When to Utilize Stock Versus Custom Optics


Getty Inventory There are many factors to consider when manufacturing optical lenses. From optical system design to production, determining when to use a stock lens versus customizing a specific lens plays a major role in this decision. While most applications can be serviced with stock lenses, leveraging custom options can be beneficial depending on the application. Working with an optical manufacturer like Ross to utilize their expertise can be very valuable when making your decision.


Designers and manufacturers can benefit from stock lenses during the prototyping phase. Development and production time can be greatly reduced by using a stock lens rather than a custom lens due to the readiness and availability of a stock lens. The long lead times, often months long, of developing custom optics is eliminated. In some cases, stock lenses can be shipped overnight, enabling testing to start immediately. While prototyping quantities are typically less than 10 units each, using standard stock optics provide significant cost and schedule savings. Although in some cases, choosing standard lenses over custom involves making tradeoffs in size, focal length, glass type, and available AR coatings.



In almost all cases, utilizing stock lenses in manufacturing yields greater benefits than custom optics. However, in the case of a customer requiring a large volume of lenses, there is little benefit to using standard optics since manufacturing volumes are comparable or sometimes even greater for custom options. This of course is all contingent on material, profile, and specifications. Typically, consumer products and many medical systems can utilize stock options. Other than saving time and money, stock lenses are used initially to prove concepts and test overall designs and then some or all of the lenses would be migrated to custom designs to optimize performance or simplify the optical system. As an example, aspheres can be used to eliminate a few conventional optical elements, saving weight and complexity.


Custom Coating on an Uncoated Stock Lens

Uncoated stock optics can be manufactured without a coating and later be coated with a specific custom coating in order to meet specifications. Since creating a custom optic involves dedicated manufacturing, which has specific lot sizes at the various production steps, it results in many more lenses being made to yield the desired end quantity. Additionally, the cost to operate a coating chamber and produce coated optics is almost fixed and gets amortized over all the final products. If one lens is required, more than one lens will generally be needed to account for the estimated yield factors of the process. In the case of using a stock optic, even if the coating run does not go as planned (stuff happens), then it is easier to grab another lens and try again rather than manufacturing an entirely new custom lens.

Ross has an extensive selection of standard optics, most of which are stocked in El Paso, TX. Check out our catalog of hard-to-find optical components at the best available price for all your stock option requirements. When you are ready to use customized solutions, we can provide input regarding manufacturability and potential cost-saving approaches. Additionally, with our extensive network of manufacturing partners, we know which partner is best at producing specific types of optics, both domestically and offshore.

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