Optical assembly is an important step in the production of an optical system—as well as a major cost driver. As we’ve previously discussed, designing optics with assembly in mind can ease the transition from prototype to final product and save money in the long run. But beyond design, the “who” and “where” of assembly can also affect price.
Assembling optical systems yourself can have unintended costs. Many times it is cost-effective to outsource some portion of the optical assembly process. Here are four factors to consider when deciding whether to outsource.
- Production frequency: Consider the number of units that you are assembling, the frequency of the orders, and the inventory you can store. If the optical system is not in continuous production, restarting the assembly process will require setup time and asset reallocation. The time lost may be better spent on other tasks.
- Staffing: Optical assembly requires skill and experience. There is presently a shortage of trained optical technicians, making hiring very competitive. Training new technicians in house takes time away from production, which hurts both output and profits. There is also the very real possibility of other companies “sniping” your newly-minted technicians. All of these factors put your production chain at risk.
- Facilities and equipment: For optimal performance, optical systems require precision assembly and thorough testing. Both involve specialized instrumentation and fixtures. Frequently the assembly environment is also a concern, whether it is cleanliness, temperature, or humidity. The cost, maintenance, and space all need to be considered when factoring in the cost of in-house assembly.
- Localization: Having your optical supplier perform some pre-assembly at their facility ensures that all of the required components are in the right place at the right time. The supplier may also be able to provide additional specialty services such as optical coatings and opto-mechanical housings. Finally, consider transportation costs, as shipping complete assemblies is usually less expensive than shipping individual parts.
At Ross Optical, we have expertise in all stages of optical system development, from conceptual design to multi-element assembly in our on-site white rooms. Give us a call to discuss your project, and find out how partnering with Ross can improve your optics supply chain.
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