Agiltron remains agile through acquisitions

WOBURN, MA--“We’re not venture-capital funded at all, which is unusual for a small, high-tech company,” says Matthew Zavracky, director of systems engineering at Agiltron.

WOBURN, MA--“We’re not venture-capital funded at all, which is unusual for a small, high-tech company,” says Matthew Zavracky, director of systems engineering at Agiltron.

Agiltron, a developer and manufacturer of photonic components and systems for communications, sensing, and imaging, announced its acquisition of the privately held SensArray Infrared (Burlington, MA) on February 9. SensArray is a supplier of both standard and customized infrared (IR) detectors and subsystems for spectroscopic and analytical applications. The company also offers advanced products such as piezoelectric crystals for the commercial ultrasonic and OEM markets.

According to Agiltron, SensArray has been a leading manufacturer of standard and customized lead-selenide and lead-sulfide IR detectors and IR arrays for over 20 years. Agiltron says the acquisition will enable expansion of its product offerings to include IR detectors in the 1 to 5.5 µm wavelength region.

Asked about Agiltron’s current IR detectors, Zavracky says, “We have a technology--an imaging array--that we’ve been working on,” indicating that the company has worked with some power-hitter partners on its development. A microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) device, it operates in the long-wave (8–12 µm) IR range and has application for both military and consumer products. But, Zavracky says, the technology is not yet being sold because Agiltron hasn’t set up for volume production. “We need an external foundry to do this,” he says.

He says Agiltron is known for its customer service and has “big infrastructure for support.” That’s part of the value proposition for the SensArray acquisition. In its news release on the purchase, Agiltron said it plans to continue to provide all current SensArray products, offering enhanced customer support. According to Zavracky, SensArray will give up its location, which is just a few miles from Agiltron’s facility, and integrate into the parent company.

Last spring, Agiltron acquired another privately held company, Multispectral Imaging Inc. (MII; Oak Ridge, TN), which continues its development of a capacitive MEMS sensor array offering reduced thermal noises. Zavracky says MII is not operating as a subsidiary, but rather Agiltron has absorbed MII’s technology.

Also last spring, Agiltron received a 2008 New England Innovation Award from the Small Business Association of New England. The award recognizes companies that not only conceive a new way of doing something, but have demonstrated the ability to turn ideas into reality. Agiltron was one of five companies selected from a field of 165 nominees through a series of three selection rounds by 30 judges.

Agiltron has been collaborating with the University of California, San Diego to develop planar and vertical silicon (Si) nanowire photodetectors using an etching process. Last November the partners reported the measurement of significant phototransitive gain for the first time (see Si nanowires are attractive as photodetectors for wavelengths ranging from ultraviolet (UV) to IR because of their ability to trap carriers at the surface with high sensitivity. But precise nanowire positioning has limited their application as arrays, and measurement of phototransitive gain was not documented. “We do a lot of neat stuff with lasers,” explains Zavracky.

Agiltron claims to lead the market in all-optical switches, variable optical attenuators, high-power optical components, optical polarization and time controls, and molded IR lenses. Besides its optical product operation, Agiltron encompasses two subsidiaries: Thermaltron for MEMS-based sensors and Nanotron for new materials-based products.

Without external funding, Zavracky notes that Agiltron’s president, Jim Zhao, runs the company in a very “fiscally minded” way. “The bottom line is critical. Everything is done in a cost-efficient manner.”

--Barbara Goode

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