Marktech Optoelectronics have been in the business of producing custom LEDs across nearly every industry imaginable for the last thirty years. AZoOptics speaks to Marktech Optoelectronics' CEO, Mark Campito, President, Bill Moore, and CTO, Vincent Forte about their extensive product range, a range of applications that is just as varied, and how they provide small to medium sized businesses with the correct LEDs for their needs.
Could you give our readers an overview of Marktech Optoelectronics as a company and briefly explain the services that you provide?
Marktech Optoelectronics has been solving customers' optoelectronic issues for 30 years. Customers, mostly medium and smaller OEMs [original equipment manufacturers], believed that their only solution was to buy standard products. When standard, off-the-shelf products and solutions did not meet their expectations, they came to Marktech Optoelectronics for help.
The Marktech Optoelectronics logo incorporated into a point source chip of only 580 μm x 380 μm with an emitting window (the logo section) of 150 μm
We can offer guidance to the customer in choosing the correct product, steering them through the engineering trade-offs such as the size, wavelength, or power output, among others. We found our niche is to focus on the needs of medium and small volume applications, which represent approximately 70 percent of our business.
How has Marktech Optoelectronics’ scale of operations developed over the 30 years that you’ve been in the LED industry?
Actually, we've had a significant number of changes. When Marktech Optoelectronics was originally established in 1985, we were the exclusive value-added distributor for Toshiba Corporation for LEDs in North America.
Prior to joining Marktech Optoelectronics, I worked with National Semiconductor's optoelectronics division as a marketing engineer and left to work for a large distributor in California. My job was to start an optoelectronic division for the company. Through a trading company, we met with various manufacturers from Taiwan and Japan. We eventually made contact with Toshiba Corporation, and over the course of many months, we agreed to assist them in designing a product line for the North American market that would second-source many of the most popular LED products sold in North America. That's how I got involved.
Four years later, that company was sold to a British company, and I asked Toshiba, if we started our own optoelectronic company, would they support us. Fortunately, we received approval from Toshiba and moved to upstate New York where National Semiconductor's optoelectronics division was located. Our first employees came from that division, which eventually closed. Our business plan was to be a value-added distributor with a laboratory and with design and testing facilities where we could test for all optical and electrical characteristics.
From there, we started expanding into application support. Although we did great business with Toshiba, there were times when companies needed custom-designed optoelectronic components and assemblies, which we weren't able to provide since their quantities were too small for Toshiba production requirements. At that point, we started our own operation that coexisted with Toshiba where we could provide products for smaller production runs that included wavelength sorting, assemblies, mechanical changes, et cetera. That's how we found our direction.
As a supplier of LEDs to a wide range of industries, is there a particular industry that you enjoy collaborating with most?
I'd say from an engineering standpoint, any of them. For us, the exciting part of our business is that there are always new applications and challenges daily.
Overall, we deal with industrial, medical, machine vision, telecom, encoders, and architectural lighting. Those are probably the largest industries we work with.
How do you incorporate your LEDs into medical sensors?
We don't incorporate the LEDs into medical sensors as an end product. Instead, we assist the customer with their ideas, their concepts.
We have several new customers who are in the field of diagnostics using blood analyzation. In order to analyze the different properties of blood, you need LEDs of different wavelengths. For example, if you're looking at glucose levels, the wavelength might be more in the red range. If you're looking for some other component in blood, it may be another wavelength that is important.
Medical LED sensors are becoming increasingly common
Oxygen is another component people want to analyze. All of these different components require different wavelengths to detect them. What we do is help them choose the multiple different wavelengths that are needed and combine them into a package. We incorporate not only the emitter but also the detector because depending on what wavelength you're using, there's a different detector required.
When we first got started, customers designing medical sensors did not know the exact requirements needed to achieve their objectives. Marktech Optoelectronics provided the testing needed to define the LED required. But today, customers often know what they want; the question tends to be how can we optimize the performance of the product using a specialty optoelectronic strategy? As an example, miniaturization is just one of the trends we are seeing.
What's being used right now in diagnostic fields is either a mercury or halogen lamp. These lamps have heat issues. Lifetime and miniaturization are two other big issues. LEDs are extremely small compared to other technologies. When it comes to LEDs, there are a number of reasons why people prefer LEDs over standard technologies, from their lower heat output and reduced power consumption to their extremely long life.
You’re suppliers of UV LEDs, a relatively new technology. What are the advantages of using an LED as a UV source compared to conventional methods?
The biggest advantage of using UV LEDs as opposed to more conventional light sources is environmental. LEDs do not contain mercury. Recently, many countries are considering outlawing traditional UV lamps because of the mercury.
Customers come to us for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is miniaturization. They want to make things smaller. The other is speed. We have applications in UV curing, which is a big application. We also have applications in sanitation using UV. They want devices that cure much faster than when they use a mercury lamp. This is currently being used in dental work to cure the fillings for teeth. They’re switching from mercury bulbs to UV LEDs.
Your LEDs are used as components in ozone sensors. How do these sensors work?
