Home INTERVIEWS Cem YAZICIOĞLU, General Manager of Fotoniks: “Fotoniks is entering its second decade with its eyes set on increasing its technological depth and export-oriented activities, and reaching more domestic and international platform producers as a reliable solution partner.”

Cem YAZICIOĞLU, General Manager of Fotoniks: “Fotoniks is entering its second decade with its eyes set on increasing its technological depth and export-oriented activities, and reaching more domestic and international platform producers as a reliable solution partner.”

by MSI-stajyer

Ümit BAYRAKTAR / ubayraktar@milscint.com

Leaving behind its first decade, Fotoniks has joined the ranks of the technological Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) of the Turkish defence and aerospace sector, engaged in R&D and  developing its own unique products. Today, Fotoniks offers a wide range of solutions, from tactical electro-optic systems to night vision and thermal imaging systems; from laser and infrared marking-illumination systems to platform-integrated multi-functional camera systems; and from armoured vehicle situational awareness systems to mission payloads. Cem Yazıcıoğlu, General Manager of Fotoniks, described how far Fotoniks has come over the past decade for MSI TDR readers, and discussed some of its plans regarding the exciting future technologies.

MSI TDR: Fotoniks celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2020. How would you describe your position in the sector today?

Cem YAZICIOĞLU: As you know, Turkey’s defence and aerospace companies have made great strides over the last 10–15 years. In this period, Fotoniks has acquired in-depth expertise in electro-optic systems as well, delivering one innovation every year since its foundation.

Just 10 years ago, we launched our repair and maintenance operations, and had the capability to manufacture a number of products. As for where we stand today, I can say that we are now a “solution partner” in the most literal sense, being engaged in every process from design to production, working in a system that constantly improves itself and that adds value to the products, while meeting the needs of the end user.

Looking at the level of global trade and the economic conditions of 2020, we can see that cooperation is very important for companies. It is difficult to survive focusing R&D activities on just one subject, and relying on a single product line. At Fotoniks, we are aware of this fact, and so attach considerable importance to international cooperation and joint product development projects, aside from our own activities. Our ongoing product development efforts in cooperation with many different international companies can be described as a “win-win-win” approach. You may think the third “win” in my previous sentence is a typo, but that’s not. One should keep in mind that in such a cooperation, not just the two cooperating companies– as the “win-winners” – but also the end user must come out as a winner.

Tactical EO/IR (Electro-Optical/Infrared) devices produced by Fotoniks are being used by various end users.

There is no doubt that independent development and production are equally as important as cooperation. When I say “independent development and production”, I mean the manufacture of products in which the entire design and the critical technologies belong to us, and are not subject to other countries approval for exports, although making all parts of a product as a single company goes against the global economic and technological realities.

In light of these assessments, Fotoniks carries out productization activities in such a way that it retains a significant proportion of the value chain. Today, Fotoniks is capable of producing a wide range of solutions, from tactical electro-optic systems, to night vision and thermal imaging systems; from laser and infrared marking-illumination systems, to platform-integrated multi-functional camera systems; and from armoured vehicle situational awareness systems to their mission payloads, while also providing lifecycle support for all these products.

Fotoniks aiming to acquire technological depth, is working specially to achieve vertical integration in the fields of laser systems and digital imaging.

Fotoniks is continuing the mass production of DVE (Driver Vision Enhancement) cameras that are being exported abroad, on the armoured vehicles of a Turkish vehicle manufacturer.

A Company that Addresses Mission Need in the Field

MSI TDR: Looking back at the past decade, which of Fotoniks’ achievements do you consider to be the most significant?

Cem YAZICIOĞLU: I think becoming a company that can analyse a mission need and craft an appropriate solution has been our most significant achievement. What I mean by this is that we are able to design systems that can address the needs, and to produce critical systems and subsystems, to qualify them in accordance with recognized standards, and to bring our products to maturity through feedback, all in a systematic manner. Gaining the means to do all this while developing new capabilities, and most importantly, while succeeding in the establishment of a corporate culture, stand out among our modest achievements.

Fotoniks’ 360° situational awareness vision systems.

MSI TDR: If you were to make a numerical summary of the past decade of Fotoniks, such as projects completed, products developed, the total number of delivered systems and the total exports, how would the big picture look?

Cem YAZICIOĞLU: Over the last 10 years we have had the opportunity to work with all of our security services including Turkish Armed Forces (TAF), the Turkish National Police (TNP) and others. We can say that almost every soldier and police officer in our country has a Fotoniks product among their equipment, which is a source of great pride and happiness for us. That said, it’s also a big responsibility, because we need to provide the necessary support, no matter the conditions are, and to develop new systems.

On the export front, we are currently exporting indirectly, that is to say, the platform-based systems we produce are being exported together with the main platforms. As such, we are not yet where we want to be in terms of exports, although our export-oriented efforts are continuing.

Just 10 years ago, we launched our repair and maintenance operations, and had the capability to manufacture a number of products. As for where we stand today, I can say that we are now a “solution partner” in the most literal sense, being engaged in every process from design to production, working in a system that constantly improves itself and that adds value to the products, while meeting the needs of the end user.

Reliable and Literally Cost Effective

MSI TDR: What are the key factors that allow Fotoniks to stand out among its competitors?

Cem YAZICIOĞLU: One of the characteristics of Fotoniks that we value the most is our ability to produce reliable products. We ensure the reliability by paying attention to details, sub-systems and components, especially during our new product development processes.

