Aaron Bauer, Eric M. Schiesser, and Jannick P. Rolland
We describe a method for designing freeform optics based on the aberration theory of freeform surfaces that guides the development of a taxonomy of starting-point geometries with an emphasis on manufacturability. An unconventional approach to the optimization of these starting designs wherein the rotationally invariant 3rd-order aberrations are left uncorrected prior to unobscuring the system is shown to be effective. The optimal starting-point geometry is created for an F/3, 200 mm aperture-class three-mirror imager and is fully optimized using a novel step-by-step method over a 4 × 4 degree field-of-view to exemplify the design method. We then optimize an alternative starting-point geometry that is common in the literature but was quantified here as a sub-optimal candidate for optimization with freeform surfaces. A comparison of the optimized geometries shows the performance of the optimal geometry is at least 16× better, which underscores the importance of the geometry when designing freeform optics.