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Smethods initiative puts focus on optical design

17 May 2012

A Support Action of the Europe's FP7 program sees seven institutions provide training in design and simulation.

In recognition of the role that good optical design and simulation can have on the course of product development, the Smethods consortium aims to give small and medium enterprises access to assistance and training in these topics.

Smethods, or SME's Training and Hands-on Practice in Optical Design and Simulation, is a Support Action under the European Commission's overall FP7 research program, and brings together seven European academic institutions recognized as leaders in optical design. These consortium partners will host free training courses open to all participants, although employees of European SMEs will be given priority.

This overall training program, which is said by the group to be unique in Europe, is intended to fill the gap between academic courses given at universities, and those training activities provided by software producers that are usually focused on specific design software.

Applied training
"There are surprisingly few European universities that offer courses in classical optical design based on geometrical optics," said Paul Urbach from the Delft University of Technology. "A probable explanation is that optical design is often considered a mature subject with only few research challenges. In addition, academic courses are often not close enough to practical applications which means there is a huge demand in industry for optical engineers with practical design skills."

The result is that large photonics companies have specialized optical design groups and often educate their optical designers themselves. However, most European photonics companies are small and medium-size enterprises, which do not have the financial means or the know-how to organize such applied training. This is the gap that Smethods intends to bridge.

The Smethods consortium was formed in September 2011 and the project runs until February 2014, by which time the group hopes to have attracted up to 300 participants. The total funding of the project is €663,867 of which the EU contribution is given as €559,467.

Upcoming courses
Smethods has identified four important topics, or training domains, on which to concentrate its efforts, and the first training courses in these domains have been scheduled:

 Optical design for imaging: geometric optics, diffraction, aberration reduction. (Jena; 1-5 October 2012)
 Design and optimization of non-imaging optical systems. (Madrid; 18-23 June 2012)
 Wave optical design. (Brussels; 2-8 June 2012)
 Optical Design for Diffractive Optics. (Jena; 2-6 July 2012)

Those interested in attending can register and find more information on the Smethods web site.

Consortium members
Coordinated by Technische Universiteit Delft, Netherlands, the Smethods consortium also includes:
Friedrich-Schiller-Universitaet, Germany;
Institut d'optique Theorique et Appliquee - Supoptique, France;
Saint Petersberg State University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics, Russian Federation;
Vrije Universiteit, Belgium;
Itä-Suomen Yliopisto, Finland;
Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, Spain.

Ealing UGScitec Instruments LtdOmicron-Laserage Laserprodukte GmbHSensofar MetrologySpectrum Scientific Inc. -  SSI OpticsCobolt ABart Photonics GmbH
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