News from

New York Photonics

April 2023


“We left our hearts in San Francisco, It was good to see them again.” 

The New York Aisle was abuzz with activity. Set day up was like a reunion, seeing old friends, giving hugs, high-fives, handshakes. It’s as if COVID was truly over! Now, we know that COVID is still a very serious virus for many people who are immunocompromised, but that wasn’t a population who was at the show as far as we could tell. San Francisco looked as if it had been beat down by the pandemic, but not dead! Not every restaurant we used to count on for lunches around the convention center made it through, but some things did survive and were even better this time around. 


After a negotiation with the teamsters, we were able to get our NY Photonics Aisle marker in the correct spot and by 10 am Tuesday we were ready to go! The crowd did not disappoint.

Patrick Iulianello, VP and co-owner of Accucoat said “The NY Aisle was as active as I have seen it in years at Photonics West. For Accucoat inc., it was definitely one of our busiest shows ever, with the most visitors and the best quality of contacts and discussions in quite a few years for this tradeshow. Thanks to everyone at SPIE and all the attendees for making PW2023 a success for the Optics and Photonics Industry as a whole.”

The American Center for Optics Manufacturing (AmeriCom) booth was well-positioned right outside the NY Aisle, Kay Wilcoff, who is currently studying optics at MCC, was really busy telling everyone about Monroe Community College’s (MCC) optics programs, networking and partnering with other schools to create a national network of precision optics programs based on the Optical Systems Training Program running at MCC. Josanne DeNatale is the National Marketing and Workforce Development Operations Director for Americom said that the show was just what they needed to connect industry with the schools across the country who are offering hands-on optics programs and technical training. 

Kay shared her impressions of her first Photonics West show, “ The large scale of Photonics West was mind bending. I loved getting to see many familiar faces and continue to network at the world’s largest photonics event. Celebrating Dr. Alexis Vogt was a highlight. Personally, I was struck by the juxtaposition in resources of the conference activities and people experiencing homelessness in the immediate surrounding area. I walked away wondering how SPIE can steward resources to leave host communities better than before arriving.

Dr. Alexis Vogt was particularly moved by being back together with friends, family and the entire optics community. It was extra special this year as she was recognized by SPIE as the recipient of the Maria J Yzuel Educator award. 

The 22,000-person registration was near an all-time high, according to Jeff Nichols, Director of Sales From SPIE. “It was great to see the NY Cluster Aisle back to normal,” said Nichols, “the booths were filled with interested customers, potential partners, and friends.” He continued to say that SPIE really appreciates the support of all the NY Photonics members. And in response we say, “Thanks, Jeff for all of your help bringing the show back to its former glory.” We agree wholeheartedly! 

The Prism Award ceremony was well attended as usual, congrats to all the winners. 

The first SPIE Photonics West event was held in 1995 and has since grown to become one of the largest and most important events in the photonics industry. It attracts attendees from around the world including researchers, engineers, industry professionals and a lot of investors these days, it seems. Everyone and their brother/sister stopped by to ask who was for sale in Rochester, NY and across the northeast in general. We told them sign up for the next NY Photonics event or newsletter to find out who’s for sale or who you missed out on buying! 

Over the years, SPIE Photonics West has served as a platform for showcasing the latest advances and newest products in the optics and photonics industry. Exhibitors demonstrate everything from cutting edge products and solutions in areas like glass and plastic components, lens assemblies, lasers, sensors, imaging systems, fiber optics and many more.

The technical program was comprehensive as always, with hundreds of presentations, workshops and courses covering a wide range of topics within the field of optics and photonics. It featured world renowned experts from academia, industry and government and provided a ton of opportunities for networking, learning, partnership, and collaboration. 

A fun highlight was the post SPIE Optics Jam – this gathering has been going on for many years by a group of professional musicians who happen to have day jobs in optics. This year things went big time, and the Jammers rented an art gallery and had over 300+ people attend. The NY Photonics cluster was well represented with sponsors like QED, Optimax, Vertex, RPO, Trioptics USA along with others across the country from the band. 

We can’t wait for SPIE DCS, hoping to come back with the same report on how busy things are. 

Save the Date


Q2 Panel Discussion: Head Mounted Systems


Moderated by: Tom Battley

Susan Houde-Walter

RiT/Lasermax Defense

Jim Olsen


KC Kamenecka

Thorlabs Lens Systems

Erik Stover


Jayson Tierson



5:30 pm Registration

6:00 pm Panel Discussion

7:00 pm Networking

$60/person includes 2 drinks tickets for the networking hour.

