For decades the computer has been the primary tool used for optical design. Typical tasks include performing numerical calculations for ray tracing and analysis and rendering graphics for system drawings. As machines become faster with each new generation, the time needed for a particular design task has greatly reduced, allowing multiple assignments to be performed with little noticeable delay. This lets the designer modify a system and then immediately see the results rendered in graphics with a single motion. Such visual design methods are discussed here, where graphics of systems and plots relating to their performance are produced in real time, permitting the optical designer to design by pictures. Three examples are given: an educational tutorial for designing a simple microscope objective, an unobstructed reflective telescope composed of three spherical mirrors, and a modified Offner relay with an accessible pupil.
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