It has been three decades since LightPath Technologies incepted from its humble beginnings. The firm forayed from small acquisitions into one of the world’s most respected manufacturers, designers and distributors of optical components. From the words of Sam Rubin, President/CEO, LightPath Technologies, “Innovation is what started the company and is exactly what is driving the company today.” Yet, Mr. Rubin, who assumed the CEO role in March 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, has much greater aspirations for the Company as a leading provider of engineered solutions to the global photonics industry.
As a result of the firm’s commitment to continually innovate, LightPath made a breakthrough in developing a new of form of optical glass called BD6, a proprietary Black DiamondTM chalcogenide-based glass lens that is manufactured at its facilities in Orlando, FL. BD6 has found significant utility in thermal imaging systems, sensory and measurement applications, and especially in camera lenses that are designed for search and rescue operations, nature observation, hunting, maritime navigation and other similar sporting and outdoor applications The firm’s ability to mass produce BD6 lenses in high volumes has been one of the key factors to the product’s massive success. LightPath’s BD6 lenses can be customized to reduce spherical abnormalities and they deliver performance similar to single aspherical lenses that provide zero-blur and greater image quality.
Extending Beyond the Norms
According to Mr. Rubin, Optics is a very unique and highly multidisciplinary field and LightPath has been leveraging technology to the highest level to enable organizations to use the power of optics to harness light efficiently. The firm regards Molded optics as one of its differentiated technologies. Molding is achieved by taking glass and pressing it into the form of a lens in a much more cost effective and unique way compared to other techniques, which is what LightPath has been renowned for over the years.
For many years, the cost surrounding optics and components related to optics were very high, and only specialty companies were involved in the design and manufacture of optical and optical related systems. But ever since the optical communication boom, and the integration with silicon along with various production methods, optic systems, photonics and equipment related to that have become much more affordable. The expansion in the use of optical related components has only made the case stronger for organizations such as LightPath, which has been transforming itself under Mr. Rubin’s leadership from simply being a component manufacturer into a solutions partner for technology companies that want to use optics as a critical factor in their product architecture. From laser printers, to barcode scanners, to temperature measurement devices and more, there is a rapid expansion of product categories that are using optics as an enabler to enhance functionality and form. LighPath is at the forefront of making optics accessible for industries and customers. “Customers come to LightPath and we design an optical system sub-assembly and deliver it completely ready to use for them,” says Mr. Rubin.
Breakthroughs & Innovation
Optics is gaining massive traction in industrial and commercial applications. With the gradual reduction in the cost of using optics along with advancements in visible optics and infrared technologies, adoption is becoming even more pervasive across multiple vertical markets, says Mr. Rubin. For example, LIDAR works as a combination of radar and light, and uses light in the form of laser to measure the exact distance of an object on the earth’s surface. LightPath is leaving no stone unturned to understand the usability of LIDAR into their product portfolio by channeling a great portion of their R&D to develop solutions specific to it. LightPath is also improving its technology in thermal imaging in ways where they can mass produce thermal cameras which have found great traction in the automotive field.
A recent game changing innovation was unveiled by LightPath in October of this year when the company announced the addition of freeform optics to its portfolio of high performance, next-generation custom molded optical solutions. “Our Freeform technology represents an important growth opportunity for LightPath and a solution for our customers who earlier found their optical components from our competitors challenging to incorporate,” said Mr. Rubin. “These challenges led major OEMs and other industry players to LightPath’s door. The development of our Freeform optics, for which we completely own the intellectual property, was actually funded in large part by new partners, including one of the world’s largest social media/gaming companies and a leading international multi-industry optical technology conglomerate.” This technology is ideally suited for LIDAR, virtual reality and augmented reality applications since Freeform optics have surface shapes that lack certain symmetrical attributes which make them more difficult and expensive to mass produce, but provide improved aperture, field of view and miniaturization. By utilizing LightPath’s proprietary molding technology, it has perfected a way to mass produce molded Freeform optics, rather than fabricating optical elements individually, as it is done today by its competitors.
According to Mr. Rubin, the key factor is always understanding the manufacturability when it comes to designing an optical subsystem. The firm boasts of housing excellent expertise for its manufacturing capabilities in precision molding of lenses, polishing, diamond turning, coating and machining of lenses; and all of this is done in a much more cost-effective way for clients. “We can take a subsystem and design for 3 lenses which usually otherwise will require the usage of 4 different lenses, by leveraging various manufacturing techniques and assembly techniques,” Mr. Rubin added.
LIGHPATH is at the forefront of making optics accessible for industries and customers.
When it comes to innovation, LightPath has been delivering all-out efforts to push the limits to innovate continuously. “We are a bit obsessive about innovating. For example, when it comes to a complicated process such as molding a glass into different shapes, the industry norm up until today was limited to a 1-inch diameter, and LightPath has pushed all limits to be able to mold larger lenses in a cost-effective way.” For the Augmented Reality space, the firm has hit a new bar in producing a single optical element as compared with using 4-5 optical elements which usually is cumbersome and expensive. “With our molding process, we can make about 4 million lenses a year, and this makes our solutions highly scalable,” he claims.
Strong Mission & Vision
A unique factor about LightPath is its ability to mold and replicate lenses into very large quantities to be used in the field of optical communication systems, such as for the 5G revolution. Moreover, through constant innovation and investments in production and finishing techniques, the firm’s lenses have found massive traction in the fields of imaging to impact the way we live and work. Applications include thermal cameras used for temp. measurement, space and defense, automotive electronics, medical products (endoscopes – reusable PCR machines, DNA analysis, biomed industry), etc. “We are a group of people who are massive believers in really wanting the technology to succeed. We are directly affecting the people’s quality of life,” says Mr. Rubin exuberantly.
LightPath continues to stand true to its core belief which is to enable people to use optics in their systems. With a strong presence of manufacturing, design and sales facilities across three continents, LightPath is experiencing great demand for its optical and infrared innovations in recent quarters and intends to continue to leverage the best technologies to help its customers.