OIDA Industry Profile - ALPAO
OIDA member ALPAO, based in Montbonnot, France, manufactures adaptive optics components and systems. It was founded in 2006 with the introduction of a low speed deformable mirror. Most recently, it has supplied all of the deformable on telescopes at CHARA Array and a state-of-the-art high order DM to supply Observatoire de Paris. Its products include very rapidly deformable mirrors with large strokes, wavefront sensors, and complete adaptive optics loops. They are specially designed for various applications such as vision science (ophthalmology), astronomy, microscopy, defense and space, FSO, laser and physics, and microelectronics. Here OSA talks with ALPAO General Manager, Vincent Hardy, about his career and ALPAO’s work in adaptive optics.
OSA: What’s the value proposition for ALPAO? What niche does it fill?
Vincent Hardy: We have a product called deformable mirrors that feature large strokes, high dynamic motion and an excellent optical quality to meet and exceed requirements for fast and accurate wavefront correction. This is cool technology that is quite complicated and can be expensive which is limiting the expansion of adaptive optics. We are working to change that by making it simpler and cheaper. I have always been inspired by Steve Jobs who was a perfectionist and was always looking for a simpler, nicer presentation and design. It inspired me to always push further. We will be releasing a new product soon (approximately June 2019) that we are very excited about.
What are the goals for the company?
Our goals are to use adaptive optics to change the optical field by removing abberation. This will make adaptive optics widely used and would be a revolution in optics technology.
What is the best decision you’ve made?
We’re always excited by our customers’ drive for more and better products. Meeting their expectations to make the best product and expand the company’s reach have helped us to grow. I made the decision to take on some “crazy” projects which were quite risky for the business. I’m glad we went for it.
How about the worst decision? Do you have any regrets about that?
As a company of only 30 people, we have to be careful about what projects we agree to. At one point, we had too many challenging projects which created heavy a workload of the staff. I don’t regret this because we made the best decision we could at the time, and we learned a lot about our capabilities and maximum workloads from it.
Tell me a bit about your career path. How did you get to this point?
I became an optical engineer about 15 years ago. At that time, I couldn’t find a job so I created my own company in Shanghai called Sinoptix. It is an import/export company specializing in optics. I gained experience in multicultural team management, sales and marketing, and business development. After about 6 years, I sold the company and moved into a Sales Manager role at ALPAO. Eventually, I became General Manager.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
My biggest challenge so far actually has nothing to do with optics. It was when I decided to become a ski instructor. It was always a dream of mine, but it was like nothing I had ever done before.
What advice would you give others looking to start a company?
When you are creating or developing a company, you should plan for the worst and aim for the best. You need to be conservative in perspective, but ready to go when the opportunity arises.
Why did you decide to join OIDA? What do you see as the value of OIDA?
OIDA has been essential to our communications and networking efforts. Without OIDA membership, we would not have been able to reach as many people to tell them about our products. In addition, we have been able to network with people in our field and exhibit at OSA conferences which has helped expand our network and global reach.
To learn more about or join OIDA, visit us online.