APPLIED IMAGE President, Glenn Jackling was a recent guest on Marketscale’s B2B podcast. Glenn and host Daniel Litwin discussed a number of topics related to the Photonics industry’s rapid growth, specifically in New York State, over the past few years. Click the media player below to listen to the podcast.
Below is a transcript of the podcast:
Daniel Litwin: The 20th century was the century of the electron. But that’s old news. The 21st century is the century of the photon, and photonics technology is revolutionizing every industry from Pro AV to IoT to AEC, powering fiber-optics, improved homeland security and topographical scanning. The evolution of the products themselves has also been tremendous. Where as previously, photonics were used more for inspection of products, photonics are now the core components powering those products, creating a chain reaction that goes all the way up to internet services, cloud storage, e-commerce, and even deep space exploration. How and why exactly has the technology grown so much, and how do manufacturers stay ahead of the diverse and expanding markets photonics serve?
Here to give us his insight is Glenn Jackling, President of Applied Image. He breaks down the latest and greatest in photonics, from 3D imaging to augmented reality. With these innovations, however, have come challenges in production; projects reaching into microscopic and monstrous sizes are pushing the envelope of Applied Image’s and other photonics companies’ capabilities. Fresh off a meeting with the Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster, Jackling clues us in to the dramatic local growth of the New York photonics industry as well, and how it’s a positive representation of where the global industry is headed down the road.
Alright Glenn, welcome to the podcast, how are you doing this morning?
Glenn Jackling: Great, thanks!
DL: Great to have you on. How was your weekend? Did you get a nice break?
GJ: I did it was my birthday so I got to celebrate this weekend
DL: Great, well here is my gift to you, a great podcast experience
GJ: Great, thanks.
DL: So, I’m excited to bring you on the podcast to chat about the growth of photonics in the 21st century. Really looking at how this technology has changed, where its come from, why the century is really the century of the photon, and some of the challenges you’ve seen with this technology, whether that’s with its applications or just the very minuscule size of the technology, then looking at the next 10 years of photonics, what is still untapped, where you see these applications going in the future. I’m excited to dig in I hope you are too.
DL: So before we jump in, I know your company just passed your ISO 9001 certification audit, and also your ISO 17025 audit, which is for the calibration laboratory. Tell me a bit about those certifications, when they passed, and how they’re important for this photonics industry and creating great photonics technology.
GJ: Well in our case, the quality system is kind of foundational in that of our customers are large, multi-national, multi-billion dollar companies, and they have expectations of our quality system. And what we are finding is that through the process of having our quality system certified, through an independent accreditation, that gives us better credibility in the industry and with our customers. So I have been with the company for four years, and it’s been an initiative that we took on to formalize our quality system and push to the point of having it independently certified.
The 17025 is for calibration laboratories, it is an international standard as well that speaks to the quality management systems of a calibration laboratory and its requirements. It has more technical elements to it. Because an awful lot of the parts we make are calibrated, meaning the measurements we make, we make on devices that are traceable to national metrology institutes, Like NIST or the NRC from Canada, that again, the calibrations that are done are done with more credibility because of that.
DL: Right, well especially working with photonics technology where a lot of its applications are health related or food related, where you really need to be precise with the information you are gathering, I’m sure customers that are purchasing these products from a company like yours, they want to feel self assured that you’re competent, you know what you’re doing. So having these certifications can only help with that.
GJ: That’s absolutely right. And both the certifications and the traceability that we offer to the national standards are critical elements to the calibration work that we do.
DL: Yeah definitely. So lets go ahead and dig into photonics technology, and we’ll start with a brief history. I know the talk around this industry is the 20th century was the century of the electron and now the 21st century is the century of the photon, which is exciting. Seeing this technology expand and really grow and find new applications and we’re only what, 18 years into this century so there’s still plenty of time to see how this technology continues to grow. So i wanted to know from your perspective what some of the most recent and exciting applications are in photonics and how you think this new wave of tech is affecting the bottom line for industries that are starting implement it more and more.
GJ: The diversity of photonic technology is what’s staggering to me. The broad rage of applications across pretty much every industry in the world. Whether its aerospace, defense, biotechnology, light is being used in instrumentation and in devices in so many different ways and what we find is that a lot of those devices need to be calibrated, standardized, and standardized to the point where those results can be compared lab to lab for instance. It’s just to me a staggering range of applications, and that is good, but that is also the challenge that we face, is how do we appeal to, and create awareness in so many different industries.
DL: Yeah I mean that diversity is the blessing and the curse definitely. What are some of your favorite applications at the moment, some of the newest ones that you think are really showcasing the potential of photonics.
