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Ansys adds to optical software portfolio with Zemax deal

31 Aug 2021

Private equity owner to sell well-known name in optical design software and simulation.

Zemax, one of the most recognized brands in the field of optical design software, is set to become part of a much larger engineering simulation company by the end of the year.

Current owner EQT Private Equity, which acquired Zemax in 2018, has agreed to sell the Kirkland, Washington, firm to Nasdaq-listed Ansys for an undisclosed sum.

If all goes according to plan with industry regulators, the deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2021.

The addition of Zemax will complement Ansys’ growing offering in photonics design and simulation tools. In 2018 the Pennsylvania-headquartered company acquired French firm OPTIS, and followed that up with the addition of Lumerical last year.

James Webb system design
In a statement announcing the agreement, Ansys said: “Once closed, the acquisition will expand the scope of Ansys' solution offering, giving users comprehensive, end-to-end solutions for simulating next-generation optical and photonics products.

“Those innovations range in scope from photonics-enabled circuits to precision vision systems to system-level illumination, and could drive breakthroughs in healthcare, autonomy, consumer electronics and the industrial internet of things.”

Founded back in 1990 by Ken Moore, Zemax has since become one of the most recognizable industry names in the field of optical design software. In 2012 the company grew with its own acquisition of UK-based Optima Research, and now employs around 100 people.

Clients listed on the firm’s web site include photonics industry giants like Schott and Edmund Optics, alongside startups such as the lidar company Baraja.

But perhaps Zemax’s highest-profile customer is NASA. The company’s “OpticStudio” software has been used to design critical systems for the James Webb Space Telescope - finally due to launch later this year.

The firm says that its software helped create the system that will align the telescope’s primary mirror segments in space.

‘End-to-end solution’ for simulating light
S. Subbiah, the Zemax CEO, said in a statement from EQT and Ansys: “By joining forces with Ansys, we will quickly deliver Zemax's gold-standard imaging products to a wider audience and have an even greater impact on optical product development. It is a winning combination for our customers and for Ansys users across the globe.”

Sweden-based EQT added: “Zemax’s software is used to develop a range of products including space telescopes, augmented reality (AR) glasses, lidar in autonomous vehicles, smart phone cameras, biomedical imaging devices, and many more.”

The private equity group says that under its ownership Zemax was able to expand its management team and broaden its product portfolio through “substantial” investment in research and development focused on the fastest-growing applications in the optics sector.

EQT partner Arvindh Kumar noted: “EQT’s investment in Zemax exemplifies our goal of investing in companies that provide mission-critical products underpinned by strong market growth.

“By focusing on the company’s growth and investing in future-proofing initiatives, the management team, together with EQT, has positioned Zemax for success and we are confident that Ansys will be a good long-term home for the company.”

Shane Emswiler, senior VP at Ansys, added: "Simulating the behavior of light - from creation to illumination - is becoming critical for the development of next-generation products.

“With the addition of the best-in-class technology from Zemax, Ansys' customers will benefit from a complete, end-to-end solution for simulating light.”

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