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# Research Article Vol. 56, No.

## Algorithm for designing free-form imaging optics

with nonrational B-spline surfaces
RENGMAO WU,1,2 JOSÉ SASIÁN,1 AND RONGGUANG LIANG1,*
1
College of Optical Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA
2
State Key Laboratory of Modern Optical Instrumentation, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310027, China
*Corresponding author: rliang@optics.arizona.edu

Received 23 January 2017; revised 20 February 2017; accepted 20 February 2017; posted 22 February 2017 (Doc. ID 285486);
published 16 March 2017

The local control of B-spline surfaces has the potential to provide better surface representation for free-form
imaging optics; however, it also makes B-spline surface optimization more challenging. To solve this problem,
we, for the first time to the best of our knowledge, present an algorithm to design free-form imaging optics with
nonrational B-spline surfaces. In this method, the local z-coordinates of a set of data points on B-spline surfaces
are defined as independent variables, and the location of each ray point in the image plane is considered as a
nonlinear function of these independent variables. By this mathematical consideration, a prescribed imaging
system design with B-spline surfaces can be converted into an overdetermined system of nonlinear equations,
and the least-squares solution to this nonlinear problem is found by using the Gauss–Newton method based
on a ray-tracing technique. An off-axis two-mirror system is presented to demonstrate the elegance of this method
in imaging system design with B-spline surfaces. © 2017 Optical Society of America
OCIS codes: (080.2740) Geometric optical design; (080.2720) Mathematical methods (general); (220.1250) Aspherics.

https://doi.org/10.1364/AO.56.002517

## 1. INTRODUCTION is not disclosed; therefore, imaging system design with B-spline

Compared with traditional rotationally symmetric surfaces, free- surfaces is still being covered with a veil of mystery.
form surfaces can generate more compact and lightweight imag- In this paper, we employ nonrational B-spline surfaces to re-
ing systems because of their high degrees of design freedom. present free-form surfaces in imaging design and present an op-
With the development of fabrication and testing methods, timization method to design nonrational B-spline surfaces. In
free-form surfaces are playing an irreplaceable role in imaging this proposed method, the local z-coordinates of a grid of pre-
systems [1–6]. Due to the nature of optimization requirements, defined data points on nonrational B-spline surfaces are consid-
surface parameterization becomes a critical aspect in the design of ered as independent variables, and the location of each point of
free-form imaging optics. The current surface parameterization ray in the image plane is considered as a nonlinear function of
these variables. Then, the prescribed imaging system design is
in commercial software for designing free-form surfaces is based
converted into a system of nonlinear equations, and the final
mainly on polynomial prescription, such as XY polynomials,
solution is obtained by numerically solving these equations.
Zernike polynomials, and Chebyshev polynomials. A B-spline
The paper is organized as follows. In Section 2, we will introduce
surface can be considered as a piecewise polynomial surface
some mathematical considerations to convert a prescribed imag-
and has excellent local control property [7], which is quite differ-
ing system with B-spline surfaces into an overdetermined system
ent from traditional polynomial surfaces. The local control of
of nonlinear equations. Also in this section, a ray-tracing-based
B-spline surfaces allows us to easily control the surface locally
numerical technique will be presented to find a least-squares sol-
and, therefore, has the potential to achieve better control on
ution to the overdetermined problem. In Section 3, a design
ray propagation in optical design. Because of this intrinsic prop-
example will be presented to verify the proposed method, and
erty, B-spline surfaces have been widely used in illumination
some characteristics of the proposed method will be discussed
design [8–12]; however, the application of B-spline surfaces
before we conclude our work in Section 4.
to imaging design is still not well addressed due to the difficulties
in B-spline surface optimization. Although the feasibility and
effectiveness of B-spline surfaces in imaging system design have 2. DESIGN METHODOLOGY
been reported by limited literature [13–17], the optimization This section will introduce the mathematical essence of an
technique, which is critical in the design of B-spline surfaces, imaging system design with B-spline surfaces and develop

