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qioptiq17 Feb 15. It was with great pleasure that the Editor attended Qioptiq’s 40th Anniversary Celebrations at the SS Great Britain on February 17th.

The pleasure was made greater by a display of Press Releases and articles some of which the Editor had written as a consultant to the then Pilkington Optronics in the 1980s at the start of this journey to 40 years. One tinge of sadness was a photograph of Pilkington PR supremo Roy Jones, with whom the Editor worked at Pilkington for many years. Sadly Roy died at an early age after an early retirement from the Company. One of the displays showed the Infrared Search and Track (IRST) module for which the Editor wrote the original Press Release when this system was launched in 1988!

Qioptiq were not only celebrating 40 years of continues support to the British Armed Forces they also signed the Armed Forces Covenant with MG Paul Jacques, CBE, Director Land Equipment and the formal signing of the Gold Sponsorship of Team Army with MG Lamont Kirkland CBE and Lt. Co. (Retd.) Tim Wakefield.

Craig Taylor of Qioptiq introduced a group of speakers from the Company who gave a number of presentations.

Steve Shaw, Senior Vice President of the Defence and Aerospace Division gave an update on the current structure of Qioptiq’s defence activities following the purchase by Excelitas from Candover in 2013.

“Leading the world in expertise and facilities, Qioptiq is a recognized, first-tier supplier to many of the defense and aerospace sector’s leading companies. We have a complete offer of components, modules, technology and equipment for defense and aerospace applications.” Steve Shaw said.

The defence activities cover a number of sectors including Equipment, Components, Modules and Space.



kiteQioptiq offers some of the world’s leading night vision and thermal weapon aiming and target acquisition sights for a wide variety of platforms, including individual assault weapons, light support weapons, crew-served weapons, anti-tank/anti-materiel weapons and specialized sniper applications. The weapon sights include the best-selling KITE and MAXIKITE family, Dragon, Merlin and Vipir-2S. Qioptiq is developing a dual mode sight a version of which was shown on the display.


“We offer a range of surveillance equipment utilizing both visible image intensifying and uncooled thermal imaging technology. Monocular and Binocular eyepiece variants are available providing maximum flexibility for surveillance applications.” Steve Shaw said.


Qioptiq manufactures and develops land & vehicle-based systems using infrared, visible & ultraviolet light, radiation stable micro-sheet glass, solar cell cover glasses, optical solar reflectors.

Qioptiq Space Technology

“We entered the space business in 1970 as Pilkington Space Technology so our heritage speaks for itself. From the first Cerium Doped Glass (CMS) in 1970, followed by CMX, CMG and then CMO Qualification (in 1998), we have been at the forefront of development to meet the demanding requirements of space qualified products. Our unique range of cerium-doped glass components (based on Pilkington technology) has been utilized on over 2500 satellites worldwide. Qioptiq Space Technology is a specialist manufacturer of radiation stable micro-sheet cover glass for the space industry. With a dedicated glass melter housed in our facilities in the United Kingdom, we can offer you a fully integrated manufacturing capability. Furthermore, our advanced research and development continue to keep us on the leading edge of space technology.” Steve Shaw continued.

Qioptiq’s glass compositions and custom coating designs have made the Company the major global supplier of both solar cell coverglass and optical solar reflectors to the global space industry.  Qioptiq Space Technology supplies more than 80% of global demand for solar cell cover glass and optical solar reflectors (OSR).

Silicon solar cells and Gallium Arsenide solar cells

Qioptiq has developed and qualified a wide range of coatings for both Silicon solar cells and Gallium Arsenide solar cells, and we have an excellent optical solar reflector offer for thermal control applications.

Infrared systems components

Infrared systems components are used in equipment designed to detect and track any kind of thermal targets, including missiles, tanks, armored vehicles, helicopters and fighters, for situational awareness or to detect threats related to thermal light emission. Qioptiq’s expertise also has commercial applications and is used, for example, in lenses for thermal inspection systems.

To demonstrate the success components business Peter White of Qioptiq later said that Qioptiq’s components modules were in the US Thermal Weapon Sights (TWS) with 75,000 Qioptiq sights in service around the world. In addition Qioptiq is the supplier for optical modules for key armoured vehicle Programmes and Remote Weapons Stations (RWS) for a variety of manufacturers.

Typical components for infrared applications are, Optical components for missile warning, detection and tracking systems; Missile seeker head components and modules; Components for thermal surveillance and inspection cameras; Spherical and aspheric lenses; Mirrors and prisms; Domes and windows; Cassegrain systems and Optical components and assemblies for SWIR, MWIR and LWIR wavebands.

