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Rofin to commercialize FiLaser technology

28 Feb 2014

Deal with Portland, Oregon, developer of cutting processes for brittle materials expected to close in March.

Industrial laser firm Rofin-Sinar is set to bring a new cutting process for toughened glass and sapphire to market, after signing a deal to buy the assets of FiLaser and its subsidiaries.

According to the two companies, the transaction comprises all intellectual property, including trademarks, know-how, patents and patent applications, that belong to FiLaser. The asset purchase agreement should be finalized within a month.

FiLaser, which is based in Portland, Oregon, was co-founded by laser expert Abbas Hosseini in 2009. He and the company have developed a novel “filament” cutting technique based on picosecond laser pulses, which can be used to machine relatively thick samples of brittle materials like glass and sapphire after they have been chemically and thermally treated, using what the company calls “plasma dissociation”. Machining of sapphire is currently the subject of much attention, thanks largely to Apple’s adoption of the material in smart phone applications.

Rofin CEO Günther Braun said in a company statement: “The commercialization of this [FiLaser] technology is an important step for the industry in improving the cutting performance of these materials and subsequently the wider use of laser technology.”

FiLaser has previously worked with the ultrafast laser companies Innolas and Lumera Laser, although both of those have since become part of much larger entities – Innolas agreeing an equity deal with glass giant Corning, and Lumera acquired for $52 million by the laser specialist Coherent in late 2012.

Ultrafast pulse bursts
Jeffrey Albelo, FiLaser’s CEO, says that the agreement with Rofin will provide an ideal route to technology commercialization, bringing manufacturing scale, experience and integration capability to what FiLaser believes to be a potentially disruptive technology.

“We expect great things and we are excited to have our technology become a part of the Rofin technology portfolio,” he said.

Typical applications for that technology are anticipated in the manufacture of touch-screen panels, liquid-crystal displays, cell phones, LEDs and silicon semiconductors. “FiLaser’s laser cutting technology replaces current mechanical and laser methods of machining with a technologically superior process that provides multiple benefits to its customers,” claims the Oregon start-up.

Last September, FiLaser signed a patent licensing agreement with the University of Toronto, giving it exclusive access to burst-pulse laser machining technology in North America. Canadian patent CA 2332154, filed by physicists Robin Majoribanks, Peter Herman and then-student Anton Öttl from the university, covers a broad range of ultrashort-pulse laser machining processes and stresses the importance of high-repetition-rate (> 100 kHz) bursts of pulses to optimize the machining process.

At the time, Albelo said: “There are a number of areas for which the simple application of cutting and shaping silicon, glass and sapphire can be envisioned, but the real value of our technology lies in some of the new manufacturing techniques that we are in the process of developing.”

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