## 1559-128X/17/092517-06 Journal © 2017 Optical Society of America

2518 Vol. 56, No. 9 / March 20 2017 / Applied Optics Research Article

X
n X
m
Su; v  N k;p uN l ;q vCPk;l ;
k0 l 0

0 ≤ u ≤ 1; 0 ≤ v ≤ 1; (1)

where fCPk;l g are the control points, and fN k;p ug and
fN l ;q vg are the pth-degree and qth-degree B-spline basis
functions defined on the knot vectors. The control points
and knot vectors can be calculated by using B-spline surface
interpolation [7].
A chief ray (ray 1) from a sampled field position impinges
upon the image plane at point T i1 after deflection by the
B-spline surfaces, as shown in Fig. 2. Here, the subscript i1
denotes the i1-th sampled field. From Snell’s law, we know that
the location (local coordinates) of point T i1 in the image plane
is defined by highly nonlinear functions of these independent
variables, which are the local z coordinates of those predefined
data points mentioned above. A non-chief ray (ray 2), also from
Fig. 1. Flow chart of the proposed optimization algorithm.
the i1-th sampled field, intersects with the image plane at point
P i1;j1 after deflection by the B-spline surfaces. The subscript
(i1; j1) denotes the j1-th non-chief ray from the i1-th sampled
a ray-tracing-based numerical technique to find a solution to field. Similarly, the location of point P i1;j1 is also defined by
the mathematical problem. Figure 1 shows a flow chart of highly nonlinear functions of those variables. Usually, point
the proposed optimization method. In this method, the opti- P i1;j1 will deviate from point T i1 due to the aberrations of
mization process includes two key design phases: numerical cal- the system. We assume that Δx i1;j1 and Δyi1;j1 are, respectively,
culation and ray tracing. Numerical calculations are performed the differences between the points P i1;j1 and T i1 in the x and y
in MATLAB. TracePro software is used here to construct non- directions in the xyz local coordinate system, as shown in
rational B-spline surfaces and do ray tracing. The dynamic data Fig. 2. Then, we know the fact that both Δx i1;j1 and Δy i1;j1
exchange (DDE) channel between MATLAB and TracePro are also defined by highly nonlinear functions of those indepen-
allows these two programs to communicate and exchange data. dent variables. We assume that Δx i1;j1 and Δyi1;j1 can be math-
More details about the design process of this proposed optimi- ematically represented by
zation method will be given below.
A. Overdetermined System of Nonlinear Equations Δx i1;j1  f i1;j1 z; Δyi1;j1  g i1;j1 z; (2)
Figure 2 shows a “black-box” model of an imaging system,
which includes at least one free-form surface. For an illustrative where the vector z denotes the independent variables, which
purpose, these free-form surfaces are not plotted in the figure. are the local z coordinates of those predefined data points
In Fig. 2, XYZ represents the global coordinate system of on B-spline surfaces. Equation (2) tells us that all the non-chief
the imaging system, and xyz is the local coordinate system rays from the i1-th sampled field will form a focused spot on
defined for each surface. A grid of data points Q k ;l the image plane after deflection by the B-spline surfaces due to
(k  0; …; n; l  0; …; m) is defined for each free-form sur- the aberrations. Beside, the chief ray from each sampled field
face, and the local z coordinates of these data points are con- may not converge to its target image point due to the aberra-
sidered as independent variables, which can be optimized to tions. The deviation between its actual point and target point
improve image quality of the system. For each grid of points on the image plane is usually represented by distortion [18].
Q k;l , we can construct a nonrational B-spline surface to re- Again, the distortion of each field is also a nonlinear function
present the free-form surface. The nonrational B-spline surface, of z. We assume the distortion of the i1-th sampled field can be
which passes through the data points Q k;l can be defined as [7] mathematically represented by

