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Feb 15, 2008, 6:14:30 AM2/15/08
Hello Fellows,

does anybody have experience with ZEMAX and FRED? I am using ZEMAX at the
moment and think about trying out FRED.
Maybe somebody can tell some differences, advantages and disadvantages of
the two programs.

Greetings, Florian

Feb 15, 2008, 2:27:36 PM2/15/08


I use both FRED and ZEMAX because they are different tools for
different (but similar) jobs.

Simply: FRED is a non-sequential ray tracing tool, and ZEMAX is a
sequential raytracing tool. ZEMAX EE has non-sequential raytracing
capabilities but I find them cumbersome to use and most customers in
the Aerospace/Defense/Govt sectors use FRED.

FRED and ZEMAX are used for a huge variety of purposes and it really
depends on the field of work you are in.

I use ZEMAX to design various types of optical systems and optimize
them. I use FRED to verify and quantify different aspects of the
radiometric properties of a system. In particular I use FRED to
import an optical model, and a mechanical model, and perform system or
sub-system stray light analysis.

Now if I were using FRED to design a telescope, I would become
frustrated. Also, If I were to use ZEMAX to quantify the effect of a
spurious reflection, I would become frustrated.

Is the reason you are looking for an alternative to ZEMAX because you
are using the wrong tool for the job?


Iain Mackay

Feb 16, 2008, 8:07:45 AM2/16/08

I have a little experience with FRED.

Some time ago we were designing an imaging system using a dichroic beam
splitter and we were initially attracted by the non sequential features and
the program's GUI.

However, in use, we found the documentation poor, and the software
non-intuitive so it never really delivered for us. (a European optics
software rep recently confirmed that we are not alone.)

On the occasions when I spoke to Photon Engineering (the folks who make
FRED) we were offered the opportunity of buying places on a tutorial course
in the US - " really the best way to learn this software".

Perhaps, but the cost and time associated with that course of action was not
at all what I had in mind when we bought the software and I'm afraid the
dongle has languished in our fire safe for the past couple of years.

However, I do emphasise that this is only one view and it would be
interesting to hear from other ng folks who may have had more success.
Perhaps another user has prepared a tutorial based on their use of the




Feb 18, 2008, 10:47:20 AM2/18/08
Philip's advice is best here. I have seen people use ZEMAX for
problems that are much better handled by something like FRED and seen
people use FRED for problems that are much better handled by something
like ZEMAX.

In addition to what Philip said about how he uses ZEMAX and FRED, I
found that for doing illumination design, programs like FRED (I do not
use FRED specifically, there are others similar to FRED like ASAP,
LightTools, and TracePro) are more appropriate for the task than
ZEMAX, although there are plenty of people that use ZEMAX for

You might get better input if you can explain a little more about the
types of problems you are trying to solve with the software.


Feb 28, 2008, 10:20:30 AM2/28/08
Hello fellows,

thank you very much for you answers. That's good infomation. I give you some
more background of my work: I am an engineer doing research in the field of
free space optical communications. I already use ZEMAX for optical designs
and just heard about FRED. So I want to inform if it can replace ZEMAX
and/or how good it can interact with CAD sofware like Autodesk.

Thanks and greetings, Florian

"Iain Mackay" <no_one@here> schrieb im Newsbeitrag

Feb 22, 2019, 2:50:29 PM2/22/19

My manager has asked me to get involved in our optical beam train design.
I have been out of school now for over 20 years and haven't had to ray trace since then.

He is very old school and has these spread sheets that he developed over the years and prefers them. But He likes to do comparisons with another engineer who uses Zemax.

I was wondering in your experience if you would prefer FRED over Zemax to design rely imaging telescopes/systems that our process requires. We image a square mask on a high power laser system for laser shot peening. Mainly 1:1, 1:2 telescopes. Then the final image is placed on a part with focusing beam.

Which program would be easier to learn with?

I'd appreciate any input.

Phil Hobbs

Feb 22, 2019, 3:39:52 PM2/22/19
You're replying to an 11-year-old post. This is Usenet, not Google
Groups. (Welcome.) Usenet has been around since 1979, whereas Google
didn't come around till 1997. (I'm not a lens designer, or I'd have a
whack at answering your question.)


Phil Hobbs

Dr Philip C D Hobbs
Principal Consultant
ElectroOptical Innovations LLC / Hobbs ElectroOptics
Optics, Electro-optics, Photonics, Analog Electronics
Briarcliff Manor NY 10510

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