Laser Industry Report

Dec. 1, 2004

Novalux sets sights on new markets

Contrary to rumors floating around the industry in late October, Novalux (Sunnyvale, CA)-founded in 1998 to develop semiconductor-laser products based on Novalux Extended Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (NECSEL) technology-is still a viable business, according to Jean-Michel Pelaprat, chairman of the board and interim CEO. While some people have been let go and CEO Jeff Cannon has resigned, the company is also in the process of hiring a new CEO and a new business development manager, with an eye toward moving aggressively into new markets within the next year-most notably displays, graphic arts, and sensing.

In the meantime, Novalux has temporarily stopped selling its Protera laser to address some technical issues with that product. Pelaprat says that the fundamental NECSEL devices are very reliable; however, the Protera has experienced some lifetime issues. Thus, Novalux is working to improve the product design. The company is also gearing the NECSEL arrays for consumer display applications, particularly rear-projection TV. According to Pelaprat, the company recently received a two-year, multimillion-dollar DARPA contract in support of the array development; in addition, in October Novalux received another large round of funding from existing investors and several new investors, according to Pelaprat.

Vermont Photonics, Goodrich get $3.5 million for terahertz

New federal funding will enable Vermont Photonics (Brattleboro, VT) to move its terahertz laser technology out of the laboratory and into the real world. The U.S. Army Research Laboratory will release a $3.15 million contract to Vermont Photonics and Goodrich Electro-Optical Systems (Danbury, CT) to develop a novel spectroscopy system incorporating terahertz laser technology. Vermont Photonics and Goodrich will build the spectroscopy system as a prototype for use in detection systems for defense applications.

Biolase looks forward to more growth under new CEO

Despite lower-than-expected third-quarter results, dental-laser manufacturer Biolase’s (San Clemente, CA) view of the future remains positive. The same day the company reported quarterly losses of $1.2 million on revenues of $12 million, it also announced that Robert Grant had been appointed president and CEO and a member of the board of directors. Former president/CEO Jeffrey Jones is now vice chairman of the board and CTO, while John Hohener assumes the position of executive vice president and CFO.

While Biolase saw its stock decline from $8.5/share to $6/share throughout much of October, the appointment of Grant as CEO appears to have rejuvenated investors. As of Nov. 4, the stock had climbed back up to nearly $7/share. Looking ahead, Grant believes the future is quite bright for lasers in the dental market. “The level of penetration for dental lasers is still small yet growing rapidly,” he said. “We believe the market will continue to be very receptive to laser technology.”

Synrad celebrates 20 years

When Peter Laakmann founded Synrad (Mukilteo, WA) two decades ago, a “cheap,” low-power industrial CO2 laser cost around $25,000, was more than 4 ft long, and required an advanced technical degree to operate. He created Synrad to design industrial CO2 lasers that were compact, affordable, and easy to integrate, enabling the creation of a myriad of new markets and applications. Today Synrad is celebrating its 20th anniversary-and an installed base of 70,000 lasers.

The first marketplace to take advantage of the Synrad sealed CO2 laser was the engraving industry; each year, more than 7000 CO2 lasers are sold for use in the creation of signs, awards, and decorative items. - Kathy Kincade

For more business news, subscribe to Optoelectronics Report. Contact Jayne Sears-Renfer at [email protected].

Also in the news…

Picarro (Sunnyvale, CA) was awarded a $492,690 Phase II SBIR contract by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop solid-state lasers for bioinstrumentation applications such as flow cytometry, confocal microscopy, DNA sequencing, and other laser-induced fluorescence-based techniques.… Cymer (San Diego, CA) has selected a laser-produced plasma source as the most viable solution to achieve the high-volume manufacturing requirements for extreme ultraviolet lithography processes at the 32-nm node and beyond.… The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL; Lincoln, NE) has purchased a $1.8 million, 75-terawatt laser system from Thales Laser (Orsay, France). The laser is expected to be delivered by mid-2005.

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