Meopta Optika s.r.o. is the one of the largest optics manufacturing companies in Europe.
Located in the Czech Republic, the company manufactures numerous products in the field of optics, such as personal cameras, movie cameras and movie projectors in the imaging department and binoculars, riflescopes and spotting scopes in the category of sport optics. In addition to the aforementioned optical products, Meopta also produces optical components like prisms and lenses for several renowned brands. Their current factory location in Prerov, Czech Republic is the largest optics manufacturing setup in the whole of Europe, with over 2,400 highly-skilled employees in every sector.
C. P. Goerzin Bratislava, Czechoslovakia
Most people are unaware of the fact that the company was founded as a merger of two nationalized optics manufacturers, namely, Optikotechna in Prerov and C. P. Goerz in Bratislava. Back in 1907, the Vienna-based optics producer, C. P. Goerz, unveiled a new manufacturing location in the city of Bratislava in Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia) for the manufacturing of mechanical and optical equipment.
The facility initially manufactured products for use by the Austria-Hungary’s naval forces, but soon after the First World War ended in 1919, the company changed its production plan partly from military-grade products to developing instruments targeted towards the general public, which included optical devices, such as binoculars, movie cameras, compasses, magnifying and field glasses, and mechanical products, such as manometers, speakers, refractometers and alarm clocks. Following the years after the Second World War, the company was renamed to Meopta in 1958 and it was nationalized in the year 1968. Meopta is short for “Mechanická optická výroba’’ or “Mechanical Optical Manufacturing”.
Optikotechna in Prerov, Czechoslovakia
Meanwhile in 1933, Engineer Alois Benes founded Optikotechna in Prerov, Czech Republic and this is also when Czechoslovak’s first enlarging lens was developed by Dr. Mazurek. The company was originally started to produce a small variety of optical condensers and lenses, but gradually included other products, such as binoculars, riflescopes, transparent-slide projects, composite lenses, and the notable Flexaret line of cameras. By the year 1937, the company had already added several manufacturing facilities in the suburban area of Prerov to accommodate the ongoing rise in demand of enlargers and lenses in the country and nearby regions. The optics business started to thrive with the expansion of manufacturing operations but the success was short-lived. The company was forced to surrender control of all operations to German forces when the Second World War started in 1939.
While the manufacturing operations of civilian products was stopped immediately, the company was ordered to focus on developing military-grade optical instruments for the German army, which included periscopes, binoculars, rangefinders and riflescopes. With the production of civil products halted, the company continued to produce numerous devices for the military until the war ended in 1945. After the war, the Optikotechna was nationalized and merged with C. P. Goerz, another national optics manufacturer discussed above, to form Meopta Optika. Since 1947, the company has mostly focused on the production of civilian-targeted optics products. Between 1947 and 1970, Meopta became one of the largest manufacturers of cinema projectors in the world.
The production was again shifted to military-grade products in the era of Cold War in 1971 and Meopta until it represented nearly 70% of the company’s business before turning to zero in 1989. Meopta Optika was privatized in 1991 and converted into a joint-stock company. As of now, the company occupies a 135,000 sq. meters factory site with over 26,000 sq. meters of manufacturing area. The company has garnered significant popularity over the years since it became privately-owned. In 1960, the owner of the majority of the company founded a separate company in New York by the name of Tyrolit but renamed it to Meopta U.S.A. Inc. in 2005.
Meopta’s name is associated with a rich history that dates back to the year 1933. Their long tradition of designing and manufacturing world-class opto-mechanical and opto-electronic products has led them to provide quality products to military, industrial and consumer markets.
Their main manufacturing facility lies in Prerov, Czechia.
Manufacturing site in Prerov, Czech Republic
The manufacturing processes at Meopta are divided into three stages:
1. Research and Development stage
The processes at the Prerov factory start with the research and development department. The high-tech R&D activities supplement Meopta’s manufacturing capabilities through continuous innovation, thereby, enabling the seamless development of high-quality products from conception to production.