## For an ideal image system with B-spline surfaces, it is required

that both the deviation between P i1;j1 and T i1 and the deviation
between T i1 , and its target image point should be zero. When
designing an imaging system, some of the sampled fields may be
more important than the other fields. We could define different
weights for these fields to achieve balances of aberrations, such as
ray spot size and distortion. Then, the prescribed imaging system
design with B-spline surfaces can be converted into a set of
Fig. 2. “Black-box” model of an optical system with B-spline surfaces. weighted nonlinear equations, which can be written as
Research Article Vol. 56, No. 9 / March 20 2017 / Applied Optics 2519

8 2 3
< wi1 × f i1;j1 z  0 ∂F 1
 ∂F 1
w × g z  0 ; i1  1; …; M 1; j1  1; …; M 2; 6 ∂z 1 ∂z M 4 7
6 . .. 7
: i1 i1;j1 6 .. 7
κi1 × r i1 z  0 F 0 zt   6 .. . . 7:
6 7
(4) 4 ∂F M 3 ∂F 5
∂z 1    ∂z MM 3
4
where the weights wi1 and κi1 are, respectively, used for control-
ling the spot size and distortion; M1 is the number of sampled We can, from Eq. (1), see that a nonrational B-spline surface is
fields; and M2 is the number of sampled non-chief rays from governed by a grid of control points and two knot vectors. That
each sampled field. Because the distortion does not deteriorate means the analytic expressions of these nonrational B-spline
the sharpness of a point image, the distortion control can be surfaces in the imaging system are unknown. Consequently,
pulled out of Eq. (4), and the final images from the system the analytic expressions of the nonlinear equations F i z are
can be unwrapped by some calibration methods to remove also unknown, and direct calculation of those first-order partial
the distortion [19]. For the system governed by nonlinear equa- derivatives in the Jacobian becomes impossible. Instead of tak-
tions given in Eq. (4), the number of equations is usually much ing derivatives of the functions F i z, we use finite differences
greater than that of the unknowns (independent variables). to approximate these derivatives, which can be defined as
It means the nonlinear system in Eq. (4) is overdetermined,
∂F i F i z 1 ; …; z j  Δz; …; z M 4  − F i z 1 ; …; z j ; …; z M 4 
and usually there is no z that satisfies Eq. (4). Instead of finding ≈ ;
a z to solve these equations, we can find a solution that mini- ∂z j Δz
mizes the 2-norm (the residual) of Eq. (4). Such a solution is (9)
called the least-squares solution to Eq. (4). For ease of descrip-
where Δz is the step size. Equation (9) is a first-order approxi-
tion, we rewrite Eq. (4) as
mation, and the approximation error can be reduced by reduc-
Fz  0; (5) ing the step size. Similarly, the analytic calculation of the values
where F  F 1 ; …; F M 3  and M3 is the number of nonlinear of the functions F i z in Eq. (9) is also impossible. In the pro-
equations; z  z 1 ; …; z M 4  and M4 is the number of un- posed method, we use a ray-tracing technique to calculate the
knowns. The 2-norm of Eq. (5) is given by values of these functions and the Jacobian, as shown in Fig. 3.
vﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ According to this ray-tracing technique, we first define a small
u M3
uX step size Δz and change the j-th variable z j to z j  z, while
‖Fz‖  t F2 z:
2 (6) i keeping the other variables unchanged. Only the location of the
i1 j-th data point will be changed when we compute ∂F i ∕∂z j .
A merit function (MF), which is used here to quantify the optical With these data points, we calculate the control points and
performance of the design, is defined as knot vectors using B-spline surface interpolation and construct
the nonrational B-spline surface using these control points and
MF knot vectors. Then, those sampled chief rays and non-chief rays
sﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
PM 1 PM 2 2 2 PM 1 2 2 ﬃ
w f z  g z  are traced, and the intersecting points of these rays on the image
i11 κ i1 r i1 z
2
i11 j11 i1 i1;j1 i1;j1
 PM 1 2 : plane are obtained. After that, we compute the finite differences
i11 κ i1  2M 2 wi1 
2
for ∂F i ∕∂z j i  1; …; N 3, which correspond to the j-th
(7) column of the Jacobian, and repeat the whole calculation until
j  M 4. In this method, the ray tracing is performed in
Because the weights wi1 and κi1 are constant in the design,
TracePro, and the numerical calculation is performed in
from Eqs. (5)–(7) we can see the least-squares solution, which
MATLAB. The DDE channel allows these two programs to
minimizes the 2-norm in Eq. (6) and also can minimize MF
communicate and exchange data. Equation (8) shows that we
in Eq. (7).
need to solve a linear least-squares problem during each iteration,
B. Numerical Calculation Based on Ray Tracing and the design will then evolve until some predefined criteria are
Equation (4) shows that a chief ray yields one equation and met. After we get the least-squares solution to the system of non-
a non-chief ray leads to two. Due to the local control property linear equations given in Eq. (5), the optimized B-spline surfaces
of B-spline surfaces, usually a large number of sampled fields
(chief rays) and non-chief rays are needed to achieve a good
balance over the field of view. Thus, the imaging system design
with B-spline surfaces will lead to an overdetermined system of
high-scale nonlinear equations. Solving such high-scale nonlin-
ear equations is challenging. In the proposed method, we use
the Gauss–Newton method [20] to find the least-squares sol-
ution. According to the Gauss–Newton method, we can estab-
lish an iterative scheme for solving the nonlinear system
Fzt   F 0 zt zt1 − zt   0; (8)
where zt is the solution obtained from the t-th iteration, and
F 0 zt  is the Jacobian matrix of F at zt , which is given by Fig. 3. Ray-tracing technique used to calculate the Jacobian.
2520 Vol. 56, No. 9 / March 20 2017 / Applied Optics Research Article

