OpTek machines will have made over 3,000 parts by the time you finish reading this sentence. But it wasn’t always that way. OpTek was founded in February 2000 by three entrepreneurial engineers who had what CEO Mike Osborne calls, “a crazy idea that we wanted to sell capital equipment.” The “crazy” worry seemed to be confirmed when multiple potential customers declared bluntly that they weren’t about to purchase capital equipment from a startup company.
But it really wasn’t crazy. The first customers to understand the value proposition of OpTek were the telecom and datacom businesses that were looking for innovative manufacturing methods to meet the unprecedented demands of the dot-com boom – something that OpTek was eager to provide with its novel and patented laser and automation technology.
OpTek was first in the world to take these capabilities from the laboratory to full, successful commercialization.
The Model for Success
From that beginning, OpTek established the business model that is still driving its success two decades later: Be willing to take on the challenge, develop a better way to solve it, and make the solution work at-scale – either through the provision of production-line machines, or through contract processing of parts, now done at OpTek’s sites on three continents.
That can mean anything from manufacturing parts in-house according to the customer’s specifications, to designing processes and building machines that perform extraordinary manufacturing feats on the customer’s own production line.
Machines can be anything from a tabletop laser device to a 20-ton automated system integrating material handling, laser machining, real-time inspection and closed-loop feedback, and more.
Processing can be from prototypes in single digit volumes, to multi-million parts per year.
Or it can even mean candidly advising a customer that a laser is not be the optimal way to achieve the desired result (and offering a non-laser solution if appropriate).
The dot-com downturn of the early 2000s brought pain to many technology startups, including OpTek. But the company’s R&D innovations had already proved so valuable, its commercialization capabilities so solid, and its ability to serve new vertical markets so agile, that OpTek was able to continue expanding. It wasn’t long before the company would be on a trajectory of doubling in size every two to three years.
A Growing Industry and Geographical Presence
In 2006–2007 a subsidiary company, OpTek Systems, Inc., was established to perform security-restricted work for the US governments. An operation was established in China in 2014 to serve significant growth there in the telecom and datacom industries. Over the years, several new and expanded facilities have been established on three continents. And in February 2019, OpTek joined the Humanetics Group, further amplifying its resources and extending its reach to serve an even wider array of industries in markets around the world.
OpTek’s laser micromachining and optical fiber processing capabilities serve a wide and ever-growing range of industries and applications. More than 80% of the top 10 companies in medical devices, electronics, aerospace and data communications partner with OpTek, and the company also serves energy, automotive, pharmaceutical and several other markets.
OpTek engineers take pride in achieving many industry “firsts” that have since become industry standards, enabling new best practices that make life safer, more productive and better for people around the world.
To give just one example, OpTek has helped medical device manufacturers create innovations that have saved thousands of lives. Cellular diffusion, drug dosing control, disposable and home-health therapeutic devices, tissue processing, wound treatment, oxygen sensing, minimally invasive surgery, infectious disease diagnostics—OpTek plays a role in all of these fields of medical innovation and many more.
In its 20-year history, 20 billion precision parts have been processed on OpTek machines worldwide—and counting. And beyond laser machining and optical fiber processing, OpTek offers material handling, bonding, integrated inspection, self-calibration and other capabilities to enable end-to-end process automation. It’s all part of a dual commitment to excellence in multidisciplinary engineering and close-to-the-customer collaboration, manufacturing and service.
And it’s all part of OpTek’s determined commitment to serve each customer’s requirements and to advance the science, art and attainability of the possible. From humble beginnings, OpTek promises to bring about an extraordinary future, bringing new manufacturing capabilities to a range of industries worldwide.
Celebrating 20 Years of Precision Laser Processing
2000: OpTek founded in the Oxfordshire, England
2001: First machines delivered
2002: First North American machines delivered
2004: First Asian systems delivered
2007: OpTek Systems Inc. established, South Carolina, U.S.A.
2008: Moved to larger South Carolina facility
2009: OpTek China established, Hong Kong, Beijing and DongGuan
2011: Queen’s Award for Export Achievement
2012: Expansion of UK premises
2014: Expansion of Dongguan, China facility
2016: Second Queen’s Award for Export Achievement
2017: Austin, Texas U.S.A. office opened
2018: Expansion of Dongguan, China facility
2019: Expansion of South Carolina U.S.A. facility
2019: Joined the Humanetics Group
2019: Expansion of Oxford, UK facility
2020: Opening of new facility in Boston, USA