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About Eckhardt Optics

Our role and company history
We’re passionate about optics.
What started as a tiny company has grown over the past decade to become a group of engineers who are dedicated to providing high-quality custom optics quickly and at a reasonable cost. We have big dreams of streamlining the custom lens design and manufacturing process and we’re in the business of making little changes every day to bring that about. At Eckhardt Optics, your next optical engineering problem is our next challenge.

The company was founded back in 2009, when our CEO and chief lens designer, Steve, was given the opportunity to work remotely for an optics company in Boston. This flexibility gave him the opportunity to fill a large need for expertly designed custom lenses, a need that Eckhardt Optics has been fulfilling ever since. By 2012, Steve was too busy to continue working remotely and took on the business full time. Today, Eckhardt Optics is the world’s second largest designer and manufacturer of conoscopic lenses and a major contributor to test and measurement industry lenses.

Meet Our Team

Steve Eckhardt


Steve’s journey to a professional career in optics began in highschool. In his own words, “I was interested in astronomy, so I needed a telescope. Since I didn’t have money to buy one, I built one, which included grinding and polishing the mirror. Along the way, I studied to find out how to design a good telescope and discovered that I liked the theory better than the practice. When I got to college, I excitedly took my copy of Conrady’s Applied Optics and Optical Design into the optics professor’s office to tell him I couldn’t wait to study this subject. He thumbed through the book and told me I’d have to wait for grad school to study optics at that level. Four years later I started grad school in optical engineering and I’ve been working in the field ever since.”

Today, Steve is a world class lens designer with a PhD in Optics from the University of Arizona and thirty years of experience in optical engineering. His experience includes designing single element lenses to multi-element zoom lenses in wavelengths from the deep UV to the thermal IR. He has created test instruments for retroreflectivity, polarization, high illuminance weathering (life testing), and robotic assembly, as well as illumination systems for projectors and stage lighting (you can view the patents for several of these here). When Steve’s not reading or spending time with his grandkids he acts as president of Eckhardt Optics, chief lens designer, and walking dictionary of all things optical.

Matt Johantgen

Optical engineer

Matt began a career in optics after earning a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Minnesota-Morris and working for a forensic microscope company doing opto-mechanical assembly. During this time, he was given the opportunity to design several new, high end, custom microscopes and imaging systems. In his own words, “I was hooked!” A few years later he was hired as Eckhardt Optics’ second Optical Engineer.

Today, Matt has nine years of experience in optical design and manufacturing as well as forensic microscopy, fluorescence, multi-spectral imaging, and vision systems. Matt also has knowledge of optical-mechanical design, software integration and development, and optical testing techniques. But these skills are only part of what make Matt so valuable to us at Eckhardt Optics; as a company we love a challenge, and Matt’s love for solving problems and making things work fits perfectly with that value. When Matt’s not nerding out over diffraction limited lenses, you can find him at the beach with his kids.

Lincoln Talbott

Mechanical Engineer

Lincoln’s passion for designing and building mechanical systems that work for both the manufacturing team and the end user led him to study mechanical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He started his career as a field engineer in the oil fields of North Dakota. In this environment Lincoln learned to meet customers’ needs in a high stakes and time sensitive environment. Lincoln went on to work as a design engineer at an oil field equipment manufacturer where he honed his project management skills, while also learning about industrial controls and designing for manufacturability. When Lincoln moved to Minnesota, he was intrigued by the boldness of Eckhardt Optics and the challenging nature of the projects they are willing to undertake.

Today, Lincoln designs the mechanical components of lens assemblies, as well as assembly and test fixtures. He works closely with our assembly and testing personnel to improve quality and efficiency through automation. Lincoln is excited to increase our capabilities to process larger orders more quickly, and with better quality. When he is not designing a new piece of equipment, he is probably outside backpacking, canoeing, or climbing.

Pete Nelson

Engineering Technician

Pete is a creative and philosophical type with an educational background in music, Christian theology, and interior design. After three years as a certified lighting consultant in Minneapolis, he found a love for both the aesthetic form and technical characteristics of the various lighting systems with which he worked. “One of my favorite parts of helping clients with lighting design was the opportunity to share creative ideas. My hands-on experience with that product gave me a new appreciation for quality manufacturing.”

 Today, Pete oversees quality control and lens assembly. He helps with testing as he continues to learn about optics and lens design. He enjoys exploring how his love for design and building can be applied to precision manufacturing in the world of optical engineering. When Pete isn’t carefully measuring or assembling something to within a thousandth of a millimeter, you can find him making music in his studio or going for a long run in the woods.  

Andrew Eckhardt

Operations Manager

Andrew is a creator and communicator at heart. After graduating with a degree in technical theater design, he spent time honing his customer relationship and marketing skills in Atlanta’s small business scene. Later, motivated by a strong desire to create, he returned to Minnesota to help grow Eckhardt Optics’ customer base and develop his design abilities. 

Today, Andrew manages our projects, customer acquisition and retention, supplier relations, sourcing, and helps with mechanical design. He has high hopes for the company’s future growth: “I want to help us get to the point where we can design and source excellent optics and mechanics and deliver completed assemblies in a surprisingly quick duration, at a surprisingly low price.” When Andrew’s not dreaming up ways to grow Eckhardt Optics you can find him tasting cheese or camping with his wife. 

Ka Thao

Engineering Technician

Ka honed her attention to detail while studying at Metropolitan State University, graduating with a bachelor’s in biology and a minor in chemistry. She brings product development experience to Eckhardt Optics from her previous work in the consumer goods industry and is excited to be tinkering with demanding and complex assemblies that benefit from a liberal application of her scientific rigor. 

Today Ka performs incoming quality control on mechanical and optical components, builds lenses, and helps test outgoing assemblies. Her tenacity and eye for detail are essential as we continue to improve the optical performance of our products. We value the measured determination Ka brings to our team. Her words capture the essence of Eckhardt Optics’ dogged approach to development: “you’re going to have to work through a lot of failure before you experience success.” When Ka’s not busy building lenses you can find her whipping up fresh baked goods for her friends and family.


Not shown are the many part-time and contract employees without whose contributions this company could not exist. They perform tasks such as optical design, mechanical design, electronics design, programming, and system testing.

  • Optical Engineer: Dave Stotzmann 
  • Electronics Engineer: James Kennedy, Jason Wagar
  • Mechanical Designers: John Thomalla, Bill Haushalter 
  • Technicians: Josiah Smith 
  • Graphic and Web Design: Karly Lunda

Their contributions are greatly appreciated.

Interested in hearing what others think? Visit our Testimonials page to read more.


Please see our Careers page for more information