Photonics distributor celebrates its 20th anniversary

Share this on social media:

Pro-Lite Technology Ltd (Cranfield, UK) celebrated its 20th anniversary this month. Formed in September 2002, Pro-Lite is a supplier of specialist equipment and services with a technical focus in photonics, light metrology and optical spectroscopy. 

From humble beginnings, Pro-Lite has grown substantially and today employs over 30 staff based in four countries. Pro-Lite initially served customers in the UK and Ireland, but with the acquisition in 2011 of SphereOptics (Munich, Germany), followed by the formation of Pro-Lite France (Bordeaux) in 2014 and Pro-Lite Iberia (Barcelona) in 2016, the now Pro-Lite Group has grown into a near pan European enterprise. 

Founding partners Ian Stansfield and Robert Yeo combined their laser, opto-electronics and light metrology expertise with business acumen to build a successful company that takes pride in providing expert technical advice to their customers, helping Pro-Lite’s clients to both choose the right product for their application and to derive the most from their investment. 

The science of light metrology (radiometry, photometry, colorimetry etc) is often regarded as a black art, so when the National Physical Laboratory stopped offering training in this area, Pro-Lite stepped in to fill the void and from 2005, offered training workshops in this important subject. This coincided with the start of the LED revolution, where energy efficient solid state lighting started to replace the more traditional types of lamp. Additional training modules have since been added, including 

training on laser safety and for laser safety officers, and on the photobiological safety assessment of lighting products. 

With the rapid uptake of LED lighting, Pro-Lite was being frequently asked to provide measurement services to producers of lighting products. So in 2011, Pro-Lite invested in a state-of-the-art test laboratory which lead to the formation of Photometric & Optical Testing Services. Pro-Lite continues to offer measurement services, but today the focus is more on measurements of the optical properties of materials, including reflectance, transmittance and BRDF/scatter. 

Prior to starting Pro-Lite, Robert Yeo held the position of Managing Director of Labsphere Ltd, the UK subsidiary of American integrating sphere and light measurement company Labsphere Inc. His counterpart in Germany was Dr Wolfgang Bohme, who went on to form SphereOptics GmbH. Following his passing in 2010, Pro-Lite acquired SphereOptics and appointed Dr Rainer Boehm as General Manager. SphereOptics is in part a distributor like Pro-Lite but also manufacturers its own brand diffuse reflectance materials, marketed under the Zenith Polymer® trademark. Zenith is a solid thermoplastic and has one of the highest levels of diffuse reflectance in the UV to NIR spectral range. Zenith Polymer is used extensively in reflectance standards, laser cavity reflectors and in large area reflectance targets that are deployed in the development and testing of LIDAR systems and in the ADAS sensors employed on autonomous vehicles. 

Pro-Lite’s European expansion gathered pace with the formation of Pro-Lite Technology France in Bordeaux and the appointment of Jerome Castay as General Manager, while 2016 saw the formation of Pro-Lite Iberia under the direction of General Manager, Luz Ruiz. For those who don’t know, the Spanish word for “light” is luz, so Luz’s destiny was to work in the photonics industry! 

To support the development of the SphereOptics and Zenith Polymer® brands, Pro-Lite has made significant investments in research-grade spectrophotometric equipment for the SphereOptics Optical Metrology Laboratory located in Munich. The company now operates three high-end Perkin Elmer Lambda-series UV-VIS-NIR spectrophotometers as well as a ScatterWorks ScatterScope 4 

scatterometer. In addition to supporting in-house development, calibration and quality assurance activities, these instruments are available for contract measurement services. The parameters reported include total hemispherical reflectance and transmittance, absolute specular reflectance as a function of angle, total hemispherical reflectance as a function of angle and BRDF (scatter) over the 250-2500nm spectral range. To cement its position in the forefront of European optical materials characterisation, SphereOptics has now achieved ISO 17025 accreditation for its laboratory, becoming the only commercial laboratory in Europe to achieve this status. 

The Pro-Lite Group is today partnered with leading international manufacturers of optical equipment, and include (but are not limited to): 

Amplitude Technologies (Continuum Laser) 

Avantes 

Blue Sky Laser 

G&H (Gooch & Housego) 

HinaLea Imaging 

Imagine Optic 

JETI 

Labsphere 

Laservision 

Mbraun 

Nanomotion 

NEO (HySpex) 

Solar Light 

Santa Barbara Infrared 

Spectral Evolution 

SSL Resource 

Surface Optics 

Wasatch Photonics 

Westboro Photonics 

Robert Yeo, speaking on his company’s 20th anniversary said “I am amazed at how quickly the last 20 years have flown by. I acknowledge the incredible efforts of the entire Pro-Lite and SphereOptics teams that have resulted in the success that we enjoy today. Yet we have not lost sight of our roots, as optical physicists who enjoy learning about new technologies and helping our customers solve their photonics problems. I also acknowledge the invaluable support of our many supplier partners, and of course the trust in which we are placed by our valued customers”.