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  • Writer's pictureOlga Resnik

What are the best ways to ensure your optical modeling aligns with user needs?

This article is based on our contribution to the article powered by the LinkedIn Learning platform. Since the optical modeling or virtual prototyping is a vital part of our work and services, we feel that this contribution can be interesting and valuable for our customers and partners as well as potential customers. These key insights can help you navigate your optical design and development process.

Optical Design and Development Services based on Optical Modeling

To learn more, explore our services, listed below and contact us to have us on your development team.

Optical Modeling and Virtual Prototype

In addition to the general tips you can find in this article, it's important to highlight which tasks the optical modeling can tackle and what questions can be answered using these tools. Here are a few that we find most valuable in the optical product development:

  • Prove of concept / idea.

  • Performances evaluation including image quality, uniformity, color, contrast etc. (see example image)

  • Analyze energy flow and losses through the system (see example image)

  • Polarization analysis through the system.

  • Analyze artifacts: ghost &stray light.

  • System optimization to reach optimal performances.

We can help you cover these tasks and more, utilizing our vast experience and expertise in using these optical modeling tools effectively and optimize your system design efficiently. Contact us to make our optical modeling tools work for you.

Before you start modeling, you need to understand the problem that the system is supposed to solve, the goals and objectives of the users, and the context and constraints of the situation. You can use various techniques to elicit user requirements, such as interviews, surveys, observations, workshops, and document analysis. You should also validate and prioritize the requirements with the users and stakeholders, and document them in a clear and unambiguous way.

I strongly recommend starting from understanding the problem you are trying to solve. Many consider it a waste of time and it’s actually the exact opposite. When you don’t do this, especially when developing a new product that doesn’t exist, you often waste a lot more time, money and resources developing the wrong product. This first stage creates focus development and can be done in short cycles.

This work requires creative thinking and a deep understanding and expertise in system development as well as user experience, working in close cooperation with users and other stakeholders.

Depending on the type and complexity of the system, you may need to use different modeling techniques to represent different aspects of the system, such as data, processes, functions, interactions, and behavior. You should choose the modeling technique that best suits the purpose and audience of the model, and that can communicate the system requirements effectively and efficiently. Some of the common modeling techniques are entity-relationship diagrams, data flow diagrams, use case diagrams, class diagrams, sequence diagrams, and state diagrams.

In my experience, there might be a need to choose different modeling tools for different system aspects and performance parameters.

It’s important to remember that your model will only be as good as your assumptions and the effects that you take into account. So, for every stage of the development the right modeling tool, the complexity level and the amount of detail are to be considered. In the end the person that’s working on modeling decides what’s the most high-risk question the model is aiming to answer, and the model is a tool for answering these design questions efficiently.


To ensure that your models are consistent, accurate, and understandable, you should follow the standards and guidelines for the modeling technique that you use. For example, if you use Unified Modeling Language (UML), you should follow the UML notation, syntax, and semantics. You should also use appropriate naming conventions, symbols, colors, and formats for your models. Additionally, you should document your models with sufficient annotations, explanations, and references.

In optical design and engineering tools for imaging and non-imagine systems there are no standards (alas…) and although creating some standards even for yourself and your team is never high priority on your to-do list, it is extremely important and useful. Creating model libraries, subsystems or blocks that can be re-used, working on macros and preparing tutorials for common tasks - these all come very handy later on, when you come across something similar, don’t want to trust your memory how you made this work the last time (it could be a while ago…) or want to transfer knowledge to a new team member, or just want to be more efficient and not start from scratch.

After you create your models, you should validate and verify them to ensure that they align with user needs and that they are correct and complete. You can use various methods to validate and verify your models, such as walkthroughs, inspections, reviews, testing, and simulation. You should involve the users and stakeholders in the validation and verification process and solicit their feedback and suggestions. You should also update and refine your models based on the validation and verification results.

In virtual prototypes models it’s very important to validate your assumptions by physical testing and measurements. If your assumptions pile up one on top of the other without validation, all this tower can crush down on you, throwing you back to square one. When modeling a new type of system that you haven’t done before, or an innovative system that doesn’t exist, small steps can take you further and eventually faster and with fewer resources. Taking risks is OK and can shortcut but you need to have a backup plan for what you do when the risk materializes.

For example, the energy flow through an optical system can be modelled, simulated and analyzed, learning where and why the energy is lost. Then the structure can be optimized, changing the apertures, coatings, housing structure, altering or adding/ removing elements, optimizing polarizing elements and other parameters to maximize the system efficiency.

Energy flow and losses through the optical system
Energy flow and losses through the optical system

Modeling tools and software can help you create, edit, manage, and share your models more easily and efficiently. They can also provide features such as templates, libraries, validation, verification, simulation, generation, and integration. You should choose the modeling tools and software that suit your needs and preferences, and that are compatible with the modeling technique that you use. You should also learn how to use the modeling tools and software effectively and efficiently.

To model systems based on optics that our company designs and develops, Synopsys software tools such as CodeV and LightTools are highly efficient. They allow creating virtual prototype with all the functionality and all the aspects that you want to model and evaluate the performances before anything is produced. This is highly useful for design and optimization, in different types of systems such as Augmented Reality, cameras, microscopes, projection systems, illumination, sensing, displays, photonics devices and more. The modeling can be done in steps or in spirals, starting with architecture, going deeper and into more detail as the design progresses.

For example, the optical performances of an optical system can be modelled, simulated and analyzed, evaluating the parameters vs the system and user requirements. Parameters such as FOV, image quality including CTF of the required resolution, uniformity, contrast, distortion, color uniformity, artifacts such as stray light and ghost can be visualized. Then, again, system elements and structure can be optimized, changing the apertures, coatings, housing structure, altering or adding/ removing elements, optimizing the design to achieve the desired image quality.

Image Simulation using LightTools
Image Simulation using LightTools

Finally, you should communicate your models clearly to the users and stakeholders, and to the developers and testers who will implement and test the system. You should present your models in a way that is appropriate for the audience and the purpose of the communication. You should also explain the assumptions, decisions, and trade-offs that you made in your modeling process. You should also be open to feedback and criticism and be ready to revise and improve your models if needed.

The type of communication and documentation of the design process including modeling tasks that always works for me is PowerPoint presentations. Detailing all assumptions, showing model screenshots and performances plots and images can serve as communication and documentation of the process, adding more tasks and details as you go. It’s very graphic, commonly used, readable and self-explanatory. It’s also very useful for design reviews and for formal documents and certifications as required.


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