Optics Industry Report

May 1, 2004
Thorlabs buys Melles Griot division; TMC wins second NIF contract; Adaptive optics help image Saturn moon; MORE...

Thorlabs buys Melles Griot division

Thorlabs (Newton, NJ) has purchased Melles Griot (Cambridgeshire, England), a division of Melles Griot (Carlsbad, CA). The U.K. facility manufactures nano-positioning systems for high-precision alignment applications, along with optical tables and full vibration-isolation systems. Thorlabs said it will continue manufacturing operations at the U.K. site, which was a critical factor in the deal. Both companies said they are committed to ensuring that their customers and their employees are positively affected by the strategic move.

"The Melles Griot products add another dimension to the Thorlabs product offerings, and the new engineering and manufacturing base in the United Kingdom will significantly enhance the service provided to our customers in the U.K.," said Alex Cable, president and founder of Thorlabs.

TMC wins second NIF contract

Technical Manufacturing (TMC; Peabody, MA) has received a second major design and build order from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for its National Ignition Facility (NIF) program. TMC delivered more than 500 optical tops for an earlier phase of the NIF project. In this latest contract, TMC will design and build a 15-ft-long "T"-shaped coupled optical-table system with an integrated stainless-steel housing to control acoustic noise, drafts, dust, and electromagnetic interference. This optical-table structure supports NIF's preamplifier module (PAM) optics. The PAM has 48 units that receive a "seed type" pulse from the Master Oscillator Room and perform certain amplifier functions. The 20-J output from each PAM goes into ISP, a pulse-shaping function.

Adaptive optics help image Saturn moon

A team of French astronomers used the state-of-the-art adaptive optics system on the European Southern Observatory's fourth 8.2-m Very Large Telescope (VLT) unit telescope, Yepun, to map the surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, by means of near-infrared images and to search for changes in the dense atmosphere. These images have a nominal resolution of 1/30th arcsec and show details on the order of 200 km on the surface of Titan. Titan is the main target of the NASA/ESA Cassini/Huygens mission, launched in 1997 and scheduled to arrive at Saturn on July 1.

Images of Titan were obtained through nine narrow-band filters, sampling near-IR wavelengths with large variations in methane opacity. This permits sounding of different altitudes ranging from the stratosphere to the surface. At 1.24 and 2.12 µm, Titan harbors a "southern smile" (a north-south asymmetry), while the opposite situation is observed with filters probing higher altitudes. A high-contrast bright feature is observed at the South Pole and is apparently caused by a phenomenon in the atmosphere at an altitude below 140 km or so. This feature was found to change its location on the images from one side of the south polar axis to the other during the week of observations.

Corning licenses patents to Fuji Photo

Corning (Corning, NY) and Fuji Photo Optical Company (Tokyo, Japan) have entered into an agreement licensing the use of Corning patents concerning molded glass parts used for digital still cameras, display systems, and other products requiring small, durable optical lens systems. Details of the licensing agreement were not disclosed. Corning officials noted, however, that the agreement demonstrates a renewed emphasis on licensing elements of its technology portfolio in broad industrial sectors in order to protect its intellectual property and support further research and development.

Also in the news . . .

Adaptive Optics Associates (AOA; Cambridge, MA) received $2 million under a subcontract for a proprietary customer for work to be completed during 2004. AOA provides laser beam delivery and control systems to semiconductor and fiber optic manufacturers and optical systems used by government, military, and aerospace agencies. . . . The Nasdaq Stock Market approved LightPath Technologies' (Orlando, FL) application to transfer its listing to the Nasdaq SmallCap Market. . . . Telic Optics (North Billerica, MA), a privately held manufacturer of infrared optics and optical assemblies for aerospace, defense, and commercial markets, was purchased by Axsys Technologies (Rocky Hill, CT). Axsys paid an initial purchase price of $14 million, with an additional $4 million earn-out over the next 36 months if certain revenue goals are achieved.

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