Artificial compound eyes are typically designed on planar substrates due to the limits of current imaging devices and available manufacturing processes. In this study, a high precision, low cost, three-layer 3D artificial compound eye consisting of a 3D microlens array, a freeform lens array, and a field lens array was constructed to mimic an apposition compound eye on a curved substrate. The freeform microlens array was manufactured on a curved substrate to alter incident light beams and steer their respective images onto a flat image plane. The optical design was performed using ZEMAX. The optical simulation shows that the artificial compound eye can form multiple images with aberrations below 11 μm; adequate for many imaging applications. Both the freeform lens array and the field lens array were manufactured using microinjection molding process to reduce cost. Aluminum mold inserts were diamond machined by the slow tool servo method. The performance of the compound eye was tested using a home-built optical setup. The images captured demonstrate that the proposed structures can successfully steer images from a curved surface onto a planar photoreceptor. Experimental results show that the compound eye in this research has a field of view of 87°. In addition, images formed by multiple channels were found to be evenly distributed on the flat photoreceptor. Additionally, overlapping views of the adjacent channels allow higher resolution images to be re-constructed from multiple 3D images taken simultaneously.
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