Pinhole Optics Designer

Run the web service by clicking here -->  Pinhole Optics Designer

The Pinhole Optics Designer software can design pinholes, zone plates, pinhole sieves and photon sieves.  The features of the software are as follows:

  • Optical elements are rendered as vector graphics to a multi-page PDF file for resolution independence printing.
  • Data used to generate the optical element is included as embedded files in the PDF.  Data files are formatted as comma separated values (CSV).
  • Bookmarks have been added and linked to each page.
  • Photo reduction information is included based on the distance to the camera and the lens focal length.
  • Calculates the ƒ-number of each element

The vector image drawn to the PDF document is enlarged by a scale factor; typically 50 to 100 times based on the distance between the print and the copying camera as well as the focal length of the camera.  This ensures the numerical precision of the graphic is not reduced by computer rounding errors.  

Version 2 of the software allows for the generation of a plate using a scale factor of 1 with a page width of 1 inch.  Though, I have not determined if the resulting PDF can be printed correctly using a direct to film printer.


Focal Length - Focal length of the zone plate to be produced

Wavelength - Zone plates are wavelength specific

Zone Count - the number of rings in the zone plate

Page Width - the width of the PDF page in inches

OPM - Optimal Pinhole Multiplier,  default Lord Rayleigh pinhole diameter = 1.9 * sqrt ( wavelength * focalLength ) 

Page Scaling

AutoScale to Page - the software will automatically determine the scale given the Plate Coverage

Plate Coverage - percentage of the page width.  For example; 50% is half the width of the page.

Directly Scale Page - manually specify the scaling 

Scaling Multiplier - 1 is real size; 100 is 100 times real size

AutoScale to Copy Lens - scale the plate given parameters from the photo reduction process. There needs to be a reasonable compromise made between these parameters to ensure the zone plate print fits on the paper and the camera is a reasonable distance from the paper.

Distance to Camera - the distance between the camera and the print during for photo reduction

Lens Focal Length - the focal length used with the above camera for photo reduction

Note: using either Directly Scale Page or AutoScale to Copy Lens it is possible to create a plate which does not fit on the given paper size.  Care needs to be taken when choosing values for these options.

Photon Sieve Parameters

Photon Sieve Dot Area - Is a value I use to specify how tightly packed the dots are in the photon sieve.  Setting the photon sieve dot area greater then 0.35 will slow down the sieve generation significantly.

Minimum Dot Distance - A measure of how close individual dots can be placed relative to one another

Extra Information

Author, Title & Note - this information is drawn in the bottom left corner of the page.  The Date and Time the page is generated is also placed in the same location on the page.

File Name

The file name of the resulting PDF defaults to a name built using a combination of the Focal Length, Wavelength and zone count: for example; phd_fl_100_wl_550_rc_25.pdf.  Optionally, additional text may be appended to the default file name or the default file name may be overridden.


Photon sieves are currently generated using boxcar appodization.  Setting the minimum dot distance and the background mask are currently disabled.

Future Enhancement

There are more options available in the software; but, not yet available in this web service.  They include background masking and better control of photon sieve apodization.  I have been experimenting with apodization functions; and, at this point, I'm not yet satisfied with the results.

The current implemestation of Photon Sieves uses a set of random numbers from  This speeds up the process of generating photon sieves significantly.  In addition, this gives repeatable results when trying different photon sieve parameters.  In the future I will allow the user to specify a starting offset into the random number file.

The Pinhole Optics Designer software is hosted by Appligent, Inc.

Copyright 2015 by Mark Gavin