Success Story

Light-Analysis Software Explodes Across Industries

NASA tracepro

Lambda Research Corporation was founded in 1992 with the idea of developing software to simulate the behavior of light. “We had an educated hunch there were other applications for this kind of software,” says cofounder Ed Freniere.

Little did they realize just how many.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) granted the Littleton, Massachusetts-based company a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract in 1993 to develop a user-friendly program to predict how light from objects outside its imagers’ fields of view would affect the pictures they produced.

There was a program available for modeling ray behavior, but it was expensive, difficult to use, and incompatible with both Windows and computer-aided design (CAD) software NASA used to design the instruments. The user had to redraw the geometry of any instrument to be modeled.

Lambda licensed the geometry engine at the heart of CAD programs and built its software around it, making it completely CAD-compatible. Before the end of its second JPL SBIR contract, the company had released the first commercial edition of its light-behavior-modeling TracePro software, still its flagship product.

TracePro’s largest market is in optimizing overhead lighting, from street lamps to offices. Another application is the design of light pipes—tubes carrying light from internal LEDs to indicators on an electronic device’s exterior, which might help locate buttons. Engineers designing solar collectors can use TracePro to determine where mirrors should be and how they should be angled and bent.

In medicine and life science, there are many ways light can noninvasively monitor functions, from pulse monitors to cell imaging, tissue characterization, microscopy, and monitoring blood-sugar levels. In all these devices, TracePro helps engineers maximize results.

The program can also help design everything from car dashboards to signs and lamps to cameras and telescopes.

Countless NASA imagers have also benefited from TracePro.