Optics Industry Report

Sept. 1, 2001
MEMS Optical secures funding; STAAR Surgical restructures operations; Zia Laser licenses suite of optics technologies from UNM...
MEMS Optical secures fundingMEMS Optical Inc. (Huntsville, AL), a designer and manufacturer of micro-optics and optomechanical components, recently secured an $18 million equity investment from a syndicate of investors. Summit Accelerator Fund and Vanguard Ventures (both of Palo Alto, CA) led the Series A round; participants also included Dynafund Ventures and Teledyne Technologies Inc. (both of Los Angeles, CA). MEMS Optical sells its products and services in several high-growth vertical sectors, including optical communications, optical storage, and semiconductor capital equipment. The company plans to use the infusion of capital to ramp up production volume in its foundry, and to expand into new vertical markets.STAAR Surgical restructures operationsOptical medical-device manufacturer STAAR Surgical Co. (Monrovia, CA) has implemented a manufacturing and distribution consolidation program and reduced its workforce by 25% to become cash-positive and profitable on business operations by early 2002. During the first part of 2001, STAAR experienced an annualized cash outflow of $6 million. In the second half of this year, the company expects to become cash neutral or cash positive by a few hundred thousand dollars. In 2002, STAAR hopes to see cash flow in excess of $5 million.Zia Laser licenses suite of optics technologies from UNMStart-up optics company Zia Laser (Albuquerque, NM) has licensed a suite of patent-pending optics technologies from the University of New Mexico's Center for High Tech Materials (Albuquerque, NM). The technologies relate to the development and application of quantum dots that are embedded in a host semiconductor material. "Our challenge now is to show that we can translate this technology to meet the technical specifications of dense wavelength-division-multiplexing applications," says Petros Varangis, vice president and cofounder of Zia Laser. "We will be working very hard on this."Sharp reduction in demand leads to layoffs at Precision OpticsThe sharp reduction in demand and industry-wide excess inventory levels of passive telecommunications components has led Precision Optics Corp. Inc. (Gardner, MA), a manufacturer of optical thin-films, medical instruments, and other advanced optical systems, to reduce its workforce by 24 employees (30% of its total workforce). Along with the workforce reduction, the company will be reducing other discretionary expenses. These combined actions are expected to generate annual cash savings in the range of $1.5 million to $2 million. The company will continue to monitor marketplace conditions to determine whether additional cost-savings measures are necessary.The Egg Factory, University of Arizona team to pursue eyeglasses with autofocusThe Egg Factory LLC and its subsidiary company eVision (both of Roanoke, VA) have teamed up with the University of Arizona's Optical Sciences Center (Tucson, AZ) to develop a technology that could provide next-generation eyeglasses with actively focusing lenses so that people can see clearly up close or far away. The technology has the potential to revolutionize the $50 billion worldwide vision-care industry, according to Ron Blum, an optometrist who is president and CEO of both The Egg Factory and eVision. Others involved include Shamir Optical Industries and Halo Or Ltd. (both of Israel), Indiana University (Bloomington, IN), the University of California-San Diego (San Diego, CA), Motorola Inc. (Schaumberg, IL), and the Johnson & Johnson Development Corp. (New Brunswick, NJ).Also in the news . . .Colibrys SA (Neuchâtel, Switzerland), a manufacturer of microelectromechanical systems, recently raised a total of US$12 million in venture-capital funding during its first financing round. . . . Reytech Corp. (Bend, OR) has been awarded a grant from the US National Science Foundation (Washington, DC) to develop a new class of nonlinear optical materials capable of generating laser light in the sub-200-nm region.

Sally Cole Cederquist

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