Tech firm that's making device for Olympians expands footprint in Arlington Heights

  • Optimal Design CEO and co-founder Sajid Patel shows a display case of the company's products to U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi on Friday, before a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the firm's new manufacturing facility in Arlington Heights.

    Optimal Design CEO and co-founder Sajid Patel shows a display case of the company's products to U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi on Friday, before a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the firm's new manufacturing facility in Arlington Heights. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • The Void virtual reality suit, designed and made at Optimal Design in Arlington Heights, is used at Disneyland, Disney World and 13 other locations in the United States.

    The Void virtual reality suit, designed and made at Optimal Design in Arlington Heights, is used at Disneyland, Disney World and 13 other locations in the United States. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Virtual reality helmets line a shelving unit at Optimal Design's new manufacturing center in Arlington Heights.

    Virtual reality helmets line a shelving unit at Optimal Design's new manufacturing center in Arlington Heights. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Optimal Design CEO and co-founder Sajid Patel, middle, is joined at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday by State Rep. Mark Walker, from left, State Sen. Ann Gillespie, U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi and State Rep. Tom Morrison, among other dignitaries who attended.

    Optimal Design CEO and co-founder Sajid Patel, middle, is joined at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday by State Rep. Mark Walker, from left, State Sen. Ann Gillespie, U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi and State Rep. Tom Morrison, among other dignitaries who attended. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Joe Wascow, chief sales and marketing officer and co-founder of Optimal Design, talks about the manufacturing process at the tech firm's headquarters in Arlington Heights.

    Joe Wascow, chief sales and marketing officer and co-founder of Optimal Design, talks about the manufacturing process at the tech firm's headquarters in Arlington Heights. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/21/2020 6:10 PM

An Arlington Heights-based technology firm -- which designs products in virtual reality and wearable electronics and is now making devices for Team USA athletes in the upcoming 2020 Summer Games -- has expanded its footprint on the village's north side.

Optimal Design, founded in 2003 in Mount Prospect by three friends, moved to 601 W. Campus Drive in Arlington Heights in 2009, and has continued its growth in the same building ever since.

 

On Friday, federal, state and local dignitaries helped cut the ribbon on the tech firm's new manufacturing center, which nearly doubles the space it has at the nearby company innovation hub for a total of 30,000 square feet.

It's there where engineers developed a virtual reality bodysuit and accompanying headset that hit the market in 2017 and is used at 15 locations, including Disneyland, Disney World and the Mall of America. After putting on the equipment, users go on adventures as if they're characters in "Star Wars," "Ghostbusters," "Jumanji" and "The Avengers."

U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, among the public officials at the Friday afternoon ribbon cutting, admitted to "geeking out" at the company's products, and suggested the virtual reality suits could be put to good use in Washington, D.C.

"Maybe we can have a virtual reality suit for Congress, where we actually get things done and we talk to each other amicably," he quipped.

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Many of the company's 65 engineers and designers are now focused on developing a still-undisclosed device that will be used by the Olympic athletes. Joe Wascow, Optimal Design's chief sales and marketing officer and co-founder, said they're working for a "global brand" company, and will be able to announce exactly what the product is soon.

Much of the local tech firm's upcoming work will be in 5G technology for mobile devices, Wascow noted.

Company officials emphasized the value of efficiency in collocating their design and manufacturing areas under the same roof. It helps shorten the time to market for clients, many of whom also want their intellectual property to remain in the United States, said Sajid Patel, the CEO and co-founder.

"We believe in doing our part in growing manufacturing here in the U.S.," Patel said.

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