50 Best Workplaces of the Year 2017

Developing optical and illumination design software and services: Zemax

thesiliconreview-mark-nicholson-ceo-zemax-17Companies that design optical systems want to optimize product performance, reduce production costs, and get to market faster. Product teams are under pressure to develop the best products in the shortest time possible – and need the right software to get the job done. With the help of software from Zemax, optical product engineers can turn their ideas into reality faster.

Lighting up the world with optical designs

Zemax is a software and services company founded in 1991, offering design software for the optics industry. It helps these companies to bring out the best products in their industries. Zemax software helps companies get to a qualified design more quickly by streamlining the workflow and communication between optical and mechanical engineers. For more than 25 years, the company has been developing and supporting cutting-edge design and simulation software that enables scientists, engineers, researchers, and students to turn their optical and illumination systems ideas into reality. In addition to the software, it offers training and support services to the optical and illumination industries. With its headquarters in Seattle and offices in London, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Taipei, Zemax serves the largest, most passionate user-base in the industry.

The transformative phase

From the introduction of classical lens design back in 1991, Zemax has undergone much transformation. In 1991, Dr. Ken Moore founded Zemax Development Corporation to commercialize Zemax optical design software. He studied at the College of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona, graduating with a Ph.D. along with a dissertation titled “Optimization in Physical Optics Analysis”. Its flagship product, OpticStudio is now the leading industry standard design and simulation software for optical and illumination designers, engineers and researchers. The global Zemax community includes a professional network of users, consultants and partner organizations, businesses and institutions. Zemax engineers have developed this software based on a rock-solid physics architecture.

Complex physics with interactive visuals

Zemax offers unmatched software solutions for optical product manufacturers. The optical design software is ideal for imaging systems, afocal systems, laser systems, fiber coupling, and more. OpticStudio includes an optical design package which assists in designing laser systems, and an illumination design package. The product packaging of an optical system design involves proper analysis and validation by mechanical engineers. Zemax introduced LensMechanix to analyze and validate the packaging and has been awarded Certified Gold Product status by SOLIDWORKS.

A small excerpt from a talk with the CEO, Mark Nicholson

What are the biggest assets of your organization?

Our biggest asset is something we don’t own at all: our people. Without the people, we’re just lines of static code. Our culture is collaborative, challenging, and inclusive to attract and retain exceptional people. We are a lean organization, which means everyone chips in to get things done. Another asset that goes hand in hand with our people is our diversity. The diverse backgrounds of our executive team contribute to making Zemax a thought leader in both optics and technology. We have a talented bunch of people who are proficient in eight languages and have knowledge in business, foreign languages, optics, physics, mechanical engineering, software engineering and other disciplines.

A happy employee and a satisfied customer are the two necessities in the success of a firm. Is this true for your company?

The success of any firm lies in the satisfaction of its customers and employees. Our primary goal is the comprehensive success of our customers. We truly believe that we only progress as a company when our customers are successful. This principle is at the heart of everything we do. Our software development is guided by our customers’ feedback and the trajectory of the industry as a whole. Our organization is just the right size to maintain an entrepreneurial spirit with enough resources to take advantage of strategic business opportunities. Two way communications is the key that leads to employee satisfaction. We call for employees’ ideas and opinions in each phase of the company’s growth.

What do you feel are the reasons behind your consistent growth as an organization?

We hire people who are passionate about driving the growth of Zemax and share our grand vision of modernizing how teams design, build, and bring optical products to market faster. We seek out people who are:

  • Driven to actively identify and tackle what needs to be done and always strive to do their best work.
  • Problem-solvers who ask probing questions, think creatively, and deliver great solutions.
  • Super smart, collaborative, adaptable, energetic, resourceful, and seek self-improvement.
  • Fun, because life is too short to be bored at work.

Do you have any new products to be rolled out soon?

We are rolling out a Cloud based version of our flagship software, starting in the US, soon to be expanded to Europe and Asia. There are no system requirements for OpticStudio Online; all you need is a browser. When features and functionality are updated, customers get instant access, with no need to install new versions.

Leading the Way

Mark Nicholson, CEO: Mark oversees corporate strategic planning for the company. Ever focused on leading-edge applications of optical technology, he holds a PhD in plasma physics and spectroscopy and a bachelor’s degree in physics from Imperial College in London. For the past 20 years, Mark has helped Zemax navigate through key inflection points. Prior to that, he worked with Oxford Group and Crosfield Electronics.

“We truly believe that we only progress as a company when our customers are successful.”