You could make lenses for NASA too

Local News

The small success story that is Optimax Systems in Wayne County is expanding to add more more space for production and more employees.

Optimax CEO Rick Plympton and President Mike Mandina discussed the growth during our Greater Rochester Enterprise Why ROC conversation Wednesday on News 8 at Sunrise.

“At Optimax we make precision optics for research and industry,” said Plympton. “In a small way we’re carrying on the legacy of Rochester for manufacturing precision optics. Our journey started back in 1991 and we’re one of the first small businesses to adopt computer controlled machining of brittle material, and this was based on some research that was done at the University of Rochester. With that capability we were able to develop a process where we could literally make lenses ten times faster than conventional methods, and for the past 25 years we’ve been leveraging that in the marketplace.”

Plympton said among the noteworthy assignments Optimax has received over the years is a trip to space. “We’re a key supplier to NASA for many of their programs, as we get great pride out of supporting NASA’s programs like the Mars Rovers and the mission that went to Pluto called ‘New Horizons.’ We made all of the camera lenses for those programs, and there’s many others that we’ve been privileged to support NASA on.”

Optimax’s success is tied to its talented people. The company wants to added nearly 60 employees to its current workforce of nearly 300. Mandina said the ideal candidate combines technical and artistic skill. “I think the interesting thing about precision optics manufacturing is there’s a lot of science and technology involved – we have state of the art equipment and there’s computer everywhere, we have as many computers as we have employees at Optimax – but we still need the artisan craftsman. So it’s still glass. It’s still perishable. There’s a finesse of handling and so many of our fabricators and technicians, they’re artists in their own right. They’re either musicians or painters or photographers. I mean, so there’s this artistic side that we like to see in our employees that tend to gravitate to the work we do, and there’s also this technical side.”

The physical expansion will double the company’s work space from around 60,000 square feet to 120,000. “Strategically we started out developing our marketing around being the prototype guys in the industry,” explained Plympton. “We do small volume, high quality, quick delivery of precision optics. And then, in our last expansion in 2012, we added some capacity to support production programs. So some of these programs that we prototype for industry are successful and go into higher volume production and now we have some capacity to support that. This expansion that we’re doing this year will add additional capacity to support those programs.”

For more information about Optimax Systems and career opportunities, visit


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