Spectral Optics offers high-performance coatings

PUTNAM, CT—When a new optics company is founded by a veteran of the industry, you know it has a good head start.

Nov 15th, 2008

PUTNAM, CT—When a new optics company is founded by a veteran of the industry, you know it has a good head start. Spectral Optics, which was founded in October 2007 by Yu Hak (Haggie) Hahn, a pioneer in the field of optical coatings, has just such an advantage. The company plans to place itself at the technical heart of the coatings and coated optical components business, particularly in the high-performance, special-purpose sector.

Haggie Hahn graduated from Kentucky Wesleyan University (Owensboro, KY) in 1958 and received his PhD in physics from Penn State University (University Park, PA) in 1967, where he worked with Arthur Francis Turner, known as the “father of optical coatings” (see http://optics.org/cws/article/articles/7415). Hahn became a senior scientist at Bausch and Lomb (Rochester, NY), researching high-power laser applications until he founded his own company, Laser Energy, which then became CVI Laser (Albuquerque, NM) in 1972. CVI grew to become a leading optical-coatings concern, and was purchased by Norwest (Minneapolis, MN) in 2003. (Note: Based on a $1 million founding challenge grant by Hahn, Kentucky Wesleyan University built the Yu Hak Hahn Center for the Sciences on its campus, dedicated in 2005.)

Hahn brought in Lawrence Schmutz as division manager for Spectral Optics; Schmutz is another longtime optical entrepreneur. After receiving his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) in 1978, Schmutz became a founding principal of Adaptive Optics Associates (AOA; also in Cambridge, MA), a developer of adaptive-optics systems and, in particular, Shack-Hartmann sensors. After AOA was sold to United Technologies (Hartford, CT) in 1986, Schmutz remained with the company until departing as its president in 2000. He then became president of International Light (Peabody, MA), known for its light-meter and illumination products, and in October, 2007 joined Spectral Optics.

Spectral Optics currently has a dozen employees in the U.S., with as many more in its other location in Korea. The new enterprise expects to expand in the short term as it introduces more of its new products, says Schmutz. He lists high-power laser mirrors, windows, beamsplitters, and polarizers for UV to near-IR applications as some of the company’s current offerings. “Several new proprietary technologies enable a number of new component types, including highly stable and robust optically contacted components, polarizers, and high-quality yet cost-effective zero-order waveplates,” he adds.

Dealing with the downturn

“There is no doubt that 2009 will be a challenging year for this segment of the electro-optics industry, as indicated informally by many suppliers and industry colleagues,” Schmutz comments. “Manufacturers are slowing production both in the face of reduced end-user demand and to control inventory buildup. Much of the laser and laser-based instrument market that uses high-quality coated optics is affected by capital spending, and these budgets have been the first to be frozen in many firms.”

“Because of its emphasis on quality and value, Spectral Optics is well-positioned to navigate these difficult conditions,” Schmutz notes. “The cost advantages offered by its waveplate and monolithic-component technologies should appeal to an industry striving to be ever more efficient and productive. Spectral Optics will continue to develop and invest in its quality systems and core technologies, with the intention of being the acknowledged supplier of choice for optical coatings and coated optical components.”

For more information on Spectral Optics, visit its website at www.spectraloptics.com.

—John Wallace

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