GJ: We have just launched a product that has NIST traceable spectral transmission on a slide. So it allows digital pathology labs to calibrate the color rendition of the digital images they are taking, and create a standardization tthat can then be used across labs. We developed that in consult with two different cancer research agencies and have additional products onthe road map that will help enhance that across applications.
DL: Especially with pathology, how do you feel like this technology is changing the bottom line for that side of the healthcare industry? Do you think photonics are really helping propel the way that health professionals are able to then study disease, whether caused by pathogens or something else?
GJ: I think it’s crucial because of artificial intelligence applications that are looking to be developed and by having standardization of the image processing and color rendition, that makes comparison much more appropriate for the applications and lab to lab standardization.
DL: Right, because that’s the main issue is you don’t want it to be… you could have this technology or some different kind of standard in one lab and then in the next lab over, things are run just a little differently and that could skew data, that could skew, or, delay any sort of actual tangible results from this data, and so having that standard across the board must be great. And when a technology can accomplish that, even better.
GJ: Correct. Yes.
DL: So one of my favorite reasons for its growth as well, or i guess one of my favorite applications would be in the food processing world, where color and really precise color is used to detect problems in crops and in outputs and yields, which is so crucial. Tell me a little bit about the agricultural world and how photonics is affecting that market.
GJ: It’s not an area that I am directly involved with, but recently I saw a demonstration of drone applications where they are doing spectral scans of crops and they’re using the results of that to predict mold growth or the maturity of the plants and whatnot. So it’s just yet one more application where an imaging application is in place to evaluate data.
DL: Well and I think a technology like this is even more crucial in a time like today where I think we see a lot of challenges in the agricultural industry. I mean population continues to increase, we’re looking at sustainable ways to try and meet that growth, and something like a technology that can detect and better prevent major issues in crop yields can jump on problems faster. That kind of proactivity is definitely needed. I think it’s reflective of an overall trend of “how can me make all of our actions more sustainable?” And finding technology that really empowers that.
GJ: And using tose technologies to analyze the results and the data are crucial to that outcome.
DL: So I know that your mind is kind of fresh off of photonics because you personally had a meeting with the Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster last week. Meeting once a year with this geographic region, talking on the growth in the photonics industry there, some new exciting tech. A meeting of the minds. So tell me a bit about that meeting and some things you learned at that annual meeting, and what’s getting you excited about your geographical region’s applications of photonics.
GJ: The group itself represents about 120 companies in the New York State Area. What I found out at the meeting is that 120 companies represents about $3 billion in revenue and is generating on the order of 5-7% employment growth, which every region economic development area is interested in employment, obviously. To achieve that level of growth in New York State I think is quite impressive. We have, as a community and state, negotiated and worked with the federal government to be designated as part of the American Institute of Manufacturing. We are responsible for and involved with the integrated photonics initiative, which is basically light on a chip, if you will. A photonics integrated circuit. So New York State and the federal government have combined for a $500 million investment to develop that technology, and we are at the forefront of that. It is a very specific technology. as diverse as photonics is, this is one very specific application or specific technology. But once it’s created, think of what semiconductors did in the 20th century, this is just explosive I think as far as the potential going forward.
DL: Do you think that this employment growth, 5-7% in your region, is reflective of growth in the photonics industry nationwide? Or do you think your geographic region is doing something differently that is setting the bar high for what the rest of the nation should look at, whether technologically, or from the business side of things.
GJ: It’s my understanding that the New York representation in the U.S. is by far the largest and strongest in our country. When you look at global presence of photonics based companies, particularly in the area of making the core components for photonics based systems, we’re a significant contributor, and in some cases, as large as other whole countries are. The U.S., Europe, and Japan are really the big three participants right now in terms of, what I will call, market share with China growing and becoming an ever increasing influence as well.
DL: So you mentioned that at your Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster meeting, you and the rest of the business there are looking at completing a photonic integrated circuit, which is light on a chip, like you said. I feel like that is a core component. Looking at a value chain upwards, that core component helps enable products, which helps enable markets, and then that helps enable services in general. I guess what I want to ask is, with your geographic region, when approaching growth in the photonics industry, do you focus most on the core components? Is that where most of the innovation [occurs] or where people should be looking to innovate? Or is it more big picture, looking at what services do we need to enhance, and then sort of drilling down there. I guess I’m asking if you start big and go small, or start small and go big?
GJ: I think the answer is “Yes.” Obviously, technologies allow things to get smaller and the technologies in core components. We are continually challenged with creating critical features on glass substrates that are smaller and smaller and smaller because the sensors and the systems are more demanding of that. We’re working at the wavelength of light and less in some cases. So the demands are for the components to be better and better in order to enable better products.
