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Recently, freeform optics has been widely used due to its unprecedented compactness and high performance, especially in the reflective designs for broad-wavelength imaging applications. Here, we present a generalized differentiable ray tracing approach suitable for most optical surfaces. The established automated freeform design framework simultaneously calculates multi-surface coefficients with merely the system geometry known, very fast for generating abundant feasible starting points. In addition, we provide a "double-pass surface" strategy with desired overlap (not mutually centered) that enables a component reduction for very compact yet high-performing designs. The effectiveness of the method is firstly demonstrated by designing a wide field-of-view, fast f-number, four-mirror freeform telescope. Another example shows a two-freeform, three-mirror, four-reflection design with high compactness and cost-friendly considerations with a double-pass spherical mirror. The present work provides a robust design scheme for reflective freeform imaging systems in general, and it unlocks a series of new 'double-pass surface' designs for very compact, high-performing freeform imaging systems. (C) 2021 Optical Society of America under the terms of the OSA Open Access Publishing Agreement
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