The Dynasil family of companies delivers an extensive range of photonics-based products and capabilities. But Dynasil itself is a product of its workforce. In this Q&A, we meet Craig McDermott, Product Solutions Engineer and 18-year veteran at Optometrics.
Q: Let’s start with you telling us about your role.
Craig: I help our OEM customers select and specify the most cost effective “wavelength selection and light management solution” for their application which, in Optometrics terms, includes diffraction gratings, infrared polarizers, optical filters, beamsplitters, and monochromators. My role basically bridges our sales and engineering teams by combining my technical skills, production capability awareness, and a dose of creativity to help OEMs find the right optical component solution to meet their requirement.
Q: What is your favorite part of the job?
Craig: The best part of my job is the opportunity to contribute to so many different applications. Optometrics has produced optical components for spectroscopy and photonics applications for more than 50 years, earning us a reputation as the go-to for OEMs with tough technical challenges. This has resulted in receiving a vast variety of interesting project inquiries. I really appreciate that we focus on finding the best solution for our customer, whether that solution be something Optometrics can provide or a solution that can be provided by one of the other companies in the Dynasil family.
Q: Can you describe a typical day?
Craig: While the details change, it’s fair to say I’m working with, or on behalf of our OEM customers every day. Depending on where we are in the development or production cycle, I’m consulting with sales and manufacturing to understand details about the end-use application – what’s working, what’s not, the boundaries we need to adhere to, and so on. I also work with our engineering team to map out an optimum solution and the path for our team to bring it to fruition. And, I am always keeping my contacts apprised on manufacturing or metrology status. There’s a lot of new inquiries that come in too, and I try to answer those within 1 business day knowing speedy responsiveness is important to program success.
Q: What is the biggest engineering hurdle you see OEMs facing regularly?
Craig: I find that our OEM customers are under ever-increasing pressure to deliver complex products faster, with higher performance, and at lower cost. This frequently leads a product development team to focus on choosing a solution based on a standard off-the-shelf product. Although this can at times be adequate, it often misses the huge opportunity to purchase a product that has been quickly tailored to provide the best physical and performance characteristics at a very affordable price. Fortunately, this is where Optometrics’ strengths really stand out.
This situation is often the case with supply chain logistics as well. We supplement our engineering, manufacturing, and metrology know-how with a range of specialized services tailored for OEMs – barcoding, Kanban inventory logistics, sub-assemblies, white labeling, specialized packaging and more. The better we understand your unique supply chain requirements, the better we can lend our expertise as an extended member of your support team.
Q: How do OEMs overcome that hurdle?
Craig: The number one best approach that I’ve seen result in great success is discussion, communication, and collaboration. So much is uncovered through discussion, versus simply throwing requests over an email wall. It comes down partnering with suppliers you trust. Outsourced manufacturing is not a simple transaction. Our customers know that the optical components and assemblies they entrust us to manufacture are in capable hands. Our partnerships are built on mutual goals from which both parties benefit through clear expectations and joint accountability.
Q: What’s the top advice you have for OEMs starting a new project?
Craig: Building on what I was just saying, call and talk to us early in your project. Do what you need to build that trust – get answers to your questions, arrange a facility tour, meet with senior leadership and the front line. Trust is built over time, but you need to feel confident when starting a partnership with a new supplier. From there, it’s all about good, frequent communication. A thorough RFQ (Request for Quote) is a great place to start – especially in communicating the technical specs, driving factors, and deadlines, if they are known. But we also work with a lot of customers to help them define those specs when only the end application is known. In these instances particularly, the most successful collaborations are those where there’s space to ideate and iterate on new developments.
Q: Last question, can you tell us about a noteworthy product or project you’ve worked on?
Craig: I’d love to. A customer approached us with a desire to extend the useable wavelength range of their instrument without the need for costly reengineering and without adding a second diffraction grating to the system which would introduce complexity and cost. Working with their engineers we were able to develop a dual blaze wavelength grating that not only allowed them to extend the usable range but also presented them with the ability to optimize the linearity of their system response. This, In turn, allowed them to increase the dynamic range of their system across the entire spectrum.
Another challenging project was for an OEM needing a grating much smaller than what is typically commercially available in order to meet their desire to keep their instrument lightweight, compact, and portable. While this may seem like a simple task, there is a turning point where the small size of components begins to become a processing, handling and even a packaging and shipping challenge. Working with our process engineers here, we were able to overcome those challenges for the customer and now routinely supply them with diffraction gratings that are smaller than 3mm square and less than 1mm thick.
Thank you, Craig!
About Optometrics, a Dynasil Company
Optometrics is an ISO 9001:2015 and ITAR certified supplier of optical components and sub-assemblies dedicated to wavelength selection and light management solutions for defense, security, research, academia and OEM customers globally. Through its principal processes of mechanical ruling, holographic recording, photolithography, optical thin film coatings, and opto-mechanical assembly, the company has become known as a world-class manufacturer of optical instruments including diffraction gratings, filters, wire grid polarizers, monochromators, and beamsplitters and has capacity to manufacture and assemble more than 500,000 precision replicated components annually. Learn more about Optometrics, and our custom and OEM solutions.