are imported into the Zemax program for final performance performance of this final imaging system is given in Fig. 7.
evaluation. Figure 7(a) shows the RMS spot radii over the FOV, which
tells us that the maximum RMS spot radius equals
3. DESIGN EXAMPLE AND CHARACTERISTICS 11.10 um, the minimum RMS spot radius equals 2.51 μm,
OF THE PROPOSED METHOD and the average value of the RMS spot radii of those sampled
fields equals 6.23 μm. Figure 7(b) plots the MTF curves of the
In this section, an off-axis two-mirror system will be given to
verify the proposed method, and some intrinsic features of the
imaging system design with B-spline surfaces will be discussed.
As an example, an imaging system consisting of two off-axis
mirrors is designed with a focal length of 30 mm, a rectangular
field of view (FOV) of 24° × 17°, and the diameter of the
entrance pupil of 8 mm. We assume that the system is sym-
metric about the Y Z coordinate plane. The plane symmetry
allows us to sample half of the FOV. Because the B-spline sur-
face can be controlled locally, an adequate number of field
positions should be sampled to achieve a good balance over
the FOV. Thus, 81 sampled fields are used here, and 221
points are sampled on the entrance pupil. There are several
types of pupil sampling, such as polar, Cartesian, and hexapolar
sampling forms [18]. These sampling forms are all applicable to
the proposed method. In this design example, we use the polar
form to sample the entrance pupil, as shown in Fig. 4.
We let p  3 and q  3 in Eq. (1), meaning that the two
mirrors are bicubic nonrational B-spline surfaces. A 20 × 30 grid
of data points is used for the primary mirror and a 26 × 40 grid
for the secondary mirror. We assume that the distortion is not
controlled here and those sampled fields are equally weighted.
Because the Gauss–Newton method is used here to find the
least-squares solution, a starting point should be given to start
the iteration. The optical performance of the starting point is
shown in Fig. 5. The root-mean-squared (RMS) spot radii over
the FOV are plotted in Fig. 5(a). From this figure, we know that
the maximum RMS spot radius equals 77.40 μm, the minimum
RMS spot radius equals 5.07 μm, and the average value of the
RMS spot radii of those sampled fields equals 25.81 μm (the
radius of airy disk is equal to 2.935 μm). Figure 5(b) gives
the modulation transfer function (MTF) curves of 12 fields from
the 81 sampled fields. This figure tells us that the minimum
MTF value at 30 lp/mm equals 0.03 and the average MTF value
at 30 lp/mm equals 0.37.
With this starting point, the least-squares solution is found
after six optimization cycles, with the MF value decreasing from
Fig. 5. Optical performance of the starting point. (a) RMS spot radii
0.03454 to 0.00678. Then, the final solution is imported into
over the FOV. (b) MTF curves of 12 fields from the 81 sampled fields.
Zemax for final performance evaluation. The geometrical lay-
out of the optimized system is given in Fig. 6, and the optical

