Installing the Ansys version of OpticsBuilder

This guide walks through the installation of the Ansys OpticsBuilder for use with an Ansys license.

If you are trying to use OpticsBuilder with a Zemax license (where the license number in the format L1XXXXX) refer to this article instead. The Ansys release of OpticsBuilder does not work with Zemax licenses. 

Authored By Don Dickinson



Ansys Zemax OpticsBuilder is a Creo add-in. It uses a shared network license installed on a keyserver to manage license access. License Administrators install the Ansys License Manager and activate a license there. End users install  OpticsBuilder on their computer and configure it to use the license server. 

After reading this article users of OpticsBuilder will have a clear understanding of the process for installation and licensing of OpticsBuilder along with approaches to mitigate problems encountered along the way.


System requirements and CAD software support

Ansys Zemax OpticsBuilder requires Windows 7 Sp1 or higher and requires Creo versions 5, 6, or later, 8 and 9. Complete software requirements are listed here. You also need administrator rights for a successful installation. 

This guide requires you install the Ansys Zemax OpticsBuilder released Aug 2022 or later. Previous releases of OpticsBuilder only work with Zemax licenses, not Ansys ones.



Download Ansys Zemax OpticsBuilder from the Zemax download page. Follow the steps in the installation routine to install OpticsBuilder. 

Once complete, start CREO. Depending on your version of Creo and if there is already a license configured, it may automatically start OpticsBuilder as well.  If it doesn't see the next section to enable OpticsBuilder in Creo. 


Configuring Creo to start the OpticsBuilder add-in

If you have installed Ansys Zemax OpticsBuilder 22.1 or higher releases for Creo 7, see the article OpticsBuilder 22: Creo Parametric 7 installation guide.

If you have installed the release for Creo 5, 6, 8 or 9, continue below. 


To activate OpticsBuilder in Creo 5, 6, 8 or 9 for a single session:

  1. Go to Tool...Utilities...Auxilliary Applications

  2. Highlight OpticsBuilder

  3. Select Register

  4. Navigate to C:Program Files\OpticsBuilder (or whichever folder matches the OpticsBuilder version you installed)

  5. Select Opticsbuilder.dat to register OpticsBuilder

  6. Select Start to start the OpticsBuilder add-in in Auxiliary Applications

If you get the error "Unable to start OpticsBuilder. Would you like to run the Zemax Troubleshooter?" when starting your CAD package, see the Troubleshooting section below. 




OpticsBuilder should load shortly and copy some sample files and catalogs files to your Documents folder the first time it is opened. 

Optional if it doesn't load automatically see the next section. Otherwise move to Configuring a license.

To register OpticsBuilder to start with Creo automatically:

  1. Open Notepad as administrator

  2. Navigate to C:\Program Files\PTC\Creo 5.0\M020\Common Files\text (or similar location for your version of Creo)

  3. In the file type dropdown, change the file type from Text Documents to All Files

  4. Scroll down to and open the file

  5. At the end of the text file, copy and paste the following line (modify path for your version of OpticsBuilder): PROTKDAT C:\Program Files\OpticsBuilder\OpticsBuilder.dat

Configuring a license

When starting Ansys Zemax OpticsBuilder, if you get a license error or are brought to the License Utility app, you will need to configure your machine to access an Ansys license. See this article for license setup details.

The next section covers troubleshooting if you still have errors after configuring the license. 

Troubleshooting - Unable to Start OpticsBuilder

This section covers if you get an error such as "Unable to start OpticsBuilder. Would you like to run the Ansys Zemax Troubleshooter?" when starting Creo.


Selecting Yes in the error message will open the Ansys Zemax Setup Troubleshooter. This application collects installation and licensing information from a user’s computer. It may also be run manually by opening the ZemaxTroubleshooter.exe file from the OpticsBuilder installation directory, typically C:\Program Files\OpticsBuilder. The ZST dialog box is shown below.



When it is opened after a license error or manually by the user it automatically scans the system and presents results from the scan.

A working installation of Ansys Zemax OpticsBuilder should show all boxes checked, except for absence of CAD software that the user doesn’t use. The .NET version and the presence of ZemaxServer.exe should both be listed as Yes.

See Ansys Zemax Setup Troubleshooter Topics below for some tips to fix errors yourself. If that doesn't help you resolve your issue, you may send information to support with by clicking Send Email in the lower left corner.


Ansys Zemax Setup Troubleshooter Topics


What if I have problems with the .NET framework?

Why is the ZemaxServer.exe file missing?

The file hash is showing file errors. What do I do?

What if I have problems with the .NET framework?

The Microsoft .NET Framework is required for OpticsBuilder. It is normally updated to version 4.8 or later during OpticsBuilder installation for OpticsBuilder to function correctly. If a user receives any errors about the .NET Framework during operation, they should first check if the ZST shows that the .NET Framework meets the minimum version specification.

Errors have been reported with OpticsBuilder operation when the .NET Framework update option is locked by a system administrator. To manually check the .NET Framework version follow instructions on this Microsoft page.

Language localization settings in Windows can also cause issues with the .NET Framework. Specific problems causing ray trace errors have been encountered when using “,” instead of “.” for a decimal character in Windows. To change localization settings in Windows when logged in with Administrative privileges:

  1. Open Control Panel
  2. Select Region or Region and Language
  3. Select the Administrative tab
  4. Select Change system locale
  5. Choose a language
  6. Restart your computer

Why is the ZemaxServer.exe file missing?

Some Anti-virus programs view the ZemaxServer.exe file in the OpticsBuilder installation directory as a threat and quarantine it. Without the ZemaxServer.exe file present the ZLM does not work. This has happened with McAffee, Windows Defender, and other anti-virus software. If the ZemaxServer.exe file is quarantined users should restore the item from their anti-virus quarantine.

  • To restore quarantined files in McAfee the user should refer to the following instructions
  • To restore quarantined files in Windows Defender the user should refer to the following instructions.

The file hash is showing file errors. What do I do?

The bottom of the Zemax Setup Troubleshooter shows file hash information about files in the OpticsBuilder installation directory. Scanning file hashes ensures that all required OpticsBuilder files are present and correct. If errors are shown for file hashes, this indicates critical files are missing from the installation. The user should send an email to OpticsBuilder support.



Getting started with OpticsBuilder: To get a file from OpticStudio to OpticsBuilder, see Prepare for OpticsBuilder then  How to load an OpticsBuilder (.ZBD) file for Creo Parametric

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