An Interview with


Lisa Belodoff (CEO, Bell Collaborative) had the chance to catch up with Paul Melone (Direction of Optics Manufacturing, Thorlabs) on the heels of the acquisition of Rochester’s JML Optical by Thorlabs, Inc., headquartered in Newton, NJ. Thorlabs is currently operating in 9 different countries, with 15 facilities in the United States alone. With the acquisition of JML by Thorlabs, Thorlabs Lens Systems (TLS) was born as a new division of the Thorlabs organization. Below are some excerpts from their chat, edited for clarity and brevity. Part II will be published in the next newsletter.


LB: What’s the message you're looking to provide to the to the Rochester market? 


PM: We're really going to be changing the TLS facility and upgrading a lot of the capability with respect to equipment. And I think that for certain, the people at JML at TLS are very excited. 


LB: What drove the timing for the acquisition? Was it something in the market that you saw? 


PM: I've been part of Rochester for a long time, going back at least 20 years. I've certainly have built some really close relationships here with the schools and with some industry partners and I have a lot of respect for Rochester, the history and Kodak, etc. I always had felt drawn to Rochester, and in the last few years I had a kind of a vision to get a physical presence in Rochester, and I felt in order to do that, I had some things I wanted to accomplish prior to that, so that when that did happen, it would be a as seamless as possible, and that the players here in Rochester wouldn't be surprised, and they would already have either worked with me on things or gotten to know me.  


LB: By way of all the support and everything you've shown to New York photonics and the Rochester community. You're on a couple of committees, right? 


PM: Yes, things like joining the New York Photonics Board or being on Americom, a couple of steering committees. I've known Tom Battley long time and and and quite a few other people over the years. I felt like I wanted to position us for that, and I think we've always been good about supporting entities in Rochester when there was a need whether it was financially or discounts on Thorlabs equipment, just being a good community player. I think the old saying is, you know you “put your money where your mouth is”, and I think I think we've done a good job of that. All that kind of led up to, having a physical presence in Rochester. I think the timing was right for us this past year because of a couple of factors. COVID had kind of done a number on our supply chain. We started to experience things that we never experienced in the past like big back orders because we couldn't deliver because of the supply chain was a mess. So, you know, At Thorlabs as you know, our thing is you order it today, it ships out today, and that started to slip. We started to realize that that we were having a hard time getting back even when Covid was letting it up, we had lost some people, and just got far behind with the supply chain stuff. And so, in that sense, we were looking for more capacity. And JML, now Thorlabs Lens Systems certainly can. do that. There's a really good core group there, really talented people. I'm excited that I've met a lot of them now and I'm even more excited to roll up my sleeves and work with them. Alex Cable, our CEO was very receptive to it. So, we went down that road, we did our due diligence. It certainly looked to us to be a good fit, especially for the people in Rochester. Thor Labs now is a very large company, in 8 to 9 countries and we have facilities all over the place and lots of different subgroups and things, but TLS has some capabilities that we currently don’t, like large optics and cylinder optics. There's some stuff that fits nicely that we haven't been doing. 


LB: I guess that that would lead me to believe that what have you found that you didn't expect? You know, there's a surprising capability that maybe even people wouldn't necessarily know about JML, but now that you're in there, you can see. 


PM: You know, one of the things that strikes me is there’s a lot of employees there that have a real loyalty and they're very proud of the JML brand. And 50 years as of last year, there's quite a few people that have been there since the beginning. Sometimes you could take somebody who's very loyal to the the prior company, and it makes it very difficult to transition them into the new company. But this time, everybody is really buying in. There's real enthusiasm. I get stopped when I'm in the in the building there they say, “hey, you know, we're really glad you guys are here and we're really looking forward to working with you”, and they give me their story. 


LB: Great. It's not always welcomed, right? The acquiring company sometimes comes in, sometimes there's layoffs, big changes. In your case are, can you share the planned adds to the jobs or what you see in the next year or for 2023? 


