize performance or simplify the optical system. For example, aspheric surfaces can be used to eliminate some traditional optical elements, thereby reducing weight and complexity.


Custom coatings on uncoated lenses

Uncoated stock optics can be manufactured without a coating and then coated with a specific custom coating to meet specifications. Since creating custom optics involves specialized manufacturing with specific lot sizes at each production step, more lenses need to be manufactured to produce the desired final quantity. In addition, the cost of operating the coating chamber and producing the coated optics is virtually fixed and amortized over all final products. If a lens is required, more than one lens is usually needed to account for the estimated yield factor of the process. With stock optics, even if the coating run doesn't go as planned (something happens), it's easier to grab another lens and try again, rather than making a completely new custom lens.

CLZ has a wide selection of standard optics. Check out our hard-to-find optics catalog for all your requirements at the best prices. When you're ready for a custom solution, we can offer advice on manufacturability and potential cost-saving methods. In addition, with our extensive network of manufacturing partners, we know which partner is best at producing a specific type of optical component, whether domestically or overseas. If you need a quote, please feel free to contact us.

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