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BluGlass acquires GaN facility; signs laser development deal with US team

12 Dec 2023

Contract manufacturer GaNWorks brought in-house by the Australian developer of blue laser diodes.

BluGlass, the Australia-based maker of gallium nitride laser (GaN) diodes, says it has acquired the GaNWorks foundry in Silicon Valley that it had previously used as a contract manufacturer.

At a cost of $800,000 in cash and stock, the deal includes the purchase of specialty GaN wafer processing equipment for n-side wafer thinning and laser bar cleave capabilities, both said to be critical and complex processes in BluGlass’ laser manufacturing supply chain.

“These processes have previously been outsourced to Silicon Valley-based GaNWorks - BluGlass’ only remaining wafer processing contract manufacturer,” stated the Sydney-headquartered firm, which also has a US site in Nashua, New Hampshire.

As well as the specialist equipment and installation, the transaction includes the transition of an GaN engineer with ten years experience.

“In-sourcing of n-side wafer thinning and laser bar cleave processes will speed development and production cycles of these steps by over 30 per cent and will deliver annualised savings of more than $400,000,” BluGlass claims, adding that the vertical integration will increase its laser production capacity.

RPCVD approach
Though small, the company is one of only a small number of blue laser diode makers. It is differentiated from rival manufacturers by its use of the novel remote plasma chemical vapour deposition (RPCVD) approach, which enables lower-temperature fabrication of critical device layers compared with the more conventional metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) method.

BluGlass CEO Jim Haden said: “Bringing GaNWorks in-house is another incredibly rare opportunity. These processes are critical to our manufacturing supply chain, with the equipment alone costing on the order of $3 million to purchase new.

“As one of just a handful of gallium nitride laser diode manufacturers globally, our acquisition of a specialist GaN contract manufacturer also increases barriers to entry for new players.

“The acquisition represents the final step in our plan to in-source wafer processing, and further accelerates our long-term growth plans within the fast-growing GaN market, forecast to reach $2.5 billion by 2025.”

Haden added that the move would help BluGlass reduce process variability, thus improving the quality and consistency of the firm’s lasers.

The cash element of the deal is being funded by the firm’s recent receipt of a AUS$7.3 million rebate for research and development activity.

DFB development
BluGlass has also agreed a development contract with North Carolina State University - a center of excellence for nitride device research - as part of the Commercial Leap Ahead for Wide Bandgap Semiconductors (CLAWS) Hub.

Focusing on laser diode development, BluGlass is set to work on single-frequency distributed feedback (DFB) sources, as well as violet (405 nm and 420 nm) and blue (450 nm) single-mode emitters.

“If BluGlass is successful in securing additional core development contracts over the CLAWS program, its collaborative role may include the development of ultraviolet through to green single-mode lasers, single-frequency DFB lasers, and photonic integrated circuits (PICs),” announced the company.

“Our laser development within the CLAWS Hub has the potential to create significant advancements across our target verticals, including materials processing, sensing, quantum applications, and critical defense capabilities,” said Haden.

Professor John Muth, the CLAWS Hub director, added: “Part of the purpose of CLAWS is to accelerate the development of dual-use technologies. BluGlass is an important part of our roadmap to manipulate UV and visible spectrum light on a chip as a PIC.

“We see the ability to deliver high-quality, reliable single frequency DFB lasers as well as blue and violet lasers to the [US Department of Defense] and the research community as important first steps toward a wide variety of commercial applications.”

ECOPTIKCeNing Optics Co LtdAlluxaHÜBNER PhotonicsTRIOPTICS GmbHBerkeley Nucleonics CorporationLASEROPTIK GmbH
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