Interview with an Expert

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Zachary HobbsZachary Hobbs is engineering manager at Sydor Optics, based in Rochester, N.Y. He has more than 17 years of experience in optical manufacturing, in addition to a B.S. in electrical/mechanical engineering technology from the Rochester Institute of Technology and an A.A.S. in engineering science from Alfred State College.

Hobbs shares his insight with Photonics Spectra about current trends in the optics field. He examines the challenges for the optics workforce, related education, and technology development, and offers a look at the future.

Q: What trends are you seeing in the optics field?

A: We are seeing companies come to us for larger and thinner substrates. Technology is very much a driver behind those requests as our customers stretch the limits of their capabilities. Customers are no longer utilizing just optical glass, they are choosing materials that meet their narrow band of physical and/or optical requirements. Sapphire, silicon, and germanium are just the latest materials that we have designed new processes around.

Q: Does Sydor offer programs to train and enlist optics technicians for the workforce?

A: The optics community has struggled to recruit and train new talent. To combat this, Sydor Optics has tried to identify people with the right set of skills and bring them into our organization. Over the last year, we have put together a new training program and developed a head trainer, allowing us to standardize the training process and better equip new employees for immediate success. Optics is a growing field with a strong outlook for the future, so recruiting and retaining talent is very important to the long-term prospects of the industry and of individual companies.

Q: What does the future hold for optics technology and applications?

A: It has been said that the 20th century was the century of the electron, and the 21st century is the century of the photon. So optics and optical applications are going to be very important to future technological development. Smartphones were introduced just over a decade ago and now, in the U.S., they are in the hands of just about everyone. Data consumption is increasing daily and the best way to transfer data is through light. Cutting-edge companies are working on methods of early disease detection in hopes of saving more lives, and optics/optical coatings are helping to enable these developments. It is truly an exciting time to be in the optics industry!

Published: August 2018
Optics Special SectionZachary HobbsSydor

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