As part of the Harbor AUV Project, Duro UAS is shining a spotlight on some of the amazing sponsors providing parts and pieces for the vehicle.
Today’s featured sponsor, Criterion Technology, builds high optical quality dome windows for AUV camera enclosures and other uses.
I was able to speak recently with Pat Kula, Director of Sales and Marketing at Criterion, about some of the interesting developments going on in the world of AUV component manufacturing and how Criterion is leading the way. (Image: Criterion Technologies)
Viktoria Pashtriku: To get started, can you tell us a little about Criterion Technology?
Pat Kula: We’re a 26-year-old injection molding company that builds optical domes and components. We build optical domes for closed-circuit television, security and surveillance cameras and Original Equipment Manufacturers. In addition to that, we have another division where we manufacture optical domes for robotics, such as AUVs and drones.
The optical parts we make are of very high quality because we have developed the injection mold tooling and processes specific to high definition camera performance. Coupling our proprietary laser welding systems, we are able to remain flexible in form factor using standard off-the-shelf components. This means we are able to take plastic components and laser weld them together to fit form while making the plastic able to withstand extreme pressures.
This technology provides greater flexibility to the molded parts and a greater flexibility on how to integrate those parts into systems. This is a process unique to Criterion. There is no one that we know of in the world that is doing what we are accomplishing.
VP: You stated Criterion has been making domes for 26 years. How then does Criterion adapt to a changing technological world if it’s using technology no one else is using?
PK: That’s a good question. Back when we started making these parts, everything was made from Plexiglass sheets. Plexiglass is something you would see on screen doors, for example. These sheets were heated and then molded into the shapes needed. The optical quality was good enough for the camera technology back at that time.
But as you know, today’s technologies such as cell phones and cameras have high resolutions and zooming capabilities. This constantly developing technology has driven us to look for improved materials and processes, so we are always seeking improvements for our materials, tools and molding capability. We continuously work with camera manufacturers to ensure that when they introduce new technologies, our enclosure products can keep up with resolution and zoom capabilities from their new camera designs.
Making optical domes is a continuously evolving industry; it’s challenging, but we are rising up to that challenge.
VP: What projects have arisen as a result of these changing technologies?
PK: We recently worked with a company based in Switzerland and developed an “optical” nylon engineered resin (plastic) that has exceptional performance for optics and impact strength. Our development gave the optical nylon a strong UV, chemical and saltwater resistance. That is what’s so great about working in a constantly evolving industry: new materials are coming out all the time. We work closely with plastic manufacturers and are making improved materials to adapt to those changes.
A project we are currently working on involves building an optical dome enclosure that can go reasonably deep for AUVs. We are also working on manufacturing and designing many different dome windows for autonomous vehicles that not only pass high resolution video, but also laser and other types of sensing equipment.
Every single one of our partners is an OEM, an Original Equipment Manufacturer, so everything we make is specific to them and their needs: we develop, design, and manufacture to the customers proprietary requirements. We aren’t creating parts and components that are traditionally available to the open market. Everything we do is custom initially, until we go into full production of a standard part.
VP: You mentioned Criterion has a division specializing in building AUV parts. Have you seen an increase of interest in people seeking out to create unmanned vehicles?
PK: Yes, it is really becoming popular today. We are working with a number of manufactures that are either selling AUVs or have them in one stage of development or another. Until now, they have not had a solid reliable source for optical dome enclosures and windows that has experience with applications in an underwater environment. They look to our experience for design, tooling and ability to be manufactured of their custom components and we are pleased to assist with joint develop and even turnkey projects.
VP: How is Criterion working towards an environmentally friendly future?
PK: For one thing, we recycle 100% of everything. All of our plastic goes into scrap bins and it is all 100% completely reusable. We take a true leadership role in working to protect our environment. From Plastics to corrugated paper to chemical waste disposal, Criterion maintains a green footprint with everything we do. We meet and exceed all federal and state laws in an effort to protect and preserve our valuable resources.
VP: Is there anything else that you would like add? Anything else you would like people to know about Criterion Technology?
PK: We’re working very closely to improve our optics for the next generation. Passing light through plastic windows is a very unique yet precise application that we’re constantly striving to improve. In terms of design capabilities, we offer upfront initial and conceptual design assistance, prototyping and large scale production of plastic parts.
We do not 100% build our own tools, however we work closely with a select few tooling manufacturers from beginning to end to make sure these parts are perfect for every application, both optically and dimensionally. We also strive to hit cost targets. Our business is to work with the customer to deliver the highest quality parts.
VP: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us!
PK: Thank you for the opportunity. It was our pleasure.