DL: I’m glad you brought up that size challenge because it is a really big challenge for a very small, literally small, problem is that you’re working with these materials in the non-visible light spectrum, they’re getting smaller and smaller. I was wondering from your point of view why you think this has become more prevalent in the past few years. I know technology is getting smaller and more compact and more efficient. Are you seeing that trend in photonics and why? And I guess, what new challenges does that size reduction bring.
GJ: Well it certainly challenges us because the manufacturing technologies we have in place have a threshold in what they can accomplish. There’s key investment required to be able to follow that curve if you will, that technology curve, and stay competitive in that market. If you think about the late 1990’s early 200’s, even camera technology, first went from film to sdigital, but then even with digital cameras they got smaller and smaller and now everyone has a camera on their phone. That path is just a good example I think of how the evolution of technology is just going to continue to create more capacity for memory stored on a chip. I think the transmission of data is a challenge with all the telecommunications efforts, and light has become a key part, photonics has become a key part, of data transmission as a result.
DL: Right. Well I mean people are just seeing how efficient light can be in transmitting data and no industry is staying way. I think that’s, what you mentioned earlier, what is such an exciting, but also challenging, part of being in the photonics industry is that you have a diversity of industries you work with and for. So creating products for fiber optics, or homeland security, or topographical scanning, they all require different deliverables. So how do you find that the industry stays ahead of these technological changes and industry specifications? Providing products and different solutions for different demands and needs
GJ: From our standpoint it’s to try and stay as part of the conversations as much as we can in the development of new standards, for instance. I participate in an ISO work group for the development of bar code standards. And our company has been involved with bar code calibration standards since the beginning of bar codes pretty much. So we have a seat at the table, and there is continual changes, even there, as far as new symbols, and new requirements, new applications and so on, that will continue to challenge the manufactures of scanners, verifiers and printers. We help to provide standardization across all of that.
DL: Right. I appreciate that the main point of that is the conversations aspect of it. As the technology continues to increase and get more efficient, and at the same time, a little more challenging to work with. You want to be part of that conversation from the beginning of, “Alright, how can we best integrate this. What industries are going to get the most use out of this photonics integrated chip,” Or whatever other core component you’re working on. That conversation aspect of it is essential to not only saying ahead of the curve, but staying in the curve, I guess if that makes sense. You don’t want to be left out of the conversation and then be told, “Okay this is the kind of product we need” and the it’s like “Okay, well I’ve never had to create something like this. I don’t even know where to begin. What exactly are you looking for here?” Being part of that initial conversation of “What services do you need completed? What solutions are you looking for?” That’s essential, I’d say, especially with an emerging technology like this.
GJ: It’s very true. Our sales team engages with the customers that they talk to on a daily basis in terms of what their requirements are. They often come to us because they have a need for a way to measure or calibrate a device they are building. That conversations helps us to stay current in what’s the emerging market need as those pieces of equipment are being created.
DL: So Glenn, the last thing I want ask you is peering into the future a bit and looking at the next 10 years of photonics. That might be too broad of a time frame. We might just need to look at the next year of photonics because it sounds like this technology is updating itself and finding new applications at a pretty break neck speed. But I want to know what you see as untapped markets or untapped potential for photonics. As you look at new core components to develop which then, down the line will enable new services or revolutionize old services, what do you see as some of the biggest applications that have yet to be put to use.
GJ: One of the areas that’s getting an awful lot of attention that we see right now is augmented reality and 3D imaging, as an example. From a component standpoint, light is being used in a structured way to create predictable images where the data coming back from that image can be used for measurement, whether its in the bio field, or 3D measurement of a part, light is being used in those applications. I saw some data recently in the last three years the compound annual growth rate is about 8% for the industry which is far surpassing typical GDP growth. I think that we’re just getting started as far as the applications go.
DL: Yeah. If this is just the tip of the iceberg, who knows where this technology’s going to take us. That’s the best kind of industry to be a part of.
GJ: It really is. I had the pleasure of being at Kodak when one category of product was growing 40% a year and it was a really fun place to be.
DL: Well Glenn, I really want to thank you for coming on the podcast and giving us your insight on this great growth of photonics in the 21st century, looking at some of the most recent applications, some of the biggest challenges and where you think things are going to go. I’m definitely going to be contacting you again soon, because it sounds like things change pretty quickly in the photonics world. It’s going to be great to stay updated, see what new technological applications are around the corner, and how that’s going to affect industries as a whole
GJ: Thanks a lot Daniel. I am looking forward to sharing some of the new products that we play a part in.