Discover the New LightTools 2023.03: Your Path to More Efficient Illumination Design

Optical Solutions Editorial Team

Mar 27, 2023 / 4 min read

LightTools version 2023.03 helps you achieve high-performance illumination designs with smart features for geometry import and creation, improved 3D viewing for fast explorations of model details, and many other usability updates to facilitate more efficient design workflows.

Enhanced Geometry Import Features

LightTools supports industry-standard CAD formats. Imported CAD data can be used in models for placement and simulations, but the surfaces lose their parameters. With the capabilities in this release, you can now convert imported surfaces to lens surfaces, which restores shape parameters and enables imported CAD data to be used with LightTools’ powerful optimization and tolerancing features.

With this new surface conversion capability, most surfaces are converted to parameterized freeform lens surfaces, which can then be changed to other polynomial types, such as polynomial aspheres, Zernike surfaces and Q-type surfaces. In addition, surfaces that were split during CAD export can be combined.

Before and after: split surfaces combined in LightTools

Before and after: split surfaces combined in LightTools

To learn more, visit the Synopsys Learning Center and watch this 10-minute video, LightTools Surface Conversion.

Expanded Lens Surface Definitions

Lens surfaces introduced in LightTools 2022.03 continue to evolve in this release, with new ways to define surface shapes and apertures for faster, more flexible geometry modeling.

For example, in previous releases, you could define a conic lens surface by entering a Conic Constant and a Radius or Curvature. In this release, new parameters Vertex To Focus and Foci Distance provide an additional way to define conic surfaces. These parameters enable you to describe a desired surface performance and have LightTools calculate the surface parameters. The following figure illustrates the new parameters.

Vertex to focus and foci distance parameters in LightTools

Vertex to focus and foci distance parameters in LightTools

Another enhancement is the ability to add holes to lens surfaces and lens elements, which provides a useful new modeling option and supports additional interoperability with CODE V. Multiple holes can be added, and they function as extrusions normal to the defining surface. Each hole in an element can have individually defined optical properties for additional flexibility.

Hole aperture modeled in LightTools

Hole aperture modeled in LightTools

More Robust Coherence and Polarization Simulations

Improvements to coherence and polarization simulations in LightTools 2023.03 enable more accurate light source behavior modeling for AR/VR and microLED designs.

Source polarization has been improved to simplify the polarization input and allow you to control the starting phase of the polarization state. After you enable polarization for the source, you can select one of three polarization types: Jones, Ellipse, or Stokes. Depending on your selection, the other input fields become read-only and display the polarization state in different but equivalent forms. This selection is available for both incoherent and coherent cases.

To assist with coherent simulations, you can now view data from the coherent field in a new tab added for illuminance meshes. When coherent ray tracing is enabled, the Field Data tab allows you to view  the magnitude and phase data collected by the receiver.

Improved 3D Viewing to Explore Model Details

In CAD software, section views are widely used by designers to show the internal details of a complex model. LightTools now provides this capability to help illumination designers view internal details, understand surface relationships, and study the effects of rays in the system. This new feature allows you to show sections of the model without changing the model geometry.

Section view in LightTools

Section view in LightTools

Expanded Undo and Redo Features

Another usability improvement in LightTools is an expanded undo and redo capability while you are working with a model. LightTools now tracks actions taken during modeling and allows you to restore the state of a model to a specific action using two new items on the Edit menu: Undo To and Redo To. While Undo and Redo allow you to undo or redo actions in the order they are performed, Undo To and Redo To allow you see the sequence of operations and select one in the list so that you can undo or redo multiple operations (i.e., all operations up to that action) with a single selection. Up to 20 actions are displayed in the list at a time.

New Help System

The Help system in LightTools has been revamped for the 2023.03 release and now uses the default installed browser to display help topics. The Help is still installed with LightTools, so an Internet connection is not needed to access it.

LightTools Help displayed in a browser

LightTools Help displayed in a browser

New Licensing Option: Synopsys Common Licensing

LightTools 2023.03 supports two licensing options: Legacy Licensing and Synopsys Common Licensing (SCL). Most customers will continue using Legacy Licensing, which is the same type of licensing used in previous releases. If you will use the same Host ID as previous releases, choose Legacy Licensing.

Your Synopsys Optical Solutions representative will contact your company representative if you need to use SCL licensing.


LightTools 2023.03 is available now. Customers with a current maintenance agreement can download this version from the Synopsys website using their SolvNetPlus account or obtain the software from their local distributor.

If you would like to try LightTools, submit a request to set up a 30-day evaluation.

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