PM: Yes, that we have definitely have some holes. We're really looking forward to filling them and finding somebody that's fresh out of school or somebody who's been in the industry 20 years. We're looking to supplement and really strengthen the team. It might be some stuff for engineering and manufacturing processes. We have a couple of adjuncts at MCC under Alexis’s program, and with Mike Pomeranz, and we have a a very a very nice relationship with those folks. They helped us start a program in Sussex County, New Jersey, where Thorlabs is located. The nice thing is that right away we started to get calls from people. I just got one again yesterday. “Hey, you know I'm I'm living in Rochester and for one reason or another, I never went to work at JML”, and now they're interested. So we've had a lot of that. 


LB: That’s a real message of commitment right to community based on what you've done in New Jersey Rochester is pretty welcoming to that kind thing and of somebody that gets it right the schools. 


PM: If you lived in Rochester and were doing work and you wanted to do something else in your career, a lot of times you'd have to go leave the company you're at. It's a little bit different with thorlabs. We have different segments of the business, there's there's a variety of different kinds of work and different locations. I think the Thorlabs brand is really strong, and it's built a reputation over the years as being a great company to work for. And I can attest to that because in one way or the other, I've been here for over 25 years. A lot of that is attributed to Alex Cable who really built this thing from the ground up. I think that's a very attractive thing for workforce. 


LB: Maybe you could talk a little bit about Thorlabs Lens Systems, the name of this division. Is that sending a message? Is that an area of focus that that you want to bring to the forefront? What kinds of markets do you see yourselves serving? 


PM: I looked around and it made sense to me to focus on lens and lens production. That's an important thing, right - your name should telegraph what you do and what you do well. The Thorlabs way from day one has been customer centricity, helping our customers. A lot of the work that will happen at TLS will be job shop, custom specials, maybe production OEM. And you know, wherever we can, we'd like to help our customers. I always used to look at it when I was doing that stuff out of Newton, I did it as a service to our catalog customers. Of course, I wanted to make some money, some profit, but it truly was always like, “hey, this guy, he's in a bind. He's got his project 90% of the way there. How do we close that gap?” Alex Cable and I used to talk about that all the time. you know, filling in that gap. How do we do it? How do we do it right? 


LB: So it really was born out of the customer coming to you with a need. 


PM: Right, one of the things that we're really proud of in the catalog is that the portfolio of different options in parts that you have, or, it's amazing because we’ve got stuff in there that we know we may only sell one or two, but we always looked at it like you know what? If you're going to have this kind of lens in the catalog, well, with this coating, you should have it in there with this coating too or maybe some other different features that a lens would have. We were willing to take the expense of having some extra inventory that way, just for people to have options. For a long time, it's always been about how we help our customers get across the finish line, and doing everything that you possibly can, going all out and making sure that you're really making a difference with your customers. 


LB: Jen Cable is now President; this is the second-generation company with a long history. You've done successful acquisitions before. How are you going to measure success? 


PM: Actually, this acquisition is a little bit different than the normal acquisitions we do. We usually acquire companies that have a cool technology that hasn't really gotten into the mainstream yet. And we always feel like we can get involved with these people and make some tweaks and throw them the Thorlabs engine as a support tool, and then they could bloom and really get the technology out there. Usually those don't come with revenue. So, this acquisition was a departure. It certainly came with the Aa big crew of people, a facility, established revenue, and that's great. We're going to build on that. 

The way that we're going to measure success is by being able to take their existing customers and improve on our delivery times, improve on our on our pricing, and by being reliable with all those factors. If we say you're going to have it in two weeks, three weeks, 5 weeks, it'll be on your desk. That's one way you measure success. Obviously, we also want to as profitable as we can, so I'll be looking at as our margins making sure that we're costing things right and we're pricing things right and then delivering that value to our customers when they need it. We have built an OEM capability with Michael Mohammadi (Director of Sales and Technical Services), over the last seven or eight years, it's a global capability. Everything runs through that group, so the two people that we had salespeople at JML are now reporting to that group. These are guys that have been around, they're well liked and well known in the industry. We have really deepened our bench in optics for OEM over the past couple of years. We are not at the point where we're fully gonna unleash them, but that's coming very soon because there's some upgrades we want do. 


LB: Optics is a hard thing, and if it was easy, everybody be doing it, right? 


PM: Yeah. But I think you know, another thing we're working on with JML/TLS is that we think there's a lot of opportunity there in the industry, and we want to make sure that we're we're going after the kind of business that fits well for us in the Thorlabs family. 


