Photonics engineering technicians collaborate with engineers in the development of photonic systems or components, usually in the form of optical equipment, such as lasers, lenses, and fibre optic equipment. Photonics is a branch of science and technology that deals with the generation, manipulation, and detection of light. Photonics engineering technicians build, test, install and calibrate optical equipment. They read blueprint and other technical drawings to develop testing and calibrating procedures.
Photonics engineering technicians typically do the following duties:
- Assist in the assembly, testing, and calibration of photonics systems, such as lasers, optical fibers, sensors, and photonic integrated circuits
- Perform optical alignments, fiber splicing, and connections to ensure proper functioning of photonics devices
- Conduct measurements and tests to evaluate the performance and quality of optical components and systems
- Collaborate with engineers in troubleshooting and diagnosing issues with photonics equipment, identifying and resolving technical problems
- Maintain accurate records of test results, procedures, and equipment specifications
- Assist in the design and modification of optical systems using computer-aided design (CAD) software
- Support research and development projects by conducting experiments, collecting data, and analyzing results
- Assist in the documentation and preparation of technical reports, manuals, and user guides
- Stay updated on the latest advancements in photonics technology and industry standards
- Follow safety protocols and adhere to quality control procedures during the handling and testing of photonics equipment.
The following job titles also refer to photonics engineering technician:
optical systems technologist
optical systems technician
photonics engineering technologist
photonic systems engineering technician
photonic systems technician
technician in photonic systems
technician in photonics
Photonics engineering technicians work in laboratories, research facilities, or manufacturing settings. They may spend a significant amount of time working with delicate optical components and equipment, requiring precision and attention to detail. The work environment may involve working with lasers, optical instruments, and electrical systems. Safety measures and proper protective equipment should be used to minimize the risk of exposure to laser beams or hazardous materials. Collaboration with engineers, scientists, and other technicians is common, and occasional travel may be required for on-site installations or field testing.
A minimum of an associate degree in photonics, electrical engineering, or a related field is typically required for a photonics engineering technician role. Coursework in optics, electronics, and photonics technologies is valuable. Practical experience with photonics systems, laboratory equipment, and test methodologies is essential. Proficiency in using optical test and measurement tools, such as power meters, spectrum analyzers, and optical time-domain reflectometers (OTDR), is important. Strong problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and the ability to work in a team are necessary. Familiarity with CAD software and experience in working with photonics-related projects or research is advantageous.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Photonics engineering technician is a Skill level 3 occupation.
Photonics engineering technician career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to photonics engineering technician.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of photonics engineering technician. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of photonics engineering technician with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of photonics engineering technician.
- Optical equipment standards: The national and international quality and safety standards and regulations with regards to the use and manufacture of optical equipment, including optical materials, optical components, optical systems, ophthalmic equipment, optomechanical equipment, optical measuring equipment, photographic equipment, and optoelectronic equipment.
- Optical glass characteristics: The characteristics of optical glass such as refractive index, dispersion, and chemical properties.
- Photonics: The science and technology of generating, controlling and detecting particles of light. It explores phenomena and applications in which light is used to transfer or process information, or to physically alter materials.
- Optics: The science that studies the elements and reaction of light.
- Types of optical instruments: Possess information on the types of optical instruments and lenses, such as microscopes and telescopes, as well as on their mechanics, components, and characteristics.
- Design drawings: Understand design drawings detailing the design of products, tools, and engineering systems.
- Refractive power: Refractive power or optical power is the degree to which an optical system, such as a lens, converges or diverges light. Diverging lenses possess negative refractive power, while converging lenses possess positive refractive power.
- Optical engineering: Subdiscipline of engineering that deals with the development of optical instruments and applications, such as telescopes, microscopes, lenses, lasers, fibre optic communication, and imaging systems.
- Optical components: The components and materials necessary for building optical instruments, such as lenses and frames.
- Optical manufacturing process: The process and different stages of manufacturing an optical product, from design and prototyping to the preparation of optical components and lenses, the assembly of optical equipment, and the intermediate and final testing of the optical products and its components.
- Optoelectronics: Branch of electronics and optics dedicated to the study and use of electronic devices that detect and control light.
