Laser Industry Report

Dec. 1, 2003
SEO sells off two more businesses, relocates; Blue Sky Research now fabs red laser diodes; Hitachi Digital Graphics acquires NanoVia; MORE...

SEO sells off two more businesses, relocates

Schwartz Electro-Optics (Orlando, FL), which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization since May, has now sold off most of its assets and relocated to new offices in the Central Florida Research Park, adjacent to the University of Central Florida. The company put its laser-based toll-way reading technology, known as AutoSense, up for sale at an auction held in early November; this follows the sale of its military training business, which accounted for about 80% of its business, to OSI Systems for $3.6 million in cash last September. Earlier this year, SEO sold its laserdiode business, Applied Optronics (South Plainfield, NJ), to medical-laser manufacturer Candela (Wayland, MA).

"Combined, OSI Defense Systems and our existing weapons-simulation equipment manufacturing subsidiary Rapitec give us a broad set of defense optoelectronic capabilities with which to address this marketplace," said Deepak Chopra, chairman and CEO of OSI Systems. OSI, which has established a Defense Systems subsidiary in Orlando from the SEO assets it purchased, was also considered a "likely bidder" for the tollway reading technology.

Blue Sky Research now fabs red laser diodes

Blue Sky Research (Milpitas, CA), a manufacturer of lasers and laser systems, has expanded its in-house semiconductor foundry capabilities to include the production of three new 635-nm red laser diodes. According to the company, the release of this new line of laser diodes marks a significant expansion of its foundry capabilities.

"The company is one of a select few U.S.-based laser manufacturers with integrated facilities for everything from semiconductor fabrication and optical systems development, to control-system design and electronic packaging," said Al Shugart, chairman of the board of Blue Sky Research. "Leveraging laser design and engineering expertise with in-house production facilities gives Blue Sky Research a definite advantage in a very competitive market."

Hitachi Digital Graphics acquires NanoVia

Hitachi Digital Graphics (San Jose, CA) has acquired patents and trademarks for high-speed laser-processing technology from NanoVia (Londonderry, NH). The acquisition also includes the use of NanoVia's core development engineers and facilities in New Hampshire for research and development. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

NanoVia officially closed its doors in late September; assets in its ballistics program were also acquired by a firm that has technical and marketing expertise better suited to pursuing and implementing the technology within a government and defense related marketplace. According to Todd Lizotte, former vice president of R&D at NanoVia and now principal development engineer and emerging technology analyst for Hitachi Digital Graphics, Hitachi had taken a 5% interest in NanoVia a few years ago. Lizotte and colleagues will continue to work with Hitachi over the next two years to facilitate the transfer of NanoVia's holographic and diffractive optics design and manufacture from the development stage to production.

EU commits major funds to photonics

According to a report from Reuters (Oct. 22, 2003), the European Union hopes to beef up anemic economic growth with $257.4 billion of public investment in transport and research projects between now and 2020. Satellites, lasers, microchips, and hydrogen-powered vehicles are likely to be the first beneficiaries of this extra research spending. Among several new "Quick Start" projects expected to be announced in December are plans for free-electron lasers and EU-wide broadband Internet access. In particular, the EU plans to invest up to €1 billion (US$1.17 billion) in laser research over the next three years as part of a €2 billion ($2.33 billion) project.

Also in the news . . .

NLG - New Laser Generation (Teltow, Germany) has appointed Blue Hill Optical Technologies (Canton, MA) and Market Tech (Scotts Valley, CA) as distributors for its industrial and scientific laser product lines in the United States and Canada. . . . The U.S. Department of Defense's (DOD) Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Alfalight (Madison, WI) $3.9 million in R&D funding under the DARPA Super High Efficiency Diode Source program, which is investigating new approaches to improving semiconductor laser-diode-bar efficiency. Earlier this year Alfalight received a DOD contract worth $3 million to $4 million as part of an appropriations bill passed by Congress and a $3 million contract from the Air Force to develop more-efficient fiber lasers. . . . DARPA also awarded nLight Photonics (Vancouver, WA), a manufacturer of high-power laser diodes, a $5 million research and development contract to improve the efficiency of high-power laser diodes.

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