LB: I think it's as a growing company, right? You're going to have to be selective as you're adding staff, you're doing an integration, you're buying new machines You're already expanding on the capability. 


PM: Yes, I was in New Jersey this whole past week and we had some budget meetings, and I was very happy because we had really done a good job of seeing what the needs were, and making sure everybody on the team understood what the return would be. I think we walked out of there with a lot of good decisions, and I am really excited. I was just in Rochester last week and got to visit some of my friends, machine tool guys like OptiPro and Mike Bechtold, and I was taking some people around and putting a stake in the ground, saying, “Hey, we're here, we really want to be state-of-the-art, be really good. We want to have the tools to be really good because it's really hard to be good if you don't have the right tools to work with”. At Thorlabs Lens Systems we want to give these guys every advantage at being able to design it and being able to manufacture it. And measure it! 

LB: How was the Photonics West show for you folks? Obviously we've had the last couple of years of a little bit of crazy and COVID. How did the JML customers react and what's your feel overall? 


PM: It was one of the best shows! I I've been going for 25 years, and it was one of my most memorable ones. We hadn't been there in three years because of COVID. It was really wonderful to see so many friends and faces I hadn't seen in a while, I couldn't really walk 10 feet without somebody stopping me or running into somebody and just giving a hug and saying, “hi and how you've been?” And the floors were packed. The booth was packed, people were really happy to see Thor Labs back. 

We had some nice new things to show off in our booth so that that piece of it was really wonderful. 

I got to spend some time with some friends having breakfasts and dinners and just having good conversations around opportunities and in the industry. And it's at least all about the ride, right? 

I've been on this ride a long time and a lot of the people that I work with in this industry are really wonderful people, a lot of them are good friends and the sense of community that I get makes the the hair on my arms stand up sometime. That's a wonderful thing. Optics is the coolest community. 

And I I'm just really thankful to be part of it. We had a panel at the show, Tom Battley, Alexis, Navid and Josanna were up on the panel and they did a super job of outlining and talking and answering questions about workforce, workforce development, how do we get people in the optics industry, etc. That's the thing for me that I've been working on for a few years now. There’s been a lot of bumps in the road and there's been lots of opportunity to just give up and we could have given up here. But we didn't and now here we are, and we have support through America. These schools are getting state-of-the-art machine tools and are going to be getting a great education and the best thing is when they come out, they'll have a job waiting for them.  

Stay tuned for Part II in the next newsletter!



The Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 2021, aims to bolster the domestic semiconductor industry by providing financial incentives and promoting innovation. This legislation is of particular interest to the optics and photonics businesses in the state of New York, as it offers opportunities for expansion and growth within the state's already robust industry. By examining the key provisions of the CHIPS Act, we can explore how these businesses stand to benefit and what strategies they can employ to maximize their gains.

The CHIPS Act: An Overview 


The CHIPS Act is a comprehensive piece of legislation designed to strengthen the U.S. semiconductor industry through a combination of financial incentives, research funding, and strategic partnerships. The main components of the act include: 


  • Financial Incentives: The act provides significant federal funding for the construction and expansion of semiconductor manufacturing facilities within the United States. This aims to increase domestic production capacity and reduce reliance on foreign suppliers. 


  • Research and Development (R&D): The CHIPS Act invests heavily in semiconductor R&D, with a focus on next-generation technologies and emerging fields, such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and advanced materials. 


  • Strategic Partnerships: The legislation also seeks to enhance collaboration between the federal government, academia, and the private sector, fostering an ecosystem that supports innovation and knowledge exchange. 


Optics in Semiconductor Chip Manufacture 


The manufacture of semiconductor integrated circuits (ICs) relies heavily on the use of glass, lenses, lens assemblies, coatings, and other optical products. These optical components play a critical role in ensuring the high precision and accuracy required throughout the IC fabrication process. 


Photolithography: One of the primary steps in semiconductor manufacturing is photolithography, where intricate circuit patterns are transferred onto a silicon wafer. This process involves the use of high-quality lenses and lens assemblies to focus and project ultraviolet light through a photomask onto a photosensitive layer. The performance of these optical components directly impacts the resolution and accuracy of the resulting IC patterns. 


Inspection and Metrology: The quality control process for semiconductor manufacturing necessitates the use of advanced optical inspection and metrology tools. Optical microscopes, interferometers, and ellipsometers employ precision lenses, coatings, and other optical components to accurately measure and inspect features on the nanometer scale, ensuring the structural integrity and functionality of the ICs. 