It's not technically an ozone sensor. We actually worked alongside a scientist, Forest Mims, who was trying to develop a better way of locating holes in the Earth's ozone layer. This was during the '90s, when there was a real concern that the CFCs used in aerosol sprays and refrigeration were causing ozone layer depletion. As a result, there are new laws now to discontinue use of those types of chemicals. So Forest was looking at a way to detect areas of the ozone layer that were depleted. One way of doing that is to see how much radiation from sunlight was coming through the ozone layer in certain wavelengths.
The characterisitc absorption of solar radiation by the ozone layer can be observed using LED sensors
Together, we developed a number of different wavelength LED emitters and used them as detectors as well. Most people don't know that LEDs can detect as well as emit light when in an off state. We developed a multi-wavelength system that detected the solar radiation that was transmitted through the ozone layer. We could tell the level of ozone at a specific location by the strength of radiation of certain wavelengths that penetrated the atmosphere.
To do this, we designed a multi-chip, which contained seven or eight LED chips. It had UV, green, and different types of infrared LED chips. Forest designed software to work alongside our multi-chip, and he went to the highest mountain in Hawaii where we proved his theory. The accuracy using the multi-chip was similar to the accuracy of satellites. The unit, including the electronics, was only about two inches by four inches. The actual detection area only had a 5mm diameter.
As a supplier of a large variety of LEDs, which collectively span a wide spectral range, how do you direct customers to the correct product for their needs?
We came up with the concept of a product selector guide, located on our website, about two years ago, when we started to realize that many of our customers, especially in the medical sector, are interested in specific wavelengths. One way to reduce the time required to design a new product is to focus on a wavelength. As LED solutions providers, we offer various wavelengths, but we also have a large selection of materials.
The first step here is for our customers to define the wavelength needed in the application, and then we can get more specific. Once we learn about the application, we have our own recommendations based on our experience.
How can your LEDs be customized to serve different applications?
We have a variety of different options for our customers. If you look at our website, we have standard components, which come in 3mm, 5mm, and 10mm, plastic packages, as well as surface mount and TO metal cans. There are all different types of packages. As Mark mentioned, we are an optoelectronics solution provider and we can offer access to LED and PD [photodiode] materials.
This is one of the advantages we have; we can take any of the materials available and incorporate it into different packages. For example, if there is a material in a package that shows a red wavelength, and a customer says, “Oh, I like that package, but I want it in amber. Can you make it amber?” We can take an amber chip and put it in the same package.
Secondly, if none of the packages works, and they want their own unique package–which is quite common–we offer what we call chip-on-board solutions. This means taking the chip and placing it onto a PC board, a printed circuit board–either a flexible or rigid surface. We can do this with any shape and size that is needed. They tell us the size of the package they need, how many chips, what wavelengths; and we can create a custom-designed package. We offer many options for our customers.
I think the caveat here is that if you're a large customer–let's say you're automotive–and you're designing headlights or signals, you go to the larger manufacturers. They'll produce tens of millions of products. We're the solutions provider that focuses on medium and small-volume applications.
Most small to medium-sized companies simply can’t afford the large manufacturers as they require a large capital commitment prior to production for designing and tooling the parts. Traditionally, these smaller companies thus have been forced to buy standard products. Yet, there are times when these products are not optimal for their application, so they end up having to change all their designs to fit that standard device. We'll design something that will not only fit their unique application, but they also will have a product specifically designed for them.
Marktech Optoelectronics works with customers of any size, with any budget and initial product commitment order, providing a custom product for their needs. So we fill a gap for businesses with the next big idea that might not have the resources to use the larger firms.
Do you find that dealing with small orders is cost-effective?
Initially it may sound like it’s going to be expensive; however it turns out to be more cost-effective for them in the long run because we are performing much of the engineering. We design the solution to their requirements, including the tooling, if required. Then, we test each device to ensure the product conforms to our customer's specifications. The production costs are very effective. So in the long run, it's very efficient and very cost-effective.
We truly are experts at understanding the customer's requirements, including their budget. We work very closely with them to ensure that we are meeting not only their engineering requirements but also their cost targets.
One of the things that we do is compress the time-to-market for a customer. If they tried to do this on their own, as a standard product, you've got to fit your design around another supplier’s standard product and change your design several times. If you give us the design and budget requirements, we can assist in optimizing the design based upon our 30 years of optoelectronic expertise. This allows our customers to meet their targets in terms of budget and time-to-market.
One of the true advantages of working with Marktech Optoelectronics is you can rely on our expertise to assist you in a design for the ultimate outcome.
Are there any recent projects that Marktech Optoelectronics has been involved in that you are especially proud of?
We are currently working with a major customer based in Europe who is in the semiconductor industry. However, we're under NDAs, so we can only talk about the product in general. The product is a white-light lighting system. This particular customer did a complete evaluation of the global market and actually flew from Europe to interview us. They spent four days with our engineering team. After a thorough evaluation, they chose to work with us.
The product is used in machine vision applications. The design we’re working on has very tight tolerances; the requirements for light output must be uniform across a very large area. It had to be in particular housing, and it had to be something that could be reproduced. We successfully completed the design and prototype of the product and are now in production.
