25 years of Polymer Optics

POLY web image - 25 years of Polymer Optics

After being established on 7th July 1998, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Polymer Optics on the same date this year. Over the years, the company started by Mike Hanney and Chris Ferrari has gone from strength to strength, supporting a wide range of customers with advanced excellence in optical product design, development and manufacture.

With nine employees currently working at the company, collectively holding over 100+ years’ experience in optical design and manufacture, we take a look back at the beginnings of Polymer Optics and how it has got to this point.

The journey so far

Polymer Optics was set up in 1998 to support a growing need for the design side of the optical market. We were aware that there was an exponential growth in the applications for plastics optics in various product markets. We also decided very early on that any manufacturing would be outsourced through approved partners, because this offers the greatest flexibility for manufacturing, and therefore opens up design opportunities that would not be there if we worked from a limited production site.

We started as a design and manufacturing consultancy, with mostly design work being carried out and “guest engineering” at customers’ premises to develop their designs and processes. However, a growing number of customers requested that Polymer Optics should manage the complete manufacture of their tooling and products, so we started to develop a network of partner toolmakers, injection moulders and secondary operation suppliers, to widen capabilities and range of product supply.

As the early years went on, the business grew and it was clear that, even with support from designers on a contract basis, we needed to bring others into the business. As a result, we targeted key projects/milestones, and then when we knew that the business could support the growing team, a new member was appointed in 2006.

The team has worked on many key projects during their time at Polymer Optics. One of the biggest milestones for Polymer Optics was the MoD General Service Visor (GSR) NBC protection mask. This started out with the company being asked to design the eye-protection visor part of the system. However, as the project proceeded and exotic materials and manufacturing processes had to be developed for the mask system, Polymer Optics became more and more heavily involved in the tooling, materials development and manufacturing process developments to realise the final product manufacture. This project lasted from 2003-2012, through the various development, proving and production phases.

IMG 1340 - 25 years of Polymer Optics
Injection mould tool for optical visor manufacturing.
polyop 6 5by7 JPEG - 25 years of Polymer Optics
Small imaging optics used for phone cameras, medical devices etc.

Another project in particular, which involved working on automotive interior lighting, led to the formation of Polymer Optics Automotive, which was set up on 30th January 2014 to support the growing automotive work that was being undertaken. Before the formation of Polymer Optics Automotive, we were asked to bid on the redesign of the Nissan Juke LCD display illumination, to redesign the lightguide and manufacture in UK. This was successful in greatly improving the illumination performance, and at the same time reducing end of line rejects on the instrument cluster assembly. This marked the first automotive product development for Polymer Optics. Maybe someday we will write a 25-year blog post on the beginnings of Polymer Optics Automotive too… roll on 2039!

In 2017, there was a big change in the business when Chris retired, with Mike taking on the controlling shares. As a result, we had to take on a Financial Manager, and we also moved the registered office from Chris’ home office to the newly opened office. As the team grew, the workshop became hugely important, particularly because of the amount of prototyping and developing we were doing in-house to support customers. This was one area we found hard to get adequate support from partners due to the level of involvement needed on the optical side, hence why we decided to bring more of this in-house.

2023 Full Team WEB - 25 years of Polymer Optics

The Polymer Optics team in 2019

(L-R) Bertrand Bercot Design Engineer POAL, Ian Bryant Sales & Marketing Manager POL, Brian Merridan Projects Manager, John Grassby Financial Manager, Mike Hanney Technical Director, Richard Lewis Snr. Design Engineer, Matt Powell Operations Manager POAL, Andrew Dennington Optical Design Manager

2023 Full Team WEB 2023 - 25 years of Polymer Optics

The current Polymer Optics team, collectively holding over 100 years+ experience in optical design and manufacture.

(L-R) Alex Pilotti Sales & Marketing POAL, Brian Merridan Projects Manager, John Grassby Financial Manager, Bertrand Bercot Design Engineer POAL, Mike Hanney Technical Director, Matt Powell Operations Manager POAL, Andrew Dennington Optical Design Manager, Richard Lewis Snr. Design Engineer, Ian Bryant Sales & Marketing Manager POL

A timeline of milestones

Over the years, we have been privileged to work on several important projects across a myriad of different sectors. A selection of these significant projects is listed below:

  • 1999 – Robust optical tilt sensor for games controllers
  • 2000 – Development of Sendo mobile phones LCD display illuminations
  • 2001 – Diffractive Fresnel IR lens development
  • 2002 – Floating image 3D displays development
  • 2003 – MoD GSR project
  • 2004 – LED high speed railway signals development
  • 2005 – LED colour mixer patent
  • 2006 – MK electrical illuminated light switch development
  • 2007 – Brandt Industries white goods LED illumination developments
  • 2008 – Free-form street lighting
  • 2009 – Fionia Lighting high-power LED horticultural lighting
  • 2010 – First automotive project X12C Nissan Juke LCD display
  • 2011 – Nissan P32S: the first Nissan ambient lighting project
  • 2012 – Dyson 360i robot vacuum cleaner camera development
  • 2013 – Thomas & Betts LED emergency exit sign development
  • 2014 – POAL formed
  • 2015 – Gloworm shaped light lightguide patent
  • 2016 – Hyundai novel exterior vehicle light developments
  • 2017 – Illuminated vehicle door threshold plates development
  • 2018 – Nissan Juke door ambient illumination
  • 2019 – LIN controlled RGB ambient lighting for limousine vehicle
  • 2020 – POL UV-C sterilisation technology development
  • 2021 – Nissan Qashqai 2024 ambient lighting
  • 2022 – VR and AR technologies
Batch1 IMG 0014 - 25 years of Polymer Optics

Fresnel lenses as use in passive infrared detection for the inter of things and security alarms design and manufactured by POL.

B3 IMG 0009 - 25 years of Polymer Optics

FreeForm optic design to control light into complex light areas, typically used for fire alarms, emergence lighting.

Looking forward

After 25 years of expertise, quality and knowledge, Polymer Optics is proud to keep leading from the front in the optics industry, supporting customers in developing the most cost-effective product solution. Once we have your initial conceptual ideas, we will support you through design and development, all the way through to manufacturing.

With every Polymer Optics project, there is a friendly, dedicated Manager who will ensure tasks are actioned, keeping the client informed with every stage. We plan very carefully, monitoring progress against agreed milestones, and ensuring full control through-out the design, tooling, sampling and production stages.

If you are looking for a company that specialises in the following services and is proven to always deliver for its customers, then please get in touch:

For more information on Polymer Optics, you can find us on LinkedIn, and contact us today. We will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have!