Archive: Aug 2022

Meet Tom McDonald, Principal Mechanical Engineer

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Today, we are speaking with Tom McDonald, one of the people you may work with directly as a client of Gray Optics.

What is your current role at Gray Optics?

As the Principal Mechanical Engineer, I’m responsible for taking the optical designs and designing a system of mechanical constraints based on the specific tolerances laid out by that design. Usually, it also involves interfacing with the customer’s device, be it for an entire product, a test station, a machine, or any component thereof. I’m where the “rubber hits the road.” I give optical designs a home to live in.

TED McHenry

“One of the most rewarding aspects is seeing a device you worked on being used in a clinical setting, especially when it’s helping a loved one. It really puts the work into perspective.”

Where were you before you began at Gray Optics? How does that experience play into what you do now?

After receiving my engineering degree from the University of Maine, I accepted a job in Southern California and spent the bulk of my career working in the medical device industry. I was fortunate to work at a few innovative, growing companies that provided me with a well-rounded education in the specifics of the industry. This knowledge I apply and build upon here every day at GO. About seven years ago, I made the decision to move back East to be closer to family and started working in the optics space at Lighthouse Imaging, where I met Dan, Ted, and Eric. When the opportunity presented itself to join those guys here at GO, I jumped at the opportunity.

What are the biggest challenges between prototyping a new product and addressing a change in an existing system? How does your approach differ?

Both have their challenges. It can be daunting to stare at the blank page of a prototype and be overwhelmed by where to start. The trick for me is to start on a path and then look ahead a few moves to examine the pitfalls of this clean-page design.  This can be hard to do without succumbing to “analysis paralysis”! On the other hand, modifying an existing design forces you to make compromises. Experience plays a huge role in deciding how to navigate the consequences of each design choice.

Are you in direct contact with the customer team, and if yes, how does that make a difference in the outcome of a project?

Yes, one of the challenges in this business is having to prove yourself to new customers with each project. It’s especially rewarding when we’re able to effectively integrate with the customer team and work toward a common goal – an extension of the customer’s organization.

How do you feel your work impacts the world around you? What gets you excited every day?

One of the most rewarding aspects is seeing a device you worked on being used in a clinical setting, especially when it’s helping a loved one. It really puts the work into perspective.