Key products include, Infrared search and track (IRST) modules, Multi-spectral optics, Infrared zoom lenses and multiple field-of-view optics and Ultra-wide angle infrared missile warning lenses; Infrared re-imaging objectives for 3rd generation cooled focal plane arrays; Infrared objectives for the latest 17 µm uncooled sensors (e.g. TWS, DVE, RWS); Electro-optical modules for fire control and observation; Primary missile guidance optical modules; Complex optics for missile seekers and Infrared objectives 17mm, 25mm & 75mm.

The Infrared Search and Track (IRST) module is now on Typhoon, Rafale, DIRCM missile defence systems and on the Lockheed Martin F-15 Targeting Pod.

Qioptiq processes a broad range of infrared materials for lenses, windows and domes. These include: germanium (Ge), zinc sulphide (ZnS), Cleartran, zinc selenide (ZnSe), silicon, gallium arsenide (GaAs), magnesium fluoride (MgF2), arsenic tri-sulphide (As2S3) aluminum oxynitride (ALON), sapphire (Al2O3), Vitron IG2, IG4, IG6, Amtir-1, Umicore Gasir-1, thallium bromoiodide (KRS-5), lithium fluoride (LiF), calcium fluoride (CaF2) and others.

“We routinely manufacture spherical, aspheric, and diffractive/hybrid surfaces from infrared materials. We also offer a strong capability in dome manufacture for the most durable materials including hemispherical and extended-hemisphere geometries.” Steve Shaw continued.

Head-level and Head-down displays

As Pilkington Optronics, Qioptiq, pioneered the development of the Head Up Display (HUD) with GEC Marconi in Rochester, now BAE Systems, which has now extended to other optical systems including: Head-up, Head-level and Head-down displays; Helmet-mounted displays for rotary wing and fast jet aircraft; Binoculars; Imaging lenses for surveillance, inspection and target tracking; Zoom lenses; Image intensifier optics; Eyepieces for handheld equipment (e.g. weapon sights, goggles, surveillance sights); High end lenses for UAVs. Qioptiq has an international reputation for the design and manufacture of optical modules for Head-Up, Head-Level, Head-Down and Helmet-Mounted displays. The HUD system is now on 70% modern jet fighters, Qioptiq has supplied over 17,000 Head-Up and Head-Down display optics for more than 30 aircraft types including:


C130, C17, F16, F18, F22, Mirage, Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Harrier,

AV8B, Hawk, Tornado and A400M


Airbus: A320 range, A330, A340, A380 and the new A350

Boeing: 737, 747, 777 and the new 787

Bombardier Regional Jet, Challenger range Global Express

Embraer range

Dassault Falcon range and 7X Gulfstream

Medium and large business jet range

hudThe HUD is now being replaced by advanced helmet systems incorporating a HUD in the visor. Qioptiq were recently contracted to support the F-35 programme, providing eyepiece modules for the F-35 JSF helmet and is working with other helmet providers to develop their advanced helmets.

Beside the road experience supplying modules for Head-Up Displays  (HUDs), Qioptiq is also experts in the design and manufacture of defense  modules for the following airborne applications inclsuing: Laser protection; Advanced, high transmission Electro Optic Protective Measures (EOPM) devices; Conformal, non-conformal or powered holographic optical elements (HOEs); Multi-waveband missile and laser warners; Gimbal-mounted observation and weapon aiming for rotary and fixed-wing platforms; UAV zoom telescopes and cameras; Missile seekers and domes for air-drop munitions; Gimbal-mounted observation and weapon aiming for rotary and fixed-wing platforms; Solar blind missile warner lenses; Optical alignment modules and Optical modules for DIRCM applications.

Qioptiq has invested in the latest CNC technology for high-speed generation, polishing and edging to produce spherical optics up to a diameter of 200mm. Qioptiq offers double-sided smoothing and polishing for windows, CNC grinding for profiling irregular geometries, smoothing and polishing of cylindrical components as well as conventional pitch polishing. The Company routinely manufacture complex prism geometries for reticle injection, image orientation and HMD eyepieces. Qioptiq also produce prism assemblies incorporating holographic elements for HUD applications and polish optical glass from all the major suppliers, including Schott and Ohara, as well as calcium fluoride and many plastics including EYAS, Acrylic, Zeonex and CR39. The UPMC facility manufactured visible diffractive surfaces enabling correction of chromatic aberration with no additional mass.

“Together with our specialized business partners around the world, we develop and produce ultraviolet and solar blind imaging systems for both defense and commercial applications, such as imaging and warning systems to detect and track short and long-range missiles, gunfire or threats related to any kind of UVC light emission.” Steve Shaw continued.

