By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
For nearly two decades, millions of surgical patients across the world have benefited from the micro precision optics and medical subassemblies and devices invented and produced by Access Optics in Broken Arrow.
This company provides exceptional micro optics to most of the world’s largest original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the surgical imaging industry. Access Optics’ products are components in surgical equipment used in endoscopy, laparoscopy, knee surgeries, and gallstone removal, just to name a few.
Access Optics began almost 18 years ago when Bob and Pam Hogrefe came to Tulsa to buy a different company. That deal didn’t work out. The Hogrefes, who had lived on both coasts but never in Oklahoma, continued their pursuit of an eclipsing technology. That pursuit led to Access Optics, which now is operating in a new 20,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.
“We’ve turned out nearly a million optical elements, and close to 30,000 medical devices,” Access Optics CEO Bob Hogrefe told me. “If I put a word to it, I’d say we are blossoming.”
I would say so, too.
From day one, the company has shown a rigorous commitment to quality, achieving first an ISO 9001 quality manufacturing designation and then qualifying for the design and development provisions of the more stringent ISO 13485 medical device manufacturing.
Access Optics’ surgical products are not disposables; they are used hundreds of times. They must be durable and never forfeit even a blink of precision. And now, they are working to bring this same exceptional optics quality to disposable surgical devices.
“That’s where surgical devices are heading,” according to Bob Hogrefe who also shared, “Disposable micro scale surgical imaging devices can be inserted through the mouth and esophagus enabling surgeries that are performed entirely within the body, leaving no external incision.”
Access Optics is certified and qualified to make micro optics, design them into a lens assembly or camera assembly, and then pull that through ISO certification into the market.
“When one of the world’s largest medical equipment providers came to us needing a camera for the next-generation surgical robot, we took their requirements for design, developed and validated that design, and now manufacture it to work for them,” Hogrefe said.
The technical term is micro-imager — a lens assembly and camera that are integrated, meeting very precise development and quality specifications — with one more unique feature — the device fits on the tip of a finger.
Access Optics’ business has always been predominantly in the medical field; the company now is entering the markets of homeland security and defense.
“We take the unaided eye into places it cannot otherwise go,” Hogrefe said. “With current battlefield devices, images are captured on a tiny portable camera and fed into a display on a soldier’s helmet. It’s a carbon copy for what we do for surgeons.”
That Access Optics has remarkable technology and engineering prowess is undisputable, but the thing that really sets this company apart is their bulldog determination.
“Our people are infatuated with what they are doing,” Hogrefe said. “Virtually everyone on our staff is homegrown from here in Oklahoma. I couldn’t be more pleased that we’ve come here and done what we’ve done. Our company is a poster child for why entrepreneurs should start companies in Oklahoma.”
I would say so, too.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.