## Fig. 6. Optimized imaging system with two bicubic nonrational

Fig. 4. (a) Sampled field positions. (b) Polar pupil sampling. B-spline surfaces.
Research Article Vol. 56, No. 9 / March 20 2017 / Applied Optics 2521

12 fields. The minimum MTF value at 30 lp/mm equals 0.48 That means ∂F i ∕∂z j in Eq. (9) may equal zero because changing
and the average MTF value at 30 lp/mm equals 0.72. Figures 5 the j-th data point may not affect the i-th equation. If none of
and 7 show that the performance of the system is improved those equations in Eq. (5) is affected by the change of the j-th
significantly by the use of the proposed method. These results data point, those elements in the j-th column of the Jacobian will
clearly show the effectiveness of the proposed method in the all be equal to zero. A zero vector in the j-th column means the
imaging system design with B-spline surfaces. j-th variable is not restricted by the least-squares problem and can
The remainder of this section will discuss some character- change arbitrarily. This problem usually takes place at the four
istics of B-spline surface optimization. More data points used to corners of the B-spline surface and consequently makes the design
construct a B-spline surface usually means more degrees of fail to converge. Let us take the primary mirror as an example. We
design freedom that can be used in the optimization design. assume that the mirror is defined on a rectangular domain Ω0 , as
We analyze the influence of the number of variables on the shown in Fig. 9(a). Due to the plane symmetry of the mirror, we
MF value, as shown in Fig. 8. This figure shows that the can discretize only half of the domain, and the data points on the
MF value decreases significantly from 0.01187 to 0.00720 other half can be obtained by mirror operation. The green point
when the number of data points is increased from (10 × 15, cloud in Fig. 9 represents the projections of the footprints of the
10 × 15) to (20 × 30, 20 × 30); however, the MF value only sampled rays in the local xy coordinate plane of the mirror, and
decreases by 0.00042 when the number of data points is further the blue squares represent the projections of the data points of the
increased to (20 × 30, 28 × 42). From this figure, we also can mirror in the local xy coordinate plane. Figure 9(a) shows that
see the MF values of the last two designs are almost the same, some data points near the lower right and upper right corners
which tells us that more data points may not yield better per- of the domain Ω0 are far from the footprints. Due to the local
formance. Thus, trade-offs should be made between the design control of B-spline surfaces, we may encounter complications
efficiency and optical performance of the imaging system. associated with singularities at the corners of the free-form surface,
According to the local property of B-spline surfaces, we know as shown in Fig. 9(c), and the singularities then lead to design
that changing one control point CPk;l of a B-spline surface affects failure. In the proposed method, we employ the L2 Monge–
the surface only in the rectangle uk ; ukp1  × v l ; v l q1 ) [7]. Kantorovich (LMK) theory [21,22] to solve this problem. We
define a new domain Ω1 , which is a super-ellipse and whose mini-
mum bounding rectangle is the domain Ω0 . Both the mass den-
sities ρ0 and ρ1 on Ω0 and Ω1 are assumed to be constant and
satisfy the condition that the total mass is conserved. According to

## Fig. 9. (a) Rectangular domain. (b) Super-elliptical domain.

Fig. 7. Optical performance of the final solution. (a) RMS spot radii (b) Obvious difference between the mirrors generated by these two
over the FOV. (b) MTF curves of 12 fields from the 81 sampled fields. different domains.
2522 Vol. 56, No. 9 / March 20 2017 / Applied Optics Research Article

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