Qioptiq customer specific components and optical modules for  ultraviolet (UV) applications including: Solar blind and UV imaging lenses; Leading optical design in the ultraviolet waveband, approaching the very limits of optical physics; Optical components with spherical, aspheric and free-form surfaces for the UV range; Durable, high performance filters and AR coatings in the ultraviolet waveband; Sophisticated filter concepts for high transmittance and perfect blocking or spectral selection; Ultra-precise lens assembly technologies to achieve demanding image quality and to achieve perfect stress resistance; Optimization of space, weight and assembly to fulfill customer requirements and to achieve full military approvals

History of Qioptiq

Martin Adams, Director Land Equipment, a veteran employee of Qioptiq, celebrating 25 years with the Company was well paced to give a history of how the Company was formed by the Pilkington and Greenall families in 1840 to the purchase of Close Brothers in 1951 with the subsequent move to St Asaph in 1957, the JV with Perkin Elmer which formed Pilkington PE, the purchase of Barr & Stroud in 1974, the Thorn EMI purchase, which enabled the IRST development, the formation of Pilkington Optronics in 1988, the purchase by Thomson-CSF in 1990, moving into Thales with the 10% MoD stake disposal, the purchase of Avimo in 2000, the sale to Candover in 2005 to the 2013 acquisition by Excelitas.

The mention of the 1988 formation of Pilkington Optronics was the Editor’s first major exercise in rebranding. Pilkington Corporate had drawn up a comprehensive rebranding document which required every Pilkington defence and aerospace facility to be branded Pilkington Optronics, dropping the PE from Pilkington PE and calling Barr & Stroud Pilkington Optronics. Barr & Stroud was established in 1888 at the Anniesland, Glasgow facility. Glaswegians are quite rightly proud of their Scottish Industrial Heritage so were stubbornly resisting any change! The transition at the St. Asaph facility was smooth and painless with name boards and notepaper headings being changed and telephone receptionists answering “Pilkington Optronics, can I help you?” The stubborn Glaswegians had other ideas! After Roy Jones and the Editor visited the facility to brief the late great, PR Supremo Christine Keddie and her staff on the rebranding exercise, they were met by a moot acceptance of the document and the Corporate changes required.

We both left feeling that the message had not or would not get through! We were right, it took another six months and a lot or gentle persuasion to persuade the telephone receptionist from saying, “Barr & Stroud, can I help you?” to “Pilkington Optronics, can I help you?” along with the general acceptance that sadly the great name of Barr & Stroud had been consigned to history. The move from Anniesland to the new site under Thales eased this process through another rebranding exercise which the Editor was not involved with, Tim Orr had to take up the cudgels for that!


Steve Rickard, Business Product Development Manager Land then gave an update on Qioptiq’s product development and R&D activities.

“We regard product development and R&D as key to our goal in being a world leader in optical technology, excellence is embodied in all we do.” Steve Rickard said. “Qioptiq is involved in a number of development projects, either jointly or sole funded, with the MoD, DSTL and a number of key Universities. We also work with our partners and Primes in product development and enhancement. We routinely spend 6% of our revenue on R&D, most of which is in the UK. As well as R&D we see continued through life support as key to our success.”

This was later supported by Steve Shaw who saw a consolidation coming in the industry with the strongest surviving being those with the best technology, export markets, price and customer support,

Steve Rickard outlined a number of key technologies Qioptiq was developing including, image fusion, visible IR, SWIR, dismounted helmet displays, 12 micron-based products which he expects to launch within 12 months and IR Chalcogenides, a new technology.

Wikipedia describes Chalcogenide glass as a glass containing one or more chalcogenide elements (not counting oxygen). The name chalcogenide originates from the Greek word ‘chalcos’ meaning ore and ‘gen’ meaning formation, thus the term chalcogenide is generally considered to mean ore former. These are three elements in Group 16 in the periodic table: sulphur, selenium and tellurium. Such glasses are covalently bonded materials and may be classified as network solids; in effect, the entire glass matrix acts as an infinitely bonded molecule. Although Polonium is chemically a chalcogenide as well, it is not used in chalcogenide glasses because of its strong radioactivity and high price. Oxygen is also a group 16 element, but it is not considered a chalcogenide. Though oxide materials are the oldest known glass forming systems it has become more traditional to treat them separately from more recently discovered chalcogenide compounds. Scientifically oxide materials behave rather differently from other chalcogenides, in particular their widely different band gaps contribute to very dissimilar optical and electrical properties. Chalcogenides can exist naturally as minerals; two of the most well-known being FeS2 (pyrite) and AuTe2 (calaverite).


It was fitting that Qioptiq should celebrate 40 years alongside SS Great Britain, one of Brunel’s great engineering marvels and still proudly moored at its 1843 launch dock in Bristol.

Certainly the briefings Qioptiq gave and the history of the Company from its early incarnations made the Editor proud to have been associated with the business as PR and Press and saw a huge and prosperous future for Qioptiq and the UK’s advanced engineering technology base.



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