Right now, we have a significant number of custom applications that we're working on, and every one of them has an NDA. We advise a lot of small companies that come to us that we should have an NDA. In most cases, we'll send them one just for their own protection.
How do you differentiate yourselves from your competitors?
A lot of what we do is in the custom area. We do offer standard products including standard sensors; but overall, our focus is on customization. This is where we shine. We help customers to manufacture a component or subassembly that will optimize their applications.
Until recently, we were primarily focused on emitters. Two years ago, we opened up our first facility for detectors in California. Barry Jones, a 31-year veteran in the detector market, joined us to manage this new venture. The addition of the photo detectors makes us a complete optoelectronics company now, where we can do customization for emitters and detectors.
What changes do you expect to happen to the LED sector in the next decade?
There's so much going on in our field right now. Obviously UV is one of the big areas; however with climate change coming over the world, we expect lighting to be an area of significant growth. LEDs in agricultural applications such as greenhouses–I believe that's going to be a rapidly developing market because of climate change.
We also see much more happening in the sensor segment, especially medical. Medical sensors allow the diagnosis of anything in the body without using X-rays and going through a lab. As Vinnie mentioned earlier, we're heavily involved with blood analysis. Companies are beginning to use sensors instead of lab testing. Using LED detectors to check for cancers, cholesterol, you name it, is more economical.
Another significant change we see is the need for processing speed. Silicon technology used today is approaching its theoretical limits in terms of speed. With our compound-semiconductor technology, the speed can increase dramatically beyond the limitations of standard silicon-based sensors, especially for telecommunications. One of the areas that's being worked on in the optoelectronic industry is integrating compound-semiconductor technology with silicon technology.
So the future is going to be integrated silicon and compound semiconductors. They can be integrated for a variety of outcomes such as reducing the price of the materials, or dramatically increasing processing speeds. The defence industry is currently looking at this.
How will Marktech Optoelectronics be part of these changes?
We are positioning ourselves with investments in specific areas of telecommunications. The indium phosphide [inP] epiwafers can be used for the telecommunications market, specifically HEMT and HBT products, to dramatically increase transmission speeds. As an example, the market requirement of delivering full-speed movies over the internet requires the speed of inP epiwafers.
We have a significant investment in engineering testing. We have the unique capability of testing from very short wavelengths to very long wavelengths–from ultraviolet all the way through to short-wave infrared.
We also continue to invest in UV LEDs as they have a very low penetration in the market today.
This is mostly due to the cost; it’s definitely the price of UV LEDs that is a barrier to greater penetration. We expect that prices will continue to fall as volumes and yields increase.
We expect in the next 5 to 10 years that the cost will come down as the market expands into UV curing, purification, and sterilization markets. The Holy Grail right now is getting UVC [sub-300nm wavelength] LEDs that can compete with the performance and cost of mercury lamps.
Mark also mentioned the sensor products; we've continued to invest heavily in silicon photodetectors. We're positioning ourselves to support our customers, who require unique solutions down to the chip level.
We're excited about the future. It's almost difficult to define individual markets that we’re involved in. We have applications that span the range of anything from a scoreboard, to a roadside sign, to very high-end sensors. You name it.
Basically anywhere there's a sensor or a light. We can provide customers with a cost-effective solution for their small- to medium-sized applications by allowing them to have their own product designs, to optimize their product's performance–this is where we focus.
About Mark Campito
Mark Campito is the CEO and founder of Marktech Optoelectronics.
Mark has more than 35 years' experience in marketing, sales and engineering. Prior to Marktech Optoelectronics, his positions have included Vice President in Marketing and Sales for International Devices, in Santa Ana, California: International Sales Manager for Xciton Corporation, of New York: and Marketing Engineer for National Semiconductor's Optoelectronic Division. He has traveled extensively throughout the Pacific Rim and Europe. Mark is a veteran of the U.S. Navy.
About Bill Moore
Bill Moore joined Marktech Optoelectronics in 2010 and was recently promoted to President and COO.
He has held executive and managerial positions in high technology firms for over 35 years including Northeast Traffic Technologies as Executive VP, OptiSoft Inc (a venture capital funded firm) as VP of Sales, Dialight Corp. as Director of Sales and Marketing, Vehicle Lighting, and as Regional Sales Manager for National Semiconductor, Optoelectronics Division.
Bill has been actively involved in introducing LED technology into new applications and markets including traffic signal, heavy duty vehicle, industrial, medical and defense industries.
About Vincent Forte
Vincent Forte has over 25 years experience in the Optoelectronics industry. His background includes the processing of III-V materials (Xciton Corporation) to head of Quality Assurance and Failure Analysis at National Semiconductor and his now current position as Chief Technology Officer at Marktech Optoelectronics.
Vincent has been influential in developing new applications and devices using LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology.
During his tenure at Marktech Optoelectronics, he has also been instrumental in the development of new test methodologies and test equipment for various types of optoelectronic components.
Many significant enhancements to LEDs and their applications have directly resulted from Vincent's input and hands-on experience. This has required him to work closely with customers and LED manufacturers throughout North America and the Pacific Rim. Vincent has authored and co-authored several papers in the areas of LED design, development and application.
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