- Lasers: Devices that are able to produce light through the optical amplification of the stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation, such as gas lasers, solid-state lasers, fiber lasers, photonic lasers and semiconductor lasers. The spatial and temporal coherence of lasers allows for the concentration of light in one place, such as laser pointers, as well as the concentration of light in time, so that light can be produced in a much shorter time than other light and can also emit as single colour of light.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of photonics engineering technician.
- Inspect quality of products: Use various techniques to ensure the product quality is respecting the quality standards and specifications. Oversee defects, packaging and sendbacks of products to different production departments.
- Mount optical components on frames: Mount optical components, such as lenses, and precision mechanical components, such as frames, into assemblies and adjust. Lenses are mechanically set into place using threaded retaining rings and the use of adhesive cement on the outer cylindrical edge to hold individual lenses in place.
- Test optical components: Test optical systems, products, and components with appropriate optical testing methods, such as axial ray testing and oblique ray testing.
- Record test data: Record data which has been identified specifically during preceding tests in order to verify that outputs of the test produce specific results or to review the reaction of the subject under exceptional or unusual input.
- Adjust engineering designs: Adjust designs of products or parts of products so that they meet requirements.
- Perform test run: Perform tests putting a system, machine, tool or other equipment through a series of actions under actual operating conditions in order to assess its reliability and suitability to realise its tasks, and adjust settings accordingly.
- Align components: Align and lay out components in order to put them together correctly according to blueprints and technical plans.
- Apply optical coating: Apply coating to optical lenses, such as reflective coating to mirrors, anti-reflective coatings to camera lenses, or tinted coatings to sunglasses.
- Read engineering drawings: Read the technical drawings of a product made by the engineer in order to suggest improvements, make models of the product or operate it.
- Clean optical components: Clean optical components after every cycle in the manufacturing process.
- Liaise with engineers: Collaborate with engineers to ensure common understanding and discuss product design, development and improvement.
- Fasten components: Fasten components together according to blueprints and technical plans in order to create subassemblies or finished products.
- Assist scientific research: Assist engineers or scientists with conducting experiments, performing analysis, developing new products or processes, constructing theory, and quality control.
- Assemble optoelectronics: Prepare, construct, and assemble optoelectronic components and systems, such as lasers and imaging systems, using soldering, micro-fabrication, and polishing techniques.
- Operate optical assembly equipment: Set up and operate optical processing or assembly equipment, such as optical spectrum analysers, power saws, lasers, die bonders, soldering irons, and wire bonders.
- Prepare production prototypes: Prepare early models or prototypes in order to test concepts and replicability possibilities. Create prototypes to assess for pre-production tests.
Optional knowledge and skills
This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of photonics engineering technician. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Circuit diagrams: Read and comprehend circuit diagrams showing the connections between the devices, such as power and signal connections.
- Electrooptic devices: Optical devices, systems, and components that possess electrical or electronic features, such as lasers or electrooptic modulators.
- Engineering principles: The engineering elements like functionality, replicability, and costs in relation to the design and how they are applied in the completion of engineering projects.
- Optomechanical components: Components that possess mechanical and optical features, such as optical mirrors, optical mounts, and optical fibre.
- Firmware: Firmware is a software program with a read-only memory (ROM) and a set of instructions that is permanently inscribed on a hardware device. Firmware is commonly used in electronic systems such as computers, mobile phones, and digital cameras.
- Digital camera sensors: Types of sensors used in digital cameras, such as charged coupled devices (CCD) and complementary metal oxide semiconductor sensors (CMOS).
- MOEM: Micro-opto-electro-mechanics (MOEM) combines microelectronics, microoptics and micromechanics in the development of MEM devices with optical features, such as optical switches, optical cross-connects, and microbolometers.
- Printed circuit boards: Printed circuit boards (PCB) are essential components to almost all electronic devices. They consist of thin wafers or substrates on which electronic components, such as microchips, are placed. The electronic components are electrically connected through conductive tracks and pads.
- Sensors: Sensors are transducers that can detect or sense characteristics in their environment. They detect changes in the apparatus or environment and provide a corresponding optical or electrical signal. Sensors are commonly divided in six classes: mechanical, electronic, thermal, magnetic, electrochemical, and optical sensors.
