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Ray tracing through optical system of thick lenses

  1. May 22, 2013 #1
    Can you advise me a free software that allow to draw rays passed throught system of thick lenses (preferable in 3D)?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 22, 2013 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    You want something like raycad only under a free-software license?
    That's odd - the free stuff that does ray-tracing seems all geared to making graphics.
    What level do you need it for?
  4. May 23, 2013 #3
    I need to trace rays of different wavelength through some thick lenses. I need a free software that allow to change lenses characteristics (curvature, shape, refraction index) and visualize ray paths of different wavelength (prefereably visible rays: red - blue). Also the software should allow to change refraction indexes of medium (for example, one side of lens is in air, another in water, etc.).

    I've found OptoCAD and only study to use it. It is for laser beams and I'm not sure could I trace arbitrary rays using OptoCAD.
  5. May 24, 2013 #4

    Simon Bridge

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    That would depend on what sort of result you are after - you can use a very narrow laser beam to approximate a classical light ray.
    If Opto-cad allows you to make wide laser beams with a uniform crossection then it should do what you describe ... after all, do you care about the part of the light-wave that does not pass through the apparatus?

    iirc the University of Auckland has a set of matlab add-ons that handle general ray optics ... you'd have to fiddle it for non-linear placement but it doesn't have to be par-axial. They describe the effect of optical elements as a space/wavelength-dependant phase-shift in the EM wave.

    If all you need is undergrad ray-optics with wavelength dependence, all elements in a line, then, strewth, I could write that in an afternoon.
    OK - maybe over a weekend.
  6. May 24, 2013 #5


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    Somebody named Jim Klein wrote a ray trace program that he sold for a while but eventually made available for free. He was active on the sci.optics usenet group, which can be accessed through google groups. You might look for his old posts there from around 2007-2008. I just tried a quick google search, but did not find Klein's program.
  7. May 27, 2013 #6
    I've found Jim Klein's optical desing guide (jimkleinsopticaldesignguide.blogspot.com/) and his software KDP (www.ecalculations.com/) for optical design and analysis.
  8. May 29, 2013 #7
    I am also seeking affordable geometric ray trace software. It seems as though there was a lot out there in the 1990s and it has slowly faded.

    I used Virtual Optical Bench for quite a while but it stopped working on WIN7 and the authors haven't fixed it.

    BEAM4 is rather simple but without a lot of analysis features that I can see. They aren't returning emails at this time. The cost is $299 but the demo is free and you can use it if you "hand make" the tables with an ascii editor (the save is disabled in the demo).

    For only $70, Optalix LT looks promising. It has only geometric analysis-the full physical trace version is $2500. I am continuing to try to learn it. The Demo is free for 30 days.

    Something I haven't had a chance to look at yet is freeware. It looks like it may be idle lately but perhaps not:

    Hope this helps a bit. Let me know if you succeed in finding a solution

  9. Jun 3, 2013 #8

    Now I'm using optoCAD of Roland Shilling. It has a simple language for optic sytem definition, allow to define different surfaces and trace beams trough them, and produce very nice 2D images.

    KDP is more complex and produced 3D images is not good for me.

    I don't try other software.
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