Optics Industry Report

Thin-film companies combined into one; New optics workers ready for marketplace; Trio to incubate new businesses; and more.

Thin-film companies combined into one

Balzers Thin Films (Balzers, Lichtenstein) and Leybold Systems Optics (Hanau, Germany) have been combined into a single company, Balzers Leybold Optics. The new company, an independent subsidiary of Oerlikon Bührle Holding (Zurich, Switzerland), will have 600 employees worldwide. In 1998, the combined sales revenues were more than $100 million. The new company combines Balzer's experience in producing thin-film components with Leybold's history of building equipment for thin-film deposition. The company plans to focus on producing filters for telecommunications and optical components for data and video projectors and digital cameras, as well as automotive and medical components.

New optics workers ready for marketplace

With its first class ready to graduate, Yuba College (Marysville, CA) will hold an open house for potential employers on April 15 at which they will be able to conduct interviews with 20 students on the verge of completing a new, one-year laser optics program. The program, coordinated by the Laser and Electro-Optics Manufacturers' Association (Pacifica, CA), was founded to combat a shortage of workers. The students have studied basic optics and machine-shop techniques and are required to become proficient at grinding and polishing glass substrates. Underwriting for the program was provided by Spectra-Physics (Mountain View, CA) and Coherent (Santa Clara), and a number of companies contributed equipment. For information on the program or the open house, contact Breck Hitz at breck@leoma.com.

Trio to incubate new businesses

Three industry leaders have formed a group to help launch companies with optoelectronics applications. Milton Chang, chairman of New Focus (Santa Clara, CA), Bill Nighan, former director of engineering at Spectra-Physics (Mountain View, CA), and Tom Baer, president and CEO of Arcturus Engineering (Mountain View, CA), have formed New Incubator. The organization will provide initial capital and management resources to launch companies in telecommunications, biotechnology, and other laser and optics applications. Chang said that once the team decides an idea is viable, New Incubator will provide all the capital needed to develop a business model, put together a management team, and develop the product and business to the point that it can bring in additional investors.

Best mirror delivered to Very Large Telescope

The optical department of the SAGEM Group (Paris, France) has delivered what it calls the best astronomical mirror in the world to the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT; Cerro Paranal, Chile). The 8.2-m mirror was polished to a precision of 8.5 nm over the optical surface, providing optical resolution of 0.03 arc sec in the visible spectrum. With that resolution, two objects only 15 cm apart could be seen as separate objects 1000 km away, and astronomers will be able to view stars 10 billion times too faint for the naked eye. The mirror was manufactured by Schott Glaswerke AG (Mainz, Germany).

Wisconsin wins NASA satellite contract

The Space Science and Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin (UW; Madison, WI) will receive $10 million over five years to design and calibrate the Geostationary Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer, which is based in part on technology developed at UW. The spectrometer will be included in NASA's Earth Observing Mission 3, scheduled to be put in orbit in 2003. UW workers will also be responsible for writing the software that will make data available to scientists and weather forecasters.

Also in the news . . .

Carl Zeiss (Jena, Germany) has appointed James J. Kelly president and CEO of its US holding company Carl Zeiss Inc. (Thornwood, NY) and James Sharp president of its Microscope Division. . . . Spire Corp. (Bedford, MA) has completed the $12.9 million sale of its optoelectronics business to Methode Electronics (Chicago, IL).

Neil Savage

For more business news, subscribe to Optoelectronics Report. Contact Jayne Sears-Renfer at jaynesr@pennwell.com.

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