Hi, let's upgrade your illumination! I'm

Erin McDermott

Does your non-imaging optical system include an LED, lens, reflector, light pipe, IR sensor or light guide? Let’s chat!

What's involved in Optical Engineering?

Know More

Non-imaging optics is a segment of optical engineering that designs and analyzes systems involving light that don’t form an image. (So, not a camera, telescope or microscope.)

Examples: indicator lights, illumination for machine vision systems, IR sensors, automotive headlamps, laser processes, and more!

Optical engineers use non-sequential ray traces to model virtual systems (we often use Synopsys LightTools at Spire Starter) and accurately predict performance faster and cheaper than you can on a lab bench in real life.

This can be done with new, custom optic designs, existing CAD, or off-the-shelf optics depending on your time and monetary budgets.

If you need to increase lighting uniformity, increase brightness, figure out a root cause problem, reduce glare, meet regulatory standards, or similar, let’s chat!

What Spire Starter Can Do for You

Need help with an optical system or want a boost in your freelance engineering journey? Check out these offerings!

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Contract Optical Engineering

Contract Optical Engineering

If you’d like to engage in an optical engineering contract for a full optical design or analysis project, feel free to book a free, preliminary 20-minute consultation here. This time

1-Time Optical Engineering Session

1-Time Optical Engineering Session

If you don’t have the time or monetary budget remaining for a full-length engineering contract, you can book an on-demand session with Erin McDermott for up to 90 minutes here.

Freelancer Coaching

Freelancer Coaching

Want to jump into freelance hardware engineering? Or are you already here and want to boost your revenue and client base? Here are some resources! Guidebook to teach you how

Odd Engineer

Odd Engineer

Odd Engineer is the freelance hardware engineer directory where you can find many kinds of niche specialists in physical product development. (Not just optical engineering!) You can search the directory

How We Work with You

Work Process

Background Research

What's the history of your project and what do you want to improve? Often requires a baseline simulation of your existing system to generate quantitative metrics.


New optical system designs with simulations to compare to your system's baseline performance. -OR- variations of multiple parameters are simulated if you need root cause analysis. At times this requires real-life lab measurements to incorporate into simulations. We most frequently use Synopsys LightTools as our ray tracing optical simulation software, which is included in our rate.


Reports and conferences to explain results, recommendations, and cautions going forward in laymen's terms. Support can be provided through prototyping, design hand-off to high-volume manufacturers, and verification of first production parts, or however long you need!


Satisfied Clients & Colleagues Say



March 2007

B.S. Applied Physics, concentration Applied Optics

Kettering University (formerly GMI), Flint, Michigan

Thesis completed with Federal-Mogul co-op on additive application techniques for high-powered laser process development.

July 2011 - current

Founder, Director of Optical Engineering

Spire Starter

Optical engineering, publishing, tech writing and video editing, technical instruction, and fostering the Odd Engineer community.

March 2006 - June, 2006

Study Abroad Term

Fachhochschule Ulm, Ulm, Germany

Curriculum included machine vision and electrical engineering classes.

January 2021 - present


Odd Engineer

An open talent platform for hardware engineering specialists owned by Spire Starter LLC.


Summer Course

University of Texas at Brownsville

Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy (CGWA) summer course graduate program

March 2018 - September 2021

Tech Journalist/Contributing Editor

Tech Magazine Clients of Spire Starter

As contributing editor at SolidSmack, wrote articles and edited videos of hardware tech development, events, makerspaces. As columnist at DEVELOP3D, wrote monthly opinion column. Muck Rack portfolio: https://muckrack.com/erinmmcdermott

October 2004 - September 2015

Optical Engineer for Various Industries/Applications

Juno Lighting Group

Optical design and evaluation of residential & commercial luminaires

Valeo Sylvania

Exterior automotive lighting development: projector-based headlamps, RCL, turn signals, sidemarkers

Leuze electronic, Inc.

Optical engineering of industrial machine vision sensors and optics lab equipment in New York and Germany


Co-op developing high-powered laser and microwave manufacturing processes for automotive parts


Get In Touch

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