The Dynasil family of companies delivers an extensive range of photonics-based products and capabilities. But Dynasil itself is a product of its workforce. In this Q&A, we meet Dino Monaco, Operations Manager at Dynasil Fused Silica.
Q: Let’s start with you telling us about your role.
Dino: As the Operations Manager I essentially oversee the operations of each customer project – from the moment an order is received, through its fabrication, to final inspection and shipping.
DFS operations are oriented around teamwork, same as many small companies. But DFS is a team to its core – we all have an incredible amount of respect for each other and dedication to the work we do which makes it very easy for me to carry out my primary role of providing our customers with quality photonics solutions based on fused silica, on time, every time.
Q: How did you become involved in material science?
Dino: I’ve always had a passion for how things are made, especially in high-tech manufacturing. In college I studied physics, with concentrations in photonics and electronics, and my interest really took hold – manipulating photons to interact with photo-chemical materials? Sign me up!
Over the past 35 years, I’ve worked with semiconductors, polymers, elastomeric compounds and fused silica, of course, to produce sophisticated systems in electronics, laser technology, electro-optical components – you name it, I’ve probably produced it! I quickly came to learn that advancements in these technologies would go hand-in-hand with innovations in the materials used to make them. Similarly, the key to mastering any manufacturing process was in mastering the materials I worked with.
There are always advancements so I stay abreast of the latest developments by reading industry journals, peer-networking, and I’ve even participated in MIT-led summer courses regarding photonic devices, materials, and their applications.
Q: What is your favorite part of the job?
Dino: That’s an easy one – it’s the satisfaction of successfully delivering to the customer. Producing consistent pieces, sometimes in the thousands, that meet their precise requirements is so satisfying! And, I might add, seeing that same pride of workmanship in the faces of my team means just as much to me. That’s one great aspect of manufacturing: at the end of the day, there’s a tangible product representing all our hard work and effort. And meeting our customers’ commitments is icing on the cake.
Q: What are some of the key advantages that fused silica offers over other optical materials?
Dino: Fused silica is really amazing and offers many superior characteristics over other optical materials. Compared to float glass and even quartz, its high purity and non-crystalline structure enables excellent transmission from the visible spectrum into the ultraviolet (UV). Additionally, fused silica is chemically inert and offers a much lower coefficient of thermal expansion, which means that it is incredibly stable with other materials and at very high and very low temperatures. These characteristics make fused silica an ideal material for components used across a wide range of applications including lasers, semiconductors, aerospace, analytical and scientific equipment, micro-electronics, and more.
DFS is just one of four authorized distributors of Corning’s HPFS® and ULE® products in the United States. We are also an authorized distributor of Nikon’s fused silica, and can offer our customers other options as well.
Q: What are some of the challenges you’ve seen DFS customers face?
Dino: Many of our customers focus on making and polishing lenses. They, like most in the optical fabrication industry, seek to maximize their profits by offsetting their costs. They do this, in part, by obtaining the lowest pricing in materials, maintaining low inventories, and reducing their cycle times by streamlining internal processes.
Q: How do you and DFS help overcome those challenges?
Dino: It really comes down to being a partner in their success, rather than simply a vendor. Many of our relationships go back decades, and we make it a point to always listen to their needs and understand what’s important to them. Fortunately, we’re able to offer very competitive pricing for fused silica, which helps.
But it goes beyond pricing too. We endeavor to meet their tighter tolerances so that their production times are reduced. We take a lot of pride in providing fast delivery that fits into their ‘just-in-time’ methodology to minimize inventory, streamline production and reduce costs. We do everything we can to help our customers effectively run a low cost, efficient operation on their end.
Q: Can you tell us about a noteworthy project that you’ve worked on?
Sure, expanding our beveling capabilities comes immediately to mind, and it builds on what I was just saying about how we make every effort to accommodate our customers.
Beveling fused silica blanks can be important because it prevents the edges from chipping when handled or during additional processing at our customers’ facilities. While DFS has offered beveling for many years, it was limited to optical fused silica blanks with diameters under 4”.
Well, we started hearing from other customers how cumbersome beveling larger diameters was, so we jumped at the opportunity to better serve them. We worked with a local machine shop, who helped us design diamond tools for larger diameters that worked with our existing machinery. It was a challenge because we needed to keep the overall weight of the tool down to maintain our high quality standards. After a few prototypes and trials, we got there – and we are now capable of beveling up to 9” diameter glass blanks to specified tolerances. And as a bonus, we can bevel parts more quickly than automated CNC machines. That’s a win for our customers, and for us!
Thank you, Dino!