Surgical Robotics Technology

Advancing Optics to Improve Robotic Surgery Outcomes


Matching optical engineering and precision assembly expertise with robotic surgical technologies to provide enhanced capabilities and improve patient outcomes has led to success for Gray Optics. At the company headquarters in Portland, ME, USA, this agile team has advanced visualization and illumination technologies for next-gen robotic surgery platforms for the past five years. In this Article, Amanda MacDonald talks with founder, Dan Gray, to learn how the team’s unique process helps robotic surgical systems improve and save lives. 

How is the GO Team Optics poised to help robotic surgical success?

Dan Gray: As an innovative solutions provider, our team offers unique value to the customers we support through a combination of engineering know-how and application-specific experience within minimally invasive surgery. By working directly with our customer’s instrument design and production teams, our collaborative partnerships offer specific and highly knowledgeable product engineering, precision assembly, and metrology/testing services for complex optical assemblies, camera modules, and surgeon console viewers. Instrumentation can be made more effective for the surgeon by delivering the highest quality image and providing enhanced visualization, beyond what the naked eye can see.  Our product development engineers have deep, domain-level expertise across numerous surgical applications, introducing new technology that solves unique and challenging medical problems. Designing and prototyping fiber optics, lenses, and assemblies at the millimeter scale is just the beginning. We follow a comprehensive and robust new product development process for diagnosis and treatment applications.

Talk to us about the Gray Optics Product Development Process for robotic surgery:

Dan Gray: Our partnership model aligns with our customer’s needs and their technical development strategy. We built this process for medical device development to offer collaborative engagement with our customers at any stage. It’s a very modular approach, so we offer as much or as little support as the customer needs. Our process divides into four stages – Feasibility, Concept Development, Product Development, and Pilot Production – which follow a phase-gates aligned to our customer’s goals and milestones. Our Product Development processes are aligned to ISO 13485 requirements, and we have a proven track record of assisting customers achieve FDA clearance.

The engineering skillset available to support robotic surgical clients is impressive. Tell us more about this:

Dan Gray: Our optical designers, system engineers, and mechanical engineers have expertise in designing and building state-of-the-art optical systems across many types of surgical applications. With our unique ability to design the complete optical path, from illumination to detection, we can readily optimize all core optical sub-systems, ensuring they work in harmony and complete prototype builds in reduced timeframes.

Share with us how the Gray Optics culture plays a large part in project success:

Dan Gray: Because we are a performance-oriented team focused on open communication with an emphasis on our company mission, every individual and team here grow through active team collaboration. We are at our best when cross-organizational conversations are based on respect and shared leadership first, allowing our culture to thrive. Discipline and accountability are our norms, with a strong focus on a healthy response to change. We have found that these focus areas build a strong culture that works for internal teams, external partners, and customers.


A global medical device company developing a novel surgical robotic system brought the Gray Optics team on to accelerate their product development timeline. The Gray Optics team leveraged its experience in development of custom chip-on-tip camera modules to build initial prototypes within 10 weeks.

PROBLEM DEFINED – A new stereo camera module was required for a robotic surgical system with overall diameter less than 9 mm. The development program required initial proof of concept units to be built and tested within a 12-week period.

SOLUTION DETAILS – Based on prior experience developing custom endoscopes, the Gray Optics team was able to quickly develop a product specification and design concept that met the overall performance requirements. A new lens design was created in 2 weeks, enabling the procurement team to order custom optical elements from a trusted supplier. An initial build of 10 first article units were assembled, tested, and shipped to the customer. Following successful evaluation by the customer, 75 additional custom endoscope modules were delivered.

BUSINESS BENEFIT – With prototype endoscope modules representing the performance and quality of production grade devices, our customer was able to achieve their pre-clinical testing milestones and gained approval to advance the program into the final stages of product development.


Dan Gray

Dan Gray is a recognized principal engineer with 15 years of industry experience in medical, biometric, consumer, and industrial markets. Throughout his career he has consulted for startups in the earliest phases of development, all the way through to Fortune 500 companies launching their next innovative product. Dan is passionate about engineering, product development, and manufacturing. Dan partners with clients to design and develop their products, solve complex engineering challenges, and transfer them to manufacture. He has authored or co-authored 7 peer-reviewed journal publications and 9 granted patents.
Dan obtained his Bachelor’s, Master’s and Ph.D. in Optics from the University of Rochester in 2002, 2003 and 2007 respectively. From 2007 to 2010 he worked at Optos Plc (Nikon) to commercialize adaptive optics retinal imaging technology as well as develop new low cost versions of Optos’ wide-field retinal scanning system. From 2010 to 2014 Daniel worked at General Electric, developing new optical technology for industrial inspection, high throughput fluorescence microscopes, fluorescence guided surgery, and biometric identification. He received a Six Sigma Black Belt while at GE and taught tolerance analysis to new GE employees. From 2014 to 2017, Dan served as the Senior Optical Engineer at Lighthouse Imaging. There he led optical system design for the development of medical endoscopes and imaging products. In 2017, Dan founded Gray Optics, an engineering company specializing in medical, life sciences, and industrial markets. Gray Optics has grown rapidly in a short period of time, expanding a core offering of design and engineering, into prototyping, testing, and assembly work.

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