Following activities comprise the R&D operations:
- Design of Optics assemblies
Unlike other domains, designing of optical products requires understanding of optical properties of materials and critical geometric tolerancing. Researchers at Meopta use dedicated software packages like Oslo and Zemax to achieve excellent optical properties in all line of products.
- Mechanical Design
Just like optics, mechanical design needs to be spot on for optics assemblies. The design-for-assembly includes accurate tolerances, surface finish and assembly considerations, which engineers accomplish through the well-known CAD package Creo Parametric from PTC.
- Structural Calculations
The next step is to analyse these designs for mechanical strength by simulating real-world loading conditions, such as vibrational, thermal shock, impact and shear loads, on individual opto-mechanical assemblies. By running these FEA simulations on mechanical solutions like Abaqus and PTC Creo Simulate, the engineers confidently identify design areas which might be too sensitive to unwanted loads. Another benefit of FEA software is generative designing, which is essential in designing ultra lightweight housings without jeopardizing mechanical strength.
2. Manufacturing stage
Like the research and design stage, several manufacturing processes are employed at the Meopta production site, which include:
- Precise machining and material selection
Manufacturing of quality products is impossible without capable machinery. Since the current era is all about technological advancement and industrial standardization, high-tech is the need of the hour, especially for an optics manufacturer of this magnitude. Meopta’s manufacturing floor features more than a hundred computer-numeric controlled machines from notable world-wide brands for precise machining.
Machinery includse high-speed turning machines, milling machines with 3, 4 and 5 simultaneously-controlled axes, Electric Discharge Machines (EDMs), metal grinders and auxiliary machines, such as bending, cutting, soldering, welding, threading, and honing equipment.
Optical hand-held instruments like binoculars and riflescopes have to face the challenge of lightweight requirements and high strength from consumers. To accomplish this feat, most commonly used materials in optics are: magnesium alloys, aluminum alloys, titanium, stainless steel, plastics and some selected non-ferrous materials. Machines at Meopta are more than capable of handling such materials.
- Heat Treatment
Some metals require heat treatment before they are sent for cutting and machining operations. Most metals are available pre-heat-treated from suppliers but every industry has different requirements of metal properties. While some heat treatment processes are designed to eliminate residual stresses in metals, others are used to improve surface hardness and machining performance by reducing brittleness.
Meopta’s on-site heat treatment facility features a temperature-controlled furnace with a maximum temperature of up to 1300 degrees Celsius for processes such as annealing, normalizing, carbonitriding, gas quenching, duralumin hardening and tempering.
- Surface Finish
It is certain that most metals are prone to corrosion and surface scratches. Either of the phenomenon would ruin the physical appearance of a perfectly working optical device. Additionally, optical components like lenses and prisms are sensitive and the potential surface distortion of metals at points of contact with glass can cause damage to both lenses and prisms, which would render the expensive optical instrument, such as a binocular or riflescope useless. To counter this, engineers at Meopta have come up with several standard metal surface finishing process, including electroplating, anodizing, blackening, zinc phosphating and painting. Selected processes are applied to certain metals to make them corrosion-free.
The most critical components in optics products are made of glass. Since it is a highly brittle material, glass cannot be cut and shaped using conventional machinery and machining processes. Trained workforce at Meopta make use of German equipment to cut glass and turn it into the various shapes and sizes for lenses and prisms. These machines employ precise high-speed manufacturing technology known as Synchrospeed.
Even after a smooth cutting operation, glass always retains a high surface roughness due to its brittleness. Since reflection and refraction phenomena require highly smooth surfaces to be effective, Meopta has an in-house Magneto-Rheological Finishing (MRF) equipment to provide ultra-smooth polished surfaces and correct surface shapes. For calibrating profiles of non-spherical optics, the factory employs contact profilometers, such as Taylor Hobson and Luphoscan for unpolished and polished surfaces respectively. Flat optics are similarly machined and shaped using high-speed machines.
To protect the surfaces of glass components and improve their optical performance, modern coatings play an important role all over the world. Meopta has over 40 vacuum chambers for hot and cold coating depositions for lenses and prisms. The famed thin-filmed nanocoatings are employed for a myriad of performance requirements, including reflection enhancement, anti-reflection, beam splitting and polarization.
3. System Integration and Assembly stage
After individual mechanical and optical components are ready, they are advanced into the assembly stage where the factory gives the final shape to the products. Components that are to be assembled together are presented in the form of batches to specialized workstations where they are fastened or glued together by a team of 300 highly skilled workers.
There are two assembly and integration areas at Meopta’s production site in Prerov.
The cleanroom at Meopta is designed to fulfil the ISO standard 14644-1 class 3-6 and ISO standard 14644-8 class 9 for clean environments. An online particle counter is also used to monitor the purity of inside air, that signals on any sign of impurity detected in air. All mechanical and components are thoroughly cleaned before they are assembled together. The cleanroom assembly area is mainly used for integrating semi-conductor Printed Circuit Boards for various businesses who provide services to leading microchip manufacturers in the world.
Standard Assembly process
Adjustment, alignment and assembly of mechanical and optical components are carried out at the standard assembly area at the factory. Like critical electronic assemblies, optical assemblies also require a clean environment that is free of unwanted particles. Normal atmosphere usually contains numerous particles, such as dust, pollen grains, dirt and various other impurities. Since optics products cannot work effectively with dirt on the surfaces of lenses and prisms, especially in airtight optical chambers of binoculars, spotting scopes, cameras and riflescopes, their assembly requires a clean environment to avoid unwanted trapped dirt inside the optical housings.
In the standard assembly area features workstations that Meopta calls flow-boxes. These compartments are fitted with HEPA filters that provide a desktop purity of ISO 1000 class. Following technical procedures are carried out here:
- Resolution and Interferometric measurement
- Testing and adjustment of optical characteristics, like focus point distance, resolution, Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) of lenses, etc.
- Nitrogen-purging of optical assemblies
- Assembly of fog-proof and water-resistant products
- Removal of dust and humidity with nitrogen and compressed air
- Hydrophobic coating
Manufacturing of components in Asia
Although design, manufacturing and assembly of most products are carried out at the Meopta Prerov factory, manufacturing of individual components of the Meopta’s Optika HD series, the affordable series of binoculars, have been outsourced to Asia (most probably, Philippines), citing reasons, such as high manufacturing and labor costs in the Czech Republic.
Only individual parts are sourced from Asia and the rest of the assembly process is carried out the Prerov location, along with the remaining products.
While the Czech Republic maintains a fairly lower production and labor cost along with some other countries in Europe, it is still relatively higher compared to labor overheads in Asian countries like Vietnam and China.
MeoStar ® B1.1 series
The MeoStar ® series of binoculars are the highest performing devices from the manufacturer. These devices have garnered the reputation of one of the finest all-rounder binoculars in the world. The series feature multiple lens coatings from MB5501 ion-assisted multi-coatings for an improved light transmittance to MeoShieldTM coats for resistance to abrasion. The coatings enable MeoStar binoculars to perform in the dimmest of dusk and dawns, especially for hunting enthusiasts.
Remaining features include rubber armour, magnesium-alloy housings and an ergonomic design for fatigue-free use for longer periods. These binoculars also feature the Schmidt–Pechan roof prisms for a space-saving and weight reduction, so even with standard sizes, they do not weigh a ton.
The MeoStar B1.1 binocular series is available in several magnification and objective variants. They are listed below:
Compact: MeoStar B1.1 – 8×32, 10×32
Standard Full Size: MeoStar B1.1 – 8×42, 10×42 HD
Large size: MeoStar B1.1 – 7×50, 10×50, 12×50 HD, 8×56, 15×56 HD
MeoPro ® HD series
The MeoPro ® HD binoculars are designed to be affordable but it surprisingly perform at par with premium devices that cost several hundred Euros more. The housing features the same magnesium-alloy material and the rubber armour ensures a comfortable grip, increased durability and protection from accidental damage.
