Safety is a go in ETC’s factory


If you’ve been to ETC’s Middleton headquarters, you have already seen our entertainment lighting in action in what we fondly call Town Square. Wander deeper into the building, and you’ll find an equally impressive display of our architectural lighting in the factory.

Safety Factory

Safety and efficiency were top priorities when designing the manufacturing portion of our building. A bright environment ensures that the team can clearly see where they are moving and what they are working on, while also keeping employees happy.

The factory features eight large skylights for optimal natural lighting that reduces the need for electrical light. Scrims placed beneath the skylights emulate a cloudy day—and if you look closely at one of them, you’ll find the face of CEO Fred Foster looking back at you.

On a daily basis, forklifts zoom around our factory, while employees of all departments walk through the aisles. To direct the regular traffic through the manufacturing area, ETC previously taped walkways to delineate forklift paths and pedestrian walkways.

This system, however, was not very elegant. After trying different road-grade tapes and coatings over the tape, it would still peel off. Maintaining the tape became a time-consuming and expensive project on the manufacturing floor.

Manufacturing engineer Craig Vitense eventually thought of a solution that more clearly marked pathways, while utilizing ETC’s state of the art technology. “I thought,” he says, “Why can’t we try to use light?”

ETC experimented with different colored dichroic gobos and landed on a design that showed up clearly on the factory floor. When ETC first created the gobos over 10 years ago, High End Systems custom built them for ETC. Years later, High End would become an ETC company, and now we have the resources to build them in house.

The manufacturing walkways are now outlined with gobos placed in our Source Four HID. The fixtures have a lamp life of 12,000 hours, which make them an ideal solution for architectural applications. Bold displays of red and green light create clear aisles in ETC’s factory—and eliminate the time and money spent on replacing tape over the years.

Safety Gobo

When a visitor at the factory enquired about ordering the gobo system for use in his own facility, ETC’s legal team decided to get a patent for the invention. Craig Vitense and ETC’s manufacturing engineering manager Alex Stoltz are listed as inventors on the patent.

“The idea was truly driven by a problem that needed a solution,” says Vitense. “Originally, it was up in the air if we were going to apply it, but over the years it has proven to be the most hassle-free way for us to mark the factory floors.”

Safety features like the gobo-lit walkways make it possible for all kinds of people to traverse the manufacturing area throughout the work week. In addition to ETC employees who are stationed in the factory every day, members of other departments often visit manufacturing to ask questions or locate a product.

From customers, to visiting students, to new employees, anybody walking through the factory can be assured that every cautionary step has been taken to prioritize safety. And while ETC employees are making magic, visitors can marvel at a custom job running through the paint line or the art installations scattered throughout the factory.

Henry IV and the Source IV’s

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Quinn Wirth
Quinn joined ETC in 2018 with a background in marketing for K-12 and higher education. Studying English in college and tutoring writing across the curriculum fostered her passion for words and weakness for puns. When she’s not writing, she’s likely watching horror movies with her husband or plugging away at her goal of reading 50 books each year. A Wisconsin local, she loves seeing ETC products at work in Madison-area venues she has frequented throughout her life.