Optics Industry Report

April 1, 2000
Optics a key technology, experts predict; Laser Power turns to optics; Veeco Instruments buys CVC; and more.

Optics a key technology, experts predict

Optics will be a key technology for the 21st century, researchers told a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February. John Joannopoulos of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) described a chip containing a series of structures to manipulate photons, which he called a photonic crystal micropolis. Richard Muller of the University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA), said improvements in fabrication of microelectromechanical systems are leading to the fabrication of an optical bench on a silicon chip, creating, for example, tiny scanning displays for projecting an image directly onto a person's retina. Thomas Baer, president of Arcturus Engineering (Mountain View, CA) said optics is helping to spur a revolution in molecular biology.

Laser Power turns to optics

Laser Power Corp. is focusing its business in optics, having sold the assets of its contract research operations to Photera Technologies, a new subsidiary of Schwartz Electro-Optics (Orlando, FL). The company sold off its projection display technology and its money-losing microlaser business and moved its commercial optics business to Temecula, CA. "We are now a profitable optics company with a strong balance sheet and a focus on our core competencies of optical design and fabrication and state-of-the-art thin-film coatings," CEO Dick Sharman said in a prepared statement about the completion of the company's restructuring. The company also ended talks with potential buyers begun after II-VI (Saxonburg, PA) tried to buy up outstanding shares of Laser Power stock.

Veeco Instruments buys CVC

Veeco Instruments (Plainview, NY) has bought CVC (Rochester, NY) for $380 million in stock. CVC shareholders will receive 0.43 share of Veeco stock for each share of CVC stock they own. The merger is expected to close in the second quarter of the year, pending shareholder approval. The deal brings together Veeco's strength in metrology equipment for the data storage, semiconductor, and research markets, and its etch and deposition tools for data storage and optical telecommunications with CVC's manufacturing equipment for optical components and other devices. Edward Braun, who will remain chairman and CEO of Veeco, projected revenues of more the $400 million for the combined companies this year. Christine Whitman, president and CEO of CVC, will become chief operating officer of Veeco.

Digital Optics finds funds for expansion

Digital Optics Corp. (Charlotte, NC) has raised $10 million in a recent round of funding. Investors include Carolinas Capital, Intel Capital, Intersouth Partners, and Wakefield Group. The funding will be used to build a new facility, hire more staff, and expand marketing and sales activities. Digital Optics, which makes wafer-based micro-optics and integrated micro-optical systems, plans to focus on methods of increasing capacity in telecommunications.

Global Solar selling photovoltaics to Wall Street investors

Global Solar Energy (Tucson, AZ) is promoting its manufacturing of a thin-film photovoltaic material to Wall Street investors. Global Solar makes lightweight, flexible photovoltaic modules for OEMs and military applications. It is also developing a line of rechargeable batteries based on micron-scale thin films, to be used for microelectronics in computer chips and medical implants. The company plans to triple its photovoltaic production capacity this year, hopes to capture 15% of the market within five years, and predicts that worldwide sales of photovoltaic systems will double in that time.

Also in the news . . .

Spire Corp. (Bedford, MA) and BP Solarex (Frederick, MD) are cooperating in Spire Solar Chicago (Chicago, IL) to sell photovoltaic modules and systems in the Midwest. . . . Alpine Research Optics (Boulder, CO) has acquired an automated 54-in. box coater to manufacture precision coatings for high-volume applications.

Neil Savage

For more business news, subscribe to Optoelectronics Report. Contact Jayne Sears-Renfer at [email protected].

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