Optical lens design is the process of designing a lens to meet a set of performance requirements and constraints, including cost and manufacturing limitations. Parameters include surface profile types (spherical, aspheric, holographic, diffractive, etc.), as well as radius of curvature, distance to the next surface, material type and optionally tilt and decenter. The process is computationally intensive, using ray tracing or other techniques to model how the lens affects light that passes through it.
Optical performance (image quality): This is quantified by various metrics, including encircled energy, modulation transfer function, Strehl ratio, ghost reflection control, and pupil performance (size, location and aberration control); the choice of the image quality metric is application specific.
Physical requirements such as weight, static volume, dynamic volume, center of gravity and overall configuration requirements.
Environmental requirements: ranges for temperature, pressure, vibration and electromagnetic shielding.
Design constraints can include realistic lens element center and edge thicknesses, minimum and maximum air-spaces between lenses, maximum constraints on entrance and exit angles, physically realizable glass index of refraction and dispersion properties.
Manufacturing costs and delivery schedules are also a major part of optical design. The price of an optical glass blank of given dimensions can vary by a factor of fifty or more, depending on the size, glass type, index homogeneity quality, and availability, with BK7 usually being the cheapest. Costs for larger and/or thicker optical blanks of a given material, above 100–150 mm, usually increase faster than the physical volume due to increased blank annealing time required to achieve acceptable index homogeneity and internal stress birefringence levels throughout the blank volume. Availability of glass blanks is driven by how frequently a particular glass type is made by a given manufacturer, and can seriously affect manufacturing cost and schedule.