Precision Optics Series

Precision optics is a critical U.S. industry from both an economic and security perspective, and precision optics technicians (POTs) are vital to the quality and future growth of this industry. These technicians produce, test, and handle optical components that are used in lasers and sophisticated electro-optical systems for defense, homeland security, aerospace, biomedical equipment, remote sensing, alternate energy production, and nanotechnology. Precision optics technicians also measure quality, add coatings and integrate optical components into electro-optical systems.

In 2009, the National Center for Optics and Photonics Education (OP-TEC) conducted a study of POT employers to project the demand for new precision optics technicians. The findings of this study showed that 6,019 POT technicians were currently (2009) employed, and that the demand in five years would increase by 3,100 additional precision optics technicians.

In 2012, OP-TEC updated and produced the second edition of the National Precision Optics Skill Standards for Technicians. The Standard provides the precision optics community and educators an updated listing of what technicians working in the precision optics industry should know and be able to do. It was developed from an extensive and comprehensive review process involving precision optics industry professionals and academic representatives, and has received endorsements from the American Precisions Optics Manufacturers Association (APOMA), Colorado Photonics Industry Association, New Mexico Optics Industry Association, and the Rochester and Florida Photonics Clusters. This Standard has formed the basis for the design of OP-TEC’s AAS degree Precision Optics Technician (POT) curriculum. It also provides the “industry specifications” for developing these instructional materials.

Two of the courses in the POT curriculum are Quality Assurance of Precision Optics (QAPO) and Optical Interferometry and Metrology. These courses can be infused into OP-TEC’s Photonics Technician curriculum to prepare technicians to measure the quality of precision optics and integrate them into laser and other electro-optics systems. The full AAS degree Precision Optics Technician curriculum is built on a manufacturing technology core, and prepares technicians who can not only perform the tasks described earlier, but also fabricate precision optics components. The fabrication courses are to be developed in 2015.

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