Focuslight: Pumping up photonics’ potential

March 28, 2024
On the heels of Focuslight Technologies’ acquisition of SUSS MicroOptics SA, Victor Xingsheng Liu, CEO and president of Focuslight, and Reinhard Voelkel, CEO of Focuslight Switzerland (formerly SUSS MicroOptics), discuss the benefits of uniting these two industry forces, what it means for photonics, and what the future holds.

When Focuslight Technologies announced that it had completed its acquisition of SUSS MicroOptics in January, it created a strengthened company set to take on an evolving field. With roots in diode lasers, Focuslight saw the potential of marrying that foundational vision with the micro-optic solutions emerging in the industry.

Victor Xingsheng Liu, CEO and president of Focuslight, shared that he founded the company as a component manufacturer, focusing on solid-state and diode lasers. However, as the organization grew, its leadership saw the potential to evolve the business to align with specific applications. For instance, with its 2017 acquisition of LIMO GmbH, a world-leading manufacturer of micro-optics and beam-shaping solutions, the company began to address beam shaping, LEDs, and other light sources. Yet, there were limitations to what the company could achieve, including the inability to create spherical micro-optics.

And that’s where SUSS MicroOptics entered the picture. By bringing the company’s technology into the Focuslight fold, the larger entity can more precisely explore solutions like VCSELs, micro-LEDs, and other sources that can provide significant technology advancements in several industries. Liu’s vision is to ultimately create a one-stop-shop for optical technology for his customers, optimizing solutions based on specified needs.

The automotive opportunity

For example, one of the most significant opportunities for advanced lighting in end-user applications lies in the automotive industry, where it has a record of successful implementation and has grown to become the new industry standard. That’s one reason Focuslight is aggressively pursuing automotive lighting as a new area of opportunity.

But that approach doesn’t come without challenges. While automotive lighting has not previously been a strategic focus of Focuslight, Liu points out that they have inroads in the automotive sector, having supplied LiDAR transmitters to the industry vertical for years. When coupled with SUSS MicroOptics’ initial connections with automotive manufacturers, new doors have opened, helping expand Focuslight’s business reach and deepening its technological footprint. Overall, Liu expects to demonstrate more value to current and potential customers through a broader menu of light-based solutions.

And the landscape is ripe to grow. As Reinhard Voelkel, CEO of Focuslight Switzerland, the new entity established following the acquisition, stated, where SUSS MicroOptics previously hit roadblocks with automotive manufacturers, Focuslight brings solutions, enabling their market presence to grow in new directions. For instance, Voelkel emphasizes that there is a tremendous chance for a microlens revolution in automotive in China. And with Focuslight as a leading company in the space, a new opportunity unfolds.

The potential for silicon photonics solutions

Additionally, Focuslight Switzerland now brings new opportunities for the parent organization to broaden its technical reach. With SUSS MicroOptics’ history in silicon photonics, Focuslight can enter a new market segment to address the next round of innovations in transceivers and co-packaged optics solutions. As Liu shared, SUSS MicroOptics’ stronghold in this space creates new avenues for meeting burgeoning customer demands in optical communications and photonic integrated circuits.

According to Voelkel, the perfect matchup of the companies is not only the result of technology, but also production synergies. With Focuslight, there is a lot of innovative technology in China and a way to scale down costs by combining jobs and creating more efficient production of critical components.

The consumer experience capability

In addition, consumer electronics may offer new potential for the combined entity. The success story of microlens arrays, micro-optics, and diffractive optics relates primarily to new light sources, which have been changing the world so dramatically, quite often in consumer electronics. Voelkel reiterated that every light source needs beam shaping and optics, ensuring that micro-optics will continue to gain momentum.

Solutions from mobile phones to smart watches have tiny, no-photon-losing, light-shaping technology, which can produce nearly all forms of light. This potential ensures that they will continue to evolve, with new light sources keeping pace to meet market demands. High-volume growth in this area also leads to future volume, so Focuslight expects to continue exploring consumer electronics as part of its ongoing business strategy.

The medical landscape

Another area of market success for SUSS MicroOptics historically has been in the medical field, particularly in endoscopy. And this is an area where micro-optics shine, integrating with ease and offering simple packaging. However, optical endoscopy solutions have evolved to the point where they now will be individual-use, meaning that providers like Focuslight Switzerland will need to scale effectively and efficiently. The company must transition to high-volume production while minimizing costs and managing evolving regulations.

Also, though growing globally, the medical device market can be challenging. The Focuslight relationship brings with it needed range and geographic connections, helping to link into the Chinese medical device supply chain. Medical device companies want a complete light source, which this new combined entity can provide.

What the future holds

Ultimately, Focuslight seeks sustainable growth, investing in R&D to become a prominent photonics industry component and module-level supplier. They intend to focus on what they do best—components—but will continue to strive to add value to their customers at the module and integration levels. In addition, they will continue exploring ways to bring forth photon-controlling micro-optics, nano-optics, and photonic application solutions in sectors as diverse as automotive, consumer, medical, and optical communications.

With the potential for the micro-lens revolution in the automotive industry to expand into other sectors, Focuslight is well-positioned to take the world by storm. As Voelkel stated, the future is bright, with the goal of Focuslight becoming the micro-lens revolution’s intellectual and business world leader. Only time will tell if that vision comes to fruition, but with the passion of the Focuslight team behind it, anything is possible.

About the Author

Jose Pozo | Chief Technology Officer, Optica

Jose Pozo joined Optica in March 2022, and has spent more than 25 years working in photonics. He earned a PhD in quantum physics from the University of Bristol (U.K.), and an M.Sc. and B.Eng. in telecom engineering from UPNA, Spain / VUB (Belgium). Prior to joining the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC) in 2015 as CTO, Jose was a Senior Photonics Technology Consultant with PNO Consultants, with some of the main accounts such as CERN, Thales, and TE Connectivity. He has worked at TNO, The Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, and as a postdoctoral researcher at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, where he contributed to the early development of EFFECT Photonics.

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