- CAE software: The software to perform computer-aided engineering (CAE) analysis tasks such as Finite Element Analysis and Computional Fluid Dynamics.
- Microprocessors: Computer processors on a microscale that integrate the computer central processing unit (CPU) on a single chip.
- Electronics: The functioning of electronic circuit boards, processors, chips, and computer hardware and software, including programming and applications. Apply this knowledge to ensure electronic equipment runs smoothly.
- CAD software: The computer-aided design (CAD) software for creating, modifying, analysing or optimising a design.
- Microoptics: Optical devices with a size of 1 millimeter or smaller, such as microlenses and micromirrors.
- Optoelectronic devices: Electronic devices, systems, and components that possess optical features. These devices or components may include electrically driven light sources, such as LEDs and laser diodes, components that can convert light into electricity, such as solar or photovoltaic cells, or devices that can electronically manipulate and control light.
- Electromagnetic spectrum: The different electromagnetic wavelenghts or frequencies that are situated on the electromagnetic spectrum. Wavelenghts are divided in several categories according to their wavelength and energy level, starting from radio wavelenghts with a long wavelength and a low energy level, to microwaves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and finally Gamma-rays with a short wavelength and a high energy level.
- Semiconductors: Semiconductors are essential components of electronic circuits and contain properties of both insulators, such as glass, and conductors, such as copper. Most semiconductors are crystals made of silicon or germanium. By introducing other elements in the crystal through doping, the crystals turn into semiconductors. Depending on the amount of electrons created by the doping process, the crystals turn into N-type semiconductors, or P-type semiconductors.
- Microsensors: Devices with a size smaller than 1 mm that can convert a non-electric signal, such as temperature, into an electrical signal. Because of their size, microsensors offer better accuracy, range, and sensitivity compared to larger sensors.
- Mechanics: Theoretical and practical applications of the science studying the action of displacements and forces on physical bodies to the development of machinery and mechanical devices.
- Fibre optics: The technology which utilises optical fibre, such as plastic or glass threads, to transmit data. Optical fibres are able to transmit light between the two ends of the fibre and may transfer images and messages modulated onto light waves. Fibre optic cables have increased in popularity because of their possibility to transfer data over long distances at higher bandwidths and with lesser amounts of interference than metal cables.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of photonics engineering technician. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Monitor machine operations: Observe machine operations and evaluate product quality thereby ensuring conformity to standards.
- Resolve equipment malfunctions: Identify, report and repair equipment damage and malfunctions; communicate with field representatives and manufacturers to obtain repair and replacement components.
- Calibrate optical instruments: Correct and adjust the reliability of optical instruments, such as photometers, polarimeters, and spectrometers, by measuring output and comparing results with the data of a reference device or a set of standardised results. This is done in regular intervals which are set by the manufacturer.
- Maintain optical equipment: Diagnose and detect malfunctions in optical systems, such as lasers, microscopes, and oscilloscopes. Remove, replace, or repair these systems or system components when necessary. Execute preventative equipment maintenance tasks, such as storing the equipment in clean, dust-free, and non-humid spaces.
- Use CAM software: Use computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) programmes to control machinery and machine tools in the creation, modification, analysis, or optimisation as part of the manufacturing processes of workpieces.
- Integrate new products in manufacturing: Assist with the integration of new systems, products, methods, and components in the production line. Ensure that production workers are properly trained and follow the new requirements.
- Write technical reports: Compose technical customer reports understandable for people without technical background.
- Inspect optical supplies: Check optical materials for damage, such as scratches, before using the material.
- Apply technical communication skills: Explain technical details to non-technical customers, stakeholders, or any other interested parties in a clear and concise manner.
- Keep records of work progress: Maintain records of the progress of the work including time, defects, malfunctions, etc.
- Program firmware: Program permanent software with a read-only memory (ROM) on a hardware device, such as an integrated circuit.
ISCO group and title
3119 – Physical and engineering science technicians not elsewhere classified
- Photonics engineering technician – ESCO
- Photonics Technician | Science & Engineering Career
- Photonics Technicians – O*NET Online
- Photonics Engineering Technician Program | Niagara College
- Featured image: By Human Crash Safety – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0