As size, weight, power, and cost specifications are vital to NASA missions, a wide variety of optical systems would benefit from the innovation. The technology is particularly suited for size- and weight-constrained platforms, such as CubeSat, unmanned air vehicles, and other small-scale payloads.
The innovation addresses the need for low-cost, high-performance optical elements that are smaller and lighter than currently available and allows turnkey fabrication of optical assemblies on demand. The printed and 3D-GRIN lens technology allows complex optical assemblies to be implemented in thin planar optical films with a minimal number of components. The value of the innovation is best realized in: high-performance optical systems, where the size, weight, and cost of the systems are necessarily dominated by the optics; and in miniature optical assemblies, where performance is constrained by size and weight restrictions. Applications include smaller, more efficient optics for high-power industrial lasers, lower-mass solar concentrators, 3D displays, head-mounted displays, CMOS imager lens arrays, and camera lenses.