Quote Originally Posted by alanrockwood View Post
One thing you might try is to download the free version of WinLens, now known as Qioptiq. With that program you can play with various design ideas. That might help you develop some insight into the design process. They also have downloads of lens libraries.
The poster on that site is really cool and informative. I love info graphics, and this one has all the different types of lens surfaces and refractive indexes of materials used in common lens designs all in one place.

http://www.winlens.de/index.php?id=14


I would also agree that if manufacturers had found a suitable type of plastic that would match or best glass they would have all switched to it. Molding, cutting, and shaping plastic is much easier than glass. Fixing scratches is usually pretty easy with plastic as well. Anyone who has had a older watch with a acrylic crystal would know, just a little buffing will get them out, while glass needs much more abrasives and polishing time to get out a scratch.

There a number of disposable fixed focus cameras made by Kodak, Fuji, and now Ilford that use plastic lenses which get quite good results too. If more research were done on new plastics or plastic additives maybe there might be new developments that can replace the glass used making everything lighter and cheaper. So far the latest seems to be the development of an array of micro lenses kinda like on a bugs eye, each arranged over its own sensor instead of a set of elements in a barrel, using software the information from those lenses are combined. I think the goal was to make a flatter lens array for applications such as cell phones.