Laser-based Processes: Laser systems are commonly used in semiconductor manufacturing for processes such as annealing, doping, and cutting. These systems require high-quality optical components, including lenses, mirrors, and beam expanders, to focus and shape the laser beams for precise material manipulation. 


Optical Coatings: Anti-reflective and protective coatings are applied to lenses and other optical components used in semiconductor manufacturing to enhance performance, reduce stray light, and minimize the impact of environmental factors. These coatings contribute to the overall efficiency and reliability of the fabrication process. 


Glass, lenses, lens assemblies, coatings, and other optical products are integral to the manufacture of semiconductor ICs, as they enable critical processes such as photolithography, inspection, metrology, and laser-based material manipulation. The precision, quality, and performance of these optical components directly influence the efficiency, accuracy, and yield of semiconductor manufacturing, making them essential for the production of advanced ICs. 



Impact of CHIPS on New York's Optics and Photonics Industry 


New York has long been a hub for the optics and photonics industry, with a well-established ecosystem of companies, research institutions, and skilled professionals. The CHIPS Act has the potential to further strengthen this ecosystem by providing new opportunities for growth and innovation. Some key areas of impact include: 


  • Infrastructure Expansion: The financial incentives offered by the CHIPS Act present a prime opportunity for existing optics and photonics businesses in New York to expand their operations. By taking advantage of these funds, companies can build new facilities or upgrade existing ones, increasing production capacity and creating new jobs. 


  • Attracting New Businesses: The act's incentives can also attract new businesses to the state, fostering competition and further solidifying New York's position as a leader in the optics and photonics sector. New companies can benefit from the state's existing infrastructure, expertise, and talent pool, while also contributing to the overall growth of the industry. 


  • Research and Innovation: The CHIPS Act's emphasis on R&D funding can significantly benefit New York's optics and photonics companies, as well as the state's academic institutions. Increased investment in cutting-edge research projects can lead to the development of new technologies and applications, positioning New York-based businesses at the forefront of the global industry. 


  • Workforce Development: As the optics and photonics industry in New York expands, so too does the demand for skilled professionals. The CHIPS Act's focus on strategic partnerships and collaboration can help address this need by fostering connections between educational institutions and industry partners. This can facilitate the development of specialized training programs and educational initiatives, ensuring a steady pipeline of talent for the sector. 


Maximizing Benefits from the CHIPS Act 


In order to maximize benefits from the CHIPS Act, optics companies should adopt a strategic approach that encompasses the following key areas: collaboration, innovation, workforce development, and supply chain resilience. 


Collaboration: To tap into the substantial funding and tax incentives provided by the CHIPS Act, optics companies should forge strategic partnerships with government agencies, research institutions, and other industry players. Collaborating on research and development projects will not only help secure funding but also enable companies to pool resources, share risks, and accelerate the pace of technological advancements. 


Innovation: The CHIPS Act aims to bolster the development of cutting-edge technologies, particularly in areas like semiconductors, photonics, and advanced packaging. To leverage these opportunities, optics companies must continuously invest in research and development, focusing on creating innovative products and solutions that address emerging market needs and align with national priorities. 


Workforce Development: A skilled workforce is critical to the growth and success of optics companies. By participating in government-sponsored programs and collaborating with educational institutions, companies can help develop a pipeline of skilled talent. This will not only address the industry's workforce requirements but also enhance competitiveness and productivity. 


Supply Chain Resilience: With the CHIPS Act emphasizing the importance of a secure and robust supply chain, optics companies should evaluate their existing supply chain networks and identify areas of vulnerability. By diversifying suppliers, incorporating advanced manufacturing techniques, and implementing digital solutions, companies can mitigate risks, ensure business continuity, and capitalize on the opportunities presented by the act. 


By actively engaging in these four areas, optics companies can position themselves to fully benefit from the CHIPS Act, improving their competitive edge, driving innovation, and ultimately contributing to the broader goals of the act – strengthening the domestic technology industry and bolstering national security.

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About New York Photonics
The Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster (RRPC / New York Photonics) is a not-for-profit organization founded to promote and enhance the New York State optics, photonics and imaging industry by fostering the cooperation of business, academia, and government.

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Contact Executive Director, Tom Battley at (585) 329-4029 or email at
New York Photonics |
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