Optics Industry Report

March 1, 2004
APA Optics exits optics manufacturing; Xanoptix acquires AraLight; Squid protein may enhance micro-optics; MORE...

APA Optics exits optics manufacturing

APA Optics (Minneapolis, MN) has discontinued its optics manufacturing operations, eliminating five positions at its Blaine, MN, facility, and has consolidated its fiberoptics communications activities in Blaine by eliminating three positions and retraining personnel in Aberdeen to support operations of its subsidiary, APA Cables and Networks (APACN), in Plymouth, MN. APA said these actions were due to low demand for dense-wavelength-division multiplexers and significant downward price pressures caused by offshore Asian suppliers for optics and fiberoptics products.

The company said it expanded its operations in Aberdeen, SD, to 38 people, including contract labor, from 15 people in September to take advantage of Aberdeen's relatively lower manufacturing costs and in response to the increasing demand for APACN's products. It said it will continue expanding its Aberdeen operations while maintaining APACN's operations in Plymouth.

APA's Blaine operations will now focus on gallium nitride (GaN) technology and products, with a smaller staff supporting fiberoptics activities. The company said it will aggressively pursue GaN markets by dedicating most of its resources in Blaine and using GaN manufacturing facilities in Aberdeen.

Xanoptix acquires AraLight

Xanoptix (Merrimack, NH), a developer of high-density parallel optics, has completed its acquisition of AraLight (Monroe Township, NJ), a manufacturer of high-density optoelectronic components. This acquisition strengthens Xanoptix's multichip hybridization and parallel optics intellectual property portfolio and consolidates its activities in high-channel-density 850-nm parallel optics transceivers. Xanoptix received all the rights to AraLight's issued, pending, and assigned patents and trademarks, plus product designs. AraLight, a spinout of Bell Labs, was formed in 2001 and together with Xanoptix commercialized chip hybridization technology for highly dense optical transceivers.

Squid protein may enhance micro-optics

Researchers at the University of Hawaii and the University of California–Los Angeles have identified a light-reflecting protein in the Hawaiian bobtail squid that could prove useful in the design of microscopic optical devices. The squid has a light-emitting organ that casts a beam of light to camouflage the squid from predators. The organ comprises a lens, a cluster of luminescent bacteria, and tiny reflective platelets to direct the beam of light downward, but the actual mechanism of reflectivity had long been a mystery.

The researchers identified several proteins abundant in the organ's reflective plates as well as in reflective tissues elsewhere in the squid. The proteins, christened "reflectins," differ from reflective plates in fish, which consist of chemicals called purines. The squid reflective plates are intriguing because the animals can increase or decrease the plates' reflective ability, possibly by altering the structure of reflectins. The discovery was reported in the Jan. 9, 2004, issue of Science.

Scottish optics firm nets $3.2 million

Leveraging its new strategy in the medical imaging market, Photonic Materials (Bellshill, Scotland) raised $6.9 million in a third round of funding from existing investors 3i, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Scottish Equity Partners. Photonic Materials, which develops and manufactures optical crystals for emerging technology applications, raised $3.2 million from 3i, $1.6 million from Royal Bank of Scotland, $1.5 million from Scottish Equity Partners, and $461,000 from its own management.

Following the collapse of the telecom market in 2001, Photonic Materials turned its attention to the medical imaging market. The company said the funds from this latest round of financing will be used to increase production capacity for its positron emission topography (PET) technology. According to John Nicholls, chief executive of Photonic Materials, the company is "passionate" about the development of advanced crystal products that will enable its customers to deploy faster PET scanners with improved image quality.

Also in the news . . .

II-VI (Pittsburgh, PA) has appointed Vincent D. (Chuck) Mattera Jr. vice president and general manager of its Compound Semiconductor Group. Mattera will oversee the company's eV Products division, Wide Bandgap Materials Group, and Advanced Materials Development Center. . . . Zygo (Middlefield, CT) reported net sales of $27.7 million for the second quarter of fiscal 2004, up $1.4 million, or 5%, from $26.3 million for the same period a year ago. Net sales in the semiconductor segment were $16.1 million, or 58% of total net sales, compared to $15.6 million, or 59%, in the prior year period.

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