Finite Element Analysis used to address complications
When optomechanical engineers create optical systems, they must account for design complications: stresses, deformations, and birefringence as well as select a series of tests based on the design requirements. Furthermore, optomechancial engineering teams can address potential complications caused by issues with thermal management and mechanical forces, such as shock and vibration, by using finite element analysis (FEA).
Finite Element Analysis
Shock and vibration, if not properly factored into the design, can cause an entire optical instrument to displace from their normal positions. When paired with improper thermal management, an entire optical system can be compromised. For instance, if a metal part heats up and endures heavy vibrations, the metal will deform. When the metal cools it will no longer retain its original shape. For many optical instruments, if the structure is off by even one fraction of a hair, the image will be distorted.
Proper considerations and test for these types of conditions used to require optomechanical engineers to do many complex calculations by hand and heavily document testing procedures. Optomechanical engineering teams had to design and build costly prototypes. In addition, depending on the types of tests for the prototype, optomechanical engineers would need to create and build a fixturing device or go offsite to a testing facility to run the necessary tests.
Many FEA tools are now designed to interface with optical design software. The computer software is sophisticated enough to simulate environments the optical system will endure in real time and perform complex analyses. Using FEA computer software practically eliminates the need for costly prototypes, hand-base calculations and extensive procedural documentation. However, FEA results are only as good as the engineers using the tools. Optomechanical engineers who are proficient with FEA tools can increase productivity, cut down on budgets and put them in a better position to compete for projects.