FRED Pre-Sales FAQs

What is the recommended computer configuration?

While we don’t recommend a specific manufacturer or model, the following items should be considered when selecting a computer to run FRED:

  • FRED only runs on Windows and we recommend Windows 7 or newer (XP is no longer supported).
  • FRED Standard will perform multi-threaded calculations on up to 4 threads while FRED Optimum supports up to 63 threads.  Any number of threads beyond the limit for your version of FRED will not be used.
  • Many components of FRED are not multi-threaded (ex. BASIC scripting calculations, model updating, etc.) and so fast CPUs are advantageous.  In many scenarios, performance will be better for a smaller number of fast CPUs compared to a larger number of slow CPUs (ex. 16 cores at 3.2 GHz vs. 24 cores at 2.4 GHz).
  • For large raytraces, RAM usage is heavy.  We recommend between 16 and 48 GB of fast RAM so that buffering operations to the hard disk is limited.
  • In some cases buffering to disk cannot be avoided (i.e. you have traced too many rays to fit into the available RAM) and it is beneficial to have a fast disk for read/write operations.  A solid state drive is recommended.
  • While FRED does not leverage GPUs for computing, the user experience and model editing is much improved with a quality graphics card.  Photon Engineering has had reliable performance from the NVIDIA NVS series graphics cards.

What is “optical engineering software”? How is it different than lens design software?

“Optical engineering software” picks up where lens design software leaves off. With optical engineering software, the analyst merges the optical elements with the mechanical components to build a complete, integrated model. Frequently this is the first time in the product development process where the optical and mechanical parts are combined together, and so mismatched elements, incorrect separations and/or locations, inconsistent dimensions, “the same lens has to be in two places at once”, etc. are readily identified.

This integrated model serves as a basis for performing “real world” analyses on the performance of optomechanical system. For example, FRED is routinely used to analyze and quantify:

  • Formation of ghost images in imaging systems
  • Formation of damaging ghost images in laser systems
  • Stray light levels in sensors
  • Interference effects in coherent systems
  • Irradiance, illuminance, intensity, luminous intensity and color image calculations for illumination systems
  • Lit appearance modeling
  • Signal levels and throughput calculations
  • Baffle, light shield and surface treatment analyses
  • Thermal self emission calculations

No product, no matter how trivial, should be released to market without thorough system level assessment by the FRED Optical Engineering Software!

Why is it important to work in a 3D virtual prototyping environment?

It’s critical to your finished product to conceptualize and capture the entire optical/illumination system early in the design process. Good designs are built from the ground up with the intent of manufacturing a product. The only productive way to do this is by creating a 3D CAD model that takes into account not only the optical elements but the mounting and mechanical structure that may obstruct or interfere with the light propagation path. The ultimate power of virtual prototyping is the capability to test a total system concept quickly without spending time and costs to cut metal through multiple iterations.  FRED’s 3D WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) CAD interface is perfect for virtual prototyping.

Why use a CAD 3D environment? Aren’t spreadsheet based products just as good?

If you are trying to use a spreadsheet interface to do 3D virtual prototyping, check yourself with this important question; When I need to manufacture my new concept, will my CAD department use a 3D CAD interface or a spreadsheet-based product to create the manufactured model? It might be faster in some instances to work in a 2D spreadsheet environment, but you are sacrificing detail required to fully manufacture the assembly and you are losing the 3D visual understanding of how parts are placed in the system as a whole. Using a spreadsheet interface is usually a non-intuitive process that has problems providing the full visual 3D global picture. Instead, what you usually see are “snapshots” of 2D sections that prevent you from easily finding problem areas in 3D space that need to be addressed before creating the finished product.

Why is FRED superior for exporting CAD models?

Spreadsheet based products are known for exporting poor CAD models. This is mainly due to the fact that most of these products use exact surface equations to model optical components and these surfaces are exported as wireframe models or second order patches of higher ordered surfaces. These models are great for fast raytracing speeds and effective for reducing optimization time, but real surface data is needed to convert these surfaces to the NURB information that CAD systems need. The amount of time for an engineer to convert models from spreadsheet surface based systems into a complete manufacturable CAD model may take more time than the entire time it takes to do the optical design. Isn’t it a better idea to use a 3D CAD program such as FRED that exports exact solid and surface geometry at manufacturing tolerances to alleviate this tiresome and problematic step?  Furthermore, FRED exports both the optomechanical subassemblies and a full ray set which details the footprint of the beams through the optical assembly. This feature is perfect for checking ray set or beam impingement on mechanical structure through the optical path.

Other equivalent software programs are very expensive. Does FRED’s low cost mean that it is less capable?

Photon Engineering is a lean, experienced firm with two main lines of business: consulting services and the FRED Optical Engineering Software.  We do not divert resources into unprofitable business pursuits, nor do we have a “top-heavy” management.  By concentrating on what we do best, we can keep the development costs down and the value to our customers up.

Make no mistake, FRED is a comprehensive, full-featured optical engineering software in daily use by our own consulting group, national laboratories, universities, major aerospace and defense contractors, product development companies, and professionals worldwide. Compare its features with those of any other software on the market and you’ll see that FRED is both cost effective AND capable!

Are there different versions of FRED? Are there any extras or add-ons that I will have to buy?

Our business philosophy is not to “nickel and dime” our customers with add-ons and extra features that drive the purchase price upwards. We believe that it is misleading to attract potential customers with a low initial price and then make them pay extra for the critical features they need to get their job done. However, we also understand that some customers may need certain high power features and that not all customers’ needs are the same. Therefore, we have created two editions of FRED.  The FRED Optimum version has all the features of FRED Regular, but supports 64-bit architecture, has a built in optimization functionality, and multi-threads on a maximum of 63 CPU cores.

How often are updates made available?

FRED is under constant development and some users simply can’t wait to get the latest and greatest version.  For these users, we provide several developmental versions between official releases which showcase new features.

Official versions are typically released two or three times a year with major new features.  These releases are thoroughly tested in house and by development release beta-testers.

Does Photon Engineering do custom FRED development?

Yes!  New features in development are driven by the requests and needs of our customers, and many features included in FRED were funded as consulting projects.  However, our standard policy is that all new features are immediately available to all of our customers; we typically do not develop “exclusive” features.

What does the name FRED stand for? Is FRED an acronym?

In truth, FRED is just a name; it is not an acronym or abbreviation!  FRED was the original development name of the software when Steve and Rich started working on it in the early 1990s (Rich had previously worked with an engineer who used the name FRED the way mathematicians use “x” as the name of a variable. Something “clicked” and Rich started using FRED as the name for anything that didn’t have a name!).  When it came time to release the first commercial version of FRED in April 2001, they couldn’t think of a better name and so the FRED development project became the FRED Optical Engineering Software.