From the James Webb Space Telescope to the Mars Rover, Rochester, NY, is a hub of technological advancement. Specifically, there are over 150 companies directly working on photonics, imaging, and optics in Rochester, NY. As a result, Rochester’s precision machining industry has grown to be one of the top in the country.

We’ll explore this city’s fascinating history, from becoming the “Flour/Flower City” to a prominent research center. Additionally, we’ll cover the current state of optics in Rochester NY.

Rochester, NY as a Birthplace of Technology

One of the first U.S. boomtowns, Rochester grew from a city of flour mills to the birthplace of some of the country’s most iconic companies.1 These brands include Xerox, Eastman Kodak, Wegmans, Gannett, Constellation Brands, and Bausch & Lomb. Altogether, they contributed to Rochester’s rise as a global center for technology, science, and research and development.

Additionally, Rochester has renowned universities like Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Rochester, and nearby Cornell University.

Today, Rochester is a technology and education hub and comprises part of New York’s optics and photonics infrastructure. The city is vital to many STEM fields and high technology, including optical and imaging science. As a result, Rochester is known as the “World Capital of Imaging,”2 and the University of Rochester is home to the Institute of Optics, the oldest optics academic program in the U.S.

Rochester’s proximity to optical companies has been paramount to U.S. optics study and research. Major companies like Xerox, Bausch & Lomb, and Kodak have helped by providing an environment for collaboration and funding.

History of Optics in Rochester, NY

A century ago, Rochester’s optics industry rose in response to the U.S. military’s demand for high-tech domestic supplies. Up to World War I, Germany was the primary supplier of optics to the U.S. Optica (formerly OSA), the optics and photonics professional society, began its life as the Rochester optical society in 1915.3

In the 1990s, the University of Rochester built the Center for Optics Manufacturing. Several technologies arose from the center, including CNC cutting and deterministic polishing tools.

Now, the Integrated Photonics Institute for Manufacturing Innovation has been brought to Rochester by the Department of Defense.4 This adds to a growing list of innovative companies, nonprofits, and universities that has fueled new growth, building on the city’s unparalleled optical and photonics technology capabilities.

Rochester boasts over 150 companies with expertise in digital imaging, biophotonics, vision science, semiconductors, and precision optics as a world leader. Rochester also has the infrastructure to support these businesses at each stage of the supply chain, from prototyping to mass production.

Optics, Photonics, and Imaging in Industry

Optics and photonics 5 is the study of the fundamental properties of light and their application in every tool and technology. Spanning the whole electromagnetic spectrum, optics and photonics include everything from ultraviolet to infrared light and gamma rays to electromagnetic waves.

In the real world, optics, photonics, and imaging are responsible for various technologies we use every day, including computing devices, smartphones, precision manufacturing, and fiber optics.

Furthermore, optics and photonics are also poised to advance existing technologies rapidly. Examples include:

  • Enabling greater bandwidth for long-haul communication
  • Conserving energy in high-volume data centers
  • Enhancing medical technology with genome mapping and arterial cameras

Additionally, optics and photonics have national security applications in electronic warfare, radar, imaging, and communication systems.

Looking to the future, the sky’s the limit for this industry. New opportunities arise each day, with emerging applications in:

  • Solar power generation
  • Efficient lighting
  • Internet growth
  • Laser-guided machining
  • Semiconductor technology

As for the  Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Integrated Photonics, the focus is on creating an end-to-end photonics ecosystem that provides foundry access, integrated design tools, and automated assembly, packaging, and testing.

The market is growing rapidly, but these technologies are cost-prohibitive for many businesses. Another goal of the Innovation Institute is to improve the performance and efficiency of manufacturing systems at lower costs with developments like standardized platforms, automation, and workforce development.

About Apollo Optical Systems in Rochester

With groundbreaking companies like Eastman Kodak and Bausch & Lomb and world-class universities training the innovators of tomorrow, Rochester has played a vital role in the development and advancement of the optics, photonics, and imaging industry for over a century.

Apollo Optical Systems emerged from the Corning Rochester Photonics Corporation, a subsidiary of Corning. Apollo specializes in optical and mechanical design, single-point diamond turning, and polymer injection molding. Contact us today to learn more about custom optical components and assemblies.




[3] History | Optica (





About Dale Buralli

Dr. Dale Buralli has served as the Chief Scientist for Apollo Optical Systems since 2003. In this role, Dr. Buralli is responsible for the design and optical modeling of various optical systems. These systems include virtual or augmented reality, ophthalmic and other imaging or illumination systems. Additionally, he provides support for optical tooling of lens molds and prototypes, including the development of custom software for both production and metrology. Dr. Buralli got his Ph.D. in optics from the University of Rochester in 1991. Now he is an Adjunct Professor of Optics at the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics.