The task of evaluating obstructions in the optical throughput of an optical system requires the use of two disciplines, and hence, two models: optical models for the details of optical propagation, and mechanical models for determining the actual structure that exists in the optical system. Previous analysis methods for creating beam envelopes (or cones of light) for use in this obstruction analysis were found to be cumbersome to calculate and take significant time and resources to complete. A new process was developed that takes less time to complete beam envelope analysis, is more accurate and less dependent upon manual node tracking to create the beam envelopes, and eases the burden on the mechanical CAD (computeraided design) designers to form the beam solids.

This algorithm allows rapid generation of beam envelopes for optical system obstruction analysis. Ray trace information is taken from optical design software and used to generate CAD objects that represent the boundary of the beam envelopes for detailed analysis in mechanical CAD software.

Matlab is used to call ray trace data from the optical model for all fields and entrance pupil points of interest. These are chosen to be the edge of each space, so that these rays produce the bounding volume for the beam. The x and y global coordinate data is collected on the surface planes of interest, typically an image of the field and entrance pupil internal of the optical system. This x and y coordinate data is then evaluated using a convex hull algorithm, which removes any internal points, which are unnecessary to produce the bounding volume of interest. At this point, tolerances can be applied to expand the size of either the field or aperture, depending on the allocations. Once this minimum set of coordinates on the pupil and field is obtained, a new set of rays is generated between the field plane and aperture plane (or vice-versa).

These rays are then evaluated at planes between the aperture and field, at a desired number of steps perceived necessary to build up the bounding volume or cone shape. At each plane, the ray coordinates are again evaluated using the convex hull algorithm to reduce the data to a minimal set. When all of the coordinates of interest are obtained for every plane of the propagation, the data is formatted into an xyz file suitable for FRED optical analysis software to import and create a STEP file of the data. This results in a spiral-like structure that is easily imported by mechanical CAD users who can then use an automated algorithm to wrap a skin around it and create a solid that represents the beam.

This work was done by Joseph Howard and Lenward Seals of Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-16176-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the June, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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