A passion for product development

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Carlos Lee (right) with Israel Grossinger

 

Carlos Lee talks with Israel Grossinger, CEO and founder of Holo/Or, a developer of diffractive optics for laser systems

How did you come to set up Holo/Or?

My background is in electronic engineering. In 1973, I graduated with a BSc in electrical and electronics engineering from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and then started working in R&D for various companies. In 1977, I joined Indigo, a company based in Israel, and became R&D manager, responsible for developing their digital printing processes and equipment. 

In 1989, at the age of 40, I decided to start my own company. At that time, holography was a hot topic and I had the vision of combining this technology with micro-electronics to create a new manufacturing process for diffractive optical and micro-optical elements. Our first device was a wavelength division multiplexer to provide more bandwidth. But as it transpired, the big companies were not interested in more bandwidth, so we had to look for alternative opportunities for our holographic technology.

Can you share an example of a highlight or breakthrough moment?

In 1991, we successfully negotiated a partnership with Coherent, which was interested in acquiring a diffractive optics product for their CO2 lasers. We developed a few prototypes and our own software and after two or three years, we were selling various products for CO2 lasers. This was particularly important for us because, although we had provided products to research institutes, it was the first time that we had received confirmation of a demand for our devices from industry.

What were your main challenges?

In the beginning it was difficult. Not only did we have to develop the software and a manufacturing capability, we also had to understand the needs of the market. The tasks of simultaneously addressing and optimising both the technology and the market was more difficult and took much longer than I anticipated.

Also, coming from the technology world and R&D, it took me a long time to get to grips with the sales and marketing side of product development. The thing I learned is that you must have an efficient commercial team in place as soon as possible to take care of the business side.

What have been the high points over the past 30 years?

The first high point was when we received our first repeat orders. We had had a few repeat orders from universities and development teams before, but when customers started coming back for the second and third time with larger and larger orders, I realised the market had found a really usable, long-term application. 

The second high point was when customers in the medical sector started to order on a regular basis and to incorporate our technology into their own products. The fact that their products were based on our products was really satisfying and gave me a real sense of achievement.

What future developments do you plan for the company?

After our first diffractive optical prototypes for Coherent, we developed a process for high laser damage threshold (LDT) diffractive optical elements for all wavelengths. Today, we provide a full range of diffractive optics products based on our own software, including beam shapers, beam splitters, beam foci products and accessories and we work with most of the largest laser companies in the USA, China, Japan, South Korea and Germany. 

One of the main reasons we have been so successful is that, with my background in R&D, we’ve continued to innovate and to develop new customised solutions to the client’s needs. For example, in January 2020 we introduced a new diffractive solution for a 3D beam shaper with freedom of shape to meet the growing demand for laser-brazing and welding applications. Additionally, we will continue to focus on delivering high quality products through our quality management system. This system measures and reviews both internal and external processes, as well as providing feedback through customer surveys. 

Although I have ultimate responsibility for quality, all employees have a responsibility within their own areas of work to help ensure that quality is embedded within the whole of the company.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?  

Enjoy what you do. I have really enjoyed every minute of the last 30 years and I am still enjoying it. I have never been bored, and I stay motivated because I have a passion for developing technology and creating new products.