Meopta’s MB5501 ion assisted multi-coatings enable objectives to transmit a staggering 99.7% of incident light through a single surface, which is outstanding for budget optics. Also, a second MeoShieldTM coating ensures safety from abrasion, a common problem with exposed glass surfaces.
This series is available in a number of magnification and objective variants. They are listed below:
Compact: MeoPro HD – 8×32, 10×32
Standard Full Size: MeoPro HD – 8×42, 10×42 HD
Large size: MeoPro HD – 8×56
Optika ® HD series
The Optika ® HD series is the newest addition to the Meopta’s line of binoculars. Unveiled only in August last year, these binoculars feature a rugged, lightweight, and shockproof construction, all with a modern appearance. Optika is the only binoculars series to be partly manufactured in the Philippines, while its assembly is carried at Czechia.
The series feature Meopta’s iconic HD lenses with in-house developed dielectric and phase correction coatings that ensure consistent bright images with unparalleled color-fidelity and superior contrast levels. Like premium models, the housing of Optika HD series binoculars is made up of magnesium alloys and a rubber armour around the outer skin protects the mechanical and optical systems in case of a hard fall.
The Optika HD series of binoculars are only available in standard objective size of 42 mm along with two magnification options of 8x and 10x.
MeoRange ® series
The MeoRange ® series of binoculars feature the notable precision laser-rangefinding technology which is common in high-tech hunting binoculars. Hunting is not everyone’s cup of tea since it often takes place in uneven mountainous terrain, damp forests and rocky deserts. Since hunters cannot hold their rifle-mounted scope continuously while looking for game, binoculars make it easier for them to comfortably look for animals.
Along with an excellent range-finding system, the MeoRange series promises premium optics and a lightweight and rugged magnesium-alloy construction. The casing is further covered with a rubber armour to protect the internals should the device suffers an accidental fall. Other features of the series include in-house developed fluoride–containing lenses and the signature MeoLux and MeoDrop glass coatings for minimal reflection and weather resistance.
The rangefinder is able to precisely measure distances and inclination for up to 1500 m. Additionally, the HD-AB variant features a Bluetooth connectivity option which can pair the binocular with a PC or a smartphone in no time.
The MeoRange HD series of binoculars are only available in standard objective size of 42 mm with a magnification of 10x.
MeoRange 10×42 HD binoculars
MeoRange 10×42 HD-AB binoculars
MeoSport ® series
The MeoSport ® series of Meopta binoculars come in a pocket size and are designed to be carried everywhere anytime. Carrying standard sized or even compact size binoculars on day-long adventures can be difficult for most people, especially beginners. With a 8×25 specification, MeoSport binoculars are ultra-portable and lightweight. Despite their size, they feature a 100% fogproof and waterproof design, which makes them an ideal choice for day-travellers and novices. Additionally, they have a brilliant 18mm eye relief, which is rare for pocket-sized binoculars.
The series is completely designed, manufactured and assembled in Czechia.
Meopta Optika is known as the largest optics manufacturers in the whole of Europe. In addition to having their own line of professional camera equipment and several products in the sport optics category, Meopta provides optical-glass elements like prisms and lenses to a number of optics manufacturers in Europe.
Manufacturing processes from conception to production for all binoculars, riflescopes, spotting scopes and other services are carried out at the Meopta’s factory location In Prerov, Czech Republic, except for the newest addition to the line of binoculars, called Meopta Optika series. Individual components are sourced from Asia but the assembly procedure is carried out at main plant in Prerov. This was done to cut high production and workforce costs of the budget series of binoculars.
Since production costs are still considered higher than most other countries, there is a speculation that similar outsourcing decisions may be taken for other affordable line of products in the future. This will result in products that are more affordable and readily available to enthusiasts around the world.