As Turkey’s technological production capabilities and means expand, naturally, our excitement for product development and mass production increases, but as beneficial as this excitement may be, it should not lead us to take shortcuts in the detailed testing and qualification processes necessary for the launch of products with a certain level of maturity. Considering new products, tested and proven options should be prioritized in the system, subsystem, component and even in the detailed part levels.

A dedicated R&D team focused on specific development activities is operating in the Fotoniks’ laboratory in Hacettepe Teknokent.

There is in fact a fine balance in play here. Naturally, a new product is the one that has not yet achieved the level of maturity with the incoming feedback from the field. Although it takes time, it is important to work with proven techniques and components throughout the product design and production phases, in addition to developing advanced versions after field use and going through the maturation process.

Looking from a broader perspective, reliability can be considered within the concept of quality, and for us, quality is the most important differentiator. I believe our most distinguished feature is “to use proven technology and production techniques and components to the greatest extent possible”. Although this may suggest an increased product cost in some cases, it actually allows us to offer a more cost-effective solution in the overall lifecycle.

Fotoniks armoured vehicle turret sight systems, prior to testing.

In fact, lifecycle costs are often overlooked in evaluation processes. Actually, the product’s maintenance and operational efficiency should be measured and provided in line with a scoring system to the procurement authority which procures the lowest price technically acceptable.  

The most accurate indicator of how cost-effective the procurement of a product is the overall costs of the system including the initial procurement costs and the maintenance and operational costs together with its availability rate throughout its lifecycle.

I think becoming a company that can analyse a mission need and craft an appropriate solution has been our most significant achievement. What I mean by this is that we are able to design systems that can address the needs, and to produce critical systems and subsystems, to qualify them in accordance with recognized standards, and to bring our products to maturity through feedback, all in a systematic manner. Gaining the means to do all this while developing new capabilities, and most importantly, while succeeding in the establishment of a corporate culture, stand out among our modest achievements.

Target 50% Exports by 2025

MSI TDR: What are Fotoniks’ goals as it moves into its second decade?

Cem YAZICIOĞLU: Fotoniks is entering its second decade, with its eyes set on increasing its technological depth and export-oriented activities, and reaching more domestic and international platform producers as a reliable solution partner. Our targets in on this journey are, in particular, to procure the basic technological components of our products domestically, and to accelerate our prototype production processes. Acquiring 50 percent of our income from exports by 2025 is the numerical target we have set ourselves. Regarding the transfer of military technologies to the civilian field, we are also considering “dual use” products within the framework of the relevant legislation.

Fotoniks’ tactical EO/IR lighting product “Gökbörü” has seen active use in the field.

As you know, we are in the information age, and there are many different technologies under development for the processing, storage and evaluation of information. The most significant of these is the use of the photon – the atomic state of light – which brings us into the domain of quantum physics. Of course, this domain is a vast and deep world in its own right. Detailed studies need to be carried out not just by one or several companies, but academic and practical studies supported by the state are also required. On the other hand, we need to launch these studies as soon as possible, even if small steps they may be. We are engaged in various studies related to the use of light in communication, and have come up with several different prototypes utilizing  beam forming technologies, and currently trying to improve the performance of them.

Our aim is to conduct all of these works at our new facility at Gölbaşı in Ankara, which is planned to be completed in 2022. We are working diligently to ensure this facility will have the necessary infrastructure and personnel to support our efforts in technological development in addition to production.

The future is in “light”. We coming to the end of the path we were led down by transistor-based chips, and we are approaching the upper limit when it comes to running supercomputers with a binary system. For this reason, scientists and engineers around the world are working on information generation, processing and storage technologies that can work super-fast and multi-dimensionally through the states and uncertainties of quantum particles. As Fotoniks, we are working on beamforming, and on recording the changes in these beams.

Fotoniks is continuing mass production of its holographic sights.

The Future is Thrilling

MSI TDR: Technology has a significant presence in the fields you operate. While you touched on this topic earlier, could you tell us about Fotoniks’ activities in the development and application of new technologies?

Cem YAZICIOĞLU: The future is in “light”. We coming to the end of the path we were led down by transistor-based chips, and we are approaching the upper limit when it comes to running super computers with a binary system. For this reason, scientists and engineers around the world are working on information generation, processing and storage technologies that can work super-fast and multi-dimensionally through the states and uncertainties of quantum particles. We have to be in this field somehow conducting either small or large scale projects. As Fotoniks, we are working on beamforming, and on recording the changes in these beams. In the hologram area, we are carrying out studies into the creation and recording of holographic film plates, and in the development of various applications. We are also working to gain technological expertise in the fields of creation of Holographic Optical Network (Diffraction Grating), waveguide optics, etc.

Construction of the new Fotoniks facility in Gölbaşı, Ankara is scheduled for 2022.

If you were to ask about the possible applications of these technologies, many different products come to mind. For example, products that do not require projection and which vision can be projected onto the inside of glass surfaces; the use of glass surfaces as screens and even touchscreens; turning thin glass surfaces into giant or miniature screens, and so on. Imagine your glasses working as a computer screen, or bringing up weather reports and other such information on the windows of your home … Holographic sights, safety glasses displaying messages, systems that reflects targets together with necessary  information on aircraft canopies – it is a very exciting and technologically profound field.

We would like to thank Cem YAZICIOĞLU, General Manager ofFotoniks for taking the time to answer our questions, and for providing us with such valuable information.

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