It's an idea we like — one stop shopping. Saves us time, money, energy, and gives us a chance to visualize an entire project as it is mapped out across multiple disciplines. Think of a typical home kitchen renovation — it affects tile, cabinetry, hardware, flooring, appliances, paint, windows, doors and more. Usually, all of these components can be selected, compared, ordered, and purchased from one source, which is often housed in one location. And, there are levels of expertise to draw upon throughout the entire process.
What is vertical integration in optics?
It's a genuine advantage — for customers and optical suppliers. In a sense, it provides one-stop shopping for optical assemblies, which tend to have fairly complex designs. These assemblies require a multi-step approach to manufacture, and often must have unique optical materials and unique coatings. There are labor-intensive assembly procedures, testing that requires good metrology tools, and staff with finely tuned expertise available and involved for each step of the process. Vertical integration in optics requires dedication to collaboration and communication across multiple disciplines.
What happens when vertical integration is not built-in to the sourcing process?
The opportunity for costly errors increases. The chance for a poorly performing assembly increases. Communication, the corner-stone of vertical integration, becomes challenging. And, quite often the lead time from concept to production is increased. All of this impacts budgets, working relationships, and a competitive product advantage for the customer.
Vertical integration mitigates a lot of potential problems
When the individual elements of an optical assembly are outsourced, each to a different vendor, the tolerances can get tighter, often with the idea that there is “wiggle” room for when the individual elements are assembled. The end goal is that the assembly performs as designed. But it does not always work out and usually increases cost and lead time.
With a vertically integrated optics supplier, a key advantage is that the product development team gets involved in the project early, generally around the time of the initial design review. Why is this important? The team is on the same page. A list of parts is developed, an assembly procedure outlined, manufacturing requirements and capabilities are identified, some understanding of testing is acknowledged, and planning begins. There is a dedicated program manager who oversees every step of the cycle, from prototyping to finished product.
When there is a problem, it can be addressed earlier, corrections can be made more easily, deadlines are not severely impacted, and the entire project can be kept on track, on schedule, and on budget. There is also a great deal of layered knowledge that accumulates in vertically integrated environments. Gains from one project can, and do, positively impact the success of future projects.
Vertically integrated optics at Zygo
As an optical system supplier, Zygo has three internal groups: Zygo Precision Optics, Zygo Extreme Precision Optics, and Zygo Electro Optics. Together they make it possible to control the key competencies which make for a vertically integrated supplier.
Importantly, ZYGO also has a decades-long reputation in the manufacture of best-in-class optical metrology instruments. This introduces measuring capabilities that elevate metrology from a necessary evil to a technology that can enable innovation in optical system development. If your project requires custom metrology, who better to design and qualify than ZYGO?
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