Interview with Dr. Andrew Hood, VP of Engineering at Attollo Engineering

Dr. Andrew Hood is Vice President of Engineering at Attollo Engineering. Attollo develops innovative infrared systems for imaging and laser detection. They develop both subassemblies and finished products with cutting-edge performance for their industry-leading partners. His prior roles include Manager of Detector Products at FLIR, and Research Engineer at Teledyne Imaging Sensors.  He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he studied in the Center for Quantum Devices and did his thesis work in infrared photodetectors and related process development.

  Andrew is a highly knowledgeable and motivated compound semiconductor / electrical engineer who has lead programs in the development and establishment of next-generation infrared detector technology. Achievements and developments have been widely published in conferences and peer-reviewed journals. Proficient from the device to the systems level with experience in managing project schedules, budgets, and customer requirements of complex optoelecronic-based programs.

Photonics Project Interview with Andrew Hood

Photonics Project: So how’s it going?

Andrew:  Great, keeping super busy which is good!  We have a bunch of people here who have used the website and tools and find it very useful.  We have new hires come in who are great Engineers but not always IR industry experts, and we can have them dork around the site and the settings and go through a few basic trades to get a feel for things.

Photonics Project: Very glad to hear that! So more on that to come, but also tell me about your role at Attollo, and what you guys are working on these days.

Andrew: Sure, I am Vice President of Engineering at Attollo Engineering. In this role I provide strategic leadership for the engineering department, aligning it with the overall goals and objectives of the company.  In collaboration with the other company executives, I also contribute to the overall corporate strategy including Technology Roadmaps.  On the directly technical side, I oversee the entire product development lifecycle, from concept to delivery, ensuring the timely and successful completion of engineering projects.  When I’m lucky, I get to go into the lab and work side-by-side with our engineers to develop new capabilities and solve problems. And then am also responsible for the Engineering team management – so a full slate!

Photonics Project: Yes, I can emphasize.  And what about specific projects at Attollo?

Andrew: So far as what we are doing at Attollo, we are busy continuing to release our line of imaging products at both 5um and 8um pixel pitch with some of the smallest form factors in the industry and simplifying integration with other Attollo sensors to enable laser detection, decoding, and visualization.  Beyond that, there are a number of significant prototype projects to develop the next generation of products. We also pride ourselves on remaining agile enough to respond rapidly to customer needs and bespoke detector and sensor fabrication requests.

  It’s an interesting combination of scientific/technical as well as business considerations that we need to guide these projects both to a successful technical solution but also one that will scale to low rate and then high rate production down the road.

Photonics Project: Yes, a fine balance is needed!

Andrew:  Indeed.  We are maturing production and cranking out cost effective products while continuing marching down the R&D paths as well – including government sponsored programs, CR&D, and our own internal R&D efforts. 

  These include not only continuing in the same vein as our current projects, but also moving into more elements of the food chain in the Infrared Camera industry.  This could be in either direction of doing component development and strategic task work such as hybridizing, or full cameras and electronics, to various other systems and components as well as new application areas.

Photonics Project:  Great stuff, very impressive.  And what future directions do you see for Attollo and for the industry?

Andrew:  We get a lot of inquiries now for systems that go beyond just delivering a pretty picture.  Customers want sensors that can deliver data that can be turned into actionable knowledge.  And rapidly – in essentially real time.  The camera is just one more type of transducer to turn raw inputs into that actionable information.  So smart sensing systems and applications.  This could require integrating some new and more capable electronics, like a GPU, early in the signal chain.  You could potentially do some AI/ML in such a scenario.

Additionally, we strongly believe in the importance of establishing a strong domestic industrial base for infrared sensing technology and related components. To us, this means developing technology and products that are competitive as far as their technical capabilities and costs. This also means developing technologies where there are opportunities to be preeminent domestic suppliers so our integration partners can have domestic alternatives for their critical systems. We’re encouraged by US investment in programs like the CHIPS act but this sort of investment needs to continue in many other areas to strengthen our domestic supply chain.

Photonics Project:  An excellent Roadmap, for sure.  Now if it’s good, let’s talk further about the website tools and any further comments there.  Normally we look for a few things that you like, and a few things that you think either need improvement or areas we should expand into.

Andrew: Right, like I said we are making good use of it.  I think it is pretty unique as an open free ware tool to learn the basics of infrared detectors and analysis. I also like that the user can dig into the source code on GitHub to start to develop their own tools. A few things I would like to see is the capability that is mentioned to chain the modules together for a full end to end analysis in one run.

Photonics Project: Yes, we have been meaning to do that.  Over Christmas break may be a good time to take that on. 

Andrew: Beyond that, an image processing tab to show how non-uniformity corrections work, spatial filters, histogram equalization, and a few other important steps that could be done in a real online environment instead of described in textbooks.  Perhaps you could feed in your own image and do the various processing steps, something that.

  I would also love to see more on the devices tab on optical absorption, QE modeling (inclusion of parameters like absorption coefficient, mobility, lifetime, etc.) although that could get into people’s proprietary stuff pretty quickly.

Photonics Project: True, but worth considering if some generic starting point could be provided.

Andrew: Also, is there a way to have the modules output CSV files and other data products?

Photonics Project: We need to work on that a bit further.  The LOWTRAN tool will do that, but it is hosted on a different server with a fuller python library which is why it takes longer to respond.  The server we have for the majority of the tools is optimized for speed and stability to avoid crashes which were an early problem.  We still have some crashes, but it self recovers generally in roughly 15 min. 

  Anyway you have given us some good homework assignments so we will see what we can do.  I mostly have ChatGPT help me at this point.

Andrew:  Yes, it can do simple coding and things super quickly and with good commenting.  Sometimes you need to do a few edits for it to work properly but well worth it. I use it routinely to hack my way through Python code, saving me precious time figuring out how to do simple tasks.

Photonics Project: For sure.  Well thanks a lot for your time, and good luck with all your endeavors!

Andrew:  Thanks.

Link to Attollo:

Link to Andrew: