When it comes to product development, it is easy to get stuck in a prototyping loop. Ironically, driving the prototyping process too fast is the usual cause of the trap. Trying to optimize every design variable simultaneously means that the overall project flounders. In optical engineering, a prototype trap can be created by setting tight performance specifications too early.
Material costs and prototyping limitations have presented challenges to manufacturers trying to work with advanced optical designs. As the demand for IR optics rapidly increased in recent years, it drove material costs higher and put a strain on supplies. These changes caused a shift in material selection for thermal applications. Germanium has long been the traditional choice for IR system development, but the search for cost-effective, high-performing alternatives has led to advancements using chalcogenide glasses.
The options for rapid prototyping of optics and assemblies are expanding across the board. With advances in diamond turning of chalcogenides, small runs of even IR optics are becoming faster and more affordable.