Laser Industry Report

Nov. 1, 2003
Coherent sets up new laser fab in Scotland; LaserSight files for Chapter 11; UT Austin opens laser science center; MORE...

Coherent sets up new laser fab in Scotland

Scotland's reputation in laser technology development and manufacturing has been strengthened with the opening of a new center of design and manufacturing excellence. Coherent Scotland (Glasgow, Scotland) has been chosen by its parent company Coherent (Santa Clara, CA) as the site for the company's original-equipment manufacturing and scientific solid-state laser production.

Coherent Scotland employs 46 people and was originally formed as Microlase Optical Systems, a spin-out from Strathclyde University that was acquired by Coherent in 2000. The organization has successfully developed in the last 10 years from a small innovator with a novel and innovative technology to a world-class leader in its industry sector. The new 32,000-sq-ft building includes a 4000-sq-ft clean room for manufacturing solid-state lasers.

According to Graeme Malcolm, managing director of Coherent Scotland, over the next three to four years, Coherent Scotland expects new products to generate sales revenues of £25 million (US$40 million) a year. Malcolm said the company believes the new facility will be capable of producing up to £50 million (US$79.5 million) worth of laser systems annually.

LaserSight files for Chapter 11

Eye-laser manufacturer LaserSight (Winter Park, FL) has filed for bankruptcy. One of the smaller players in the highly competitive laser vision correction market, the company had struggled the last few years to keep its financial legs and in recent months had been trying to focus exclusively on building a presence in China. "Due to the company's continued cash-flow issues, (LaserSight) was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and reorganization," the company said in a statement in early September.

LaserSight reported a net loss of $2.4 million in the first quarter of this year and has not yet released its second-quarter results. In August 2002, the company signed a deal with Shenzhen New Industries Medical Development Co. (Hong Kong and China) to use and distribute LaserSight equipment in China and other parts of Asia in return for $10 million in purchase orders. But LaserSight reportedly had problems fulfilling its purchase orders for Shenzhen.

UT Austin opens laser science center

The University of Texas at Austin has received more than $1 million from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to establish a center for studying and manipulating the interactions of a high-intensity laser with matter. The grant will allow the university's physics department to begin building a petawatt laser while pursuing high-field research with similar, smaller-scale lasers.

The NNSA provided $772,000 in construction funds to the university this year, plus $199,000 to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (Livermore, CA) to assist with construction. The physics department will receive an additional $98,485 in 2003 for high-intensity laser research. More than $1.9 million in additional center research funding will be received in increments over the following four years.

Spectra-Physics and Jenoptik to partner

Spectra-Physics (Mountain View, CA) has entered into a long-term partnership with Jenoptik Laser, Optik, Systeme (Jena, Germany) to produce, sell, and service thin-disk lasers. This global alliance combines the strengths of both companies to advance the development and introduction of thin-disk lasers that can accelerate materials processing applications and also provide a cost-effective tool for scientific research.

The Jenoptik subsidiary will initially provide a green, 5-W thin-disk laser and an air-cooled 8-W Q-switched thin-disk laser to expand the Spectra-Physics solid-state laser portfolio. Spectra-Physics will gain access to thin-disk laser technology, and Jenoptik will gain access to broader markets through Spectra-Physics' worldwide distribution and service channels.

Also in the news . . .

Chiral Photonics (Clifton, NJ) has been awarded a three-year, $2 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Advanced Technology Program to develop and prototype a new type of low-cost fiber laser that is more efficient than semiconductor lasers currently powering fiberoptic telecommunications networks. . . . Cool Laser Optics (CLO; Westborough, MA), the owner of key patents regarding skin cooling, reached an agreement with Lumenis over issues regarding alleged infringement of certain CLO patents. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but CLO granted Lumenis a license to pertinent intellectual property. . . . Bender Shipbuilding & Repair (Mobile, AL) has become the first shipyard in the United States to successfully laser weld a structural steel panel on the shipyard's production equipment. The project team included Visotek (Plymouth, MI) and Alabama Laser (Munford, AL).

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