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Coherent extends ultrafast expansion with $52M Lumera Laser buy-out

21 Dec 2012

Acquisition gives Coherent wider portfolio of ultrashort-pulsed lasers for industrial and medical applications.

Coherent, the Californian provider of a huge range of lasers and laser systems, has further expanded its portfolio with the acquisition of Germany-based Lumera Laser.

In a brief statement announcing the deal, Coherent said it had bought the firm, which specializes in picosecond pulse lasers used in micromachining applications, for $52 million cash.

Coherent CEO John Ambroseo said: “The acquisition of Lumera complements our internal programs and other recent acquisitions targeted at the rapidly expanding area of short-pulse micromaterials processing and non-refractive ophthalmic surgery.”

“Our ultimate goal is to provide customers with the broadest selection of ultrafast industrial solutions through the combined building block technologies from Coherent, Lumera, Innolight and MiDAZ,” Ambroseo added.

Founded in Kaiserslautern just over a decade ago by four PhDs, Lumera was acquired by the ATON Group investment company in August 2008 – at which point the company was employing 40 people and achieving an annual turnover in the region of €7 million.

The company’s picosecond lasers are primarily aimed at industrial micromachining applications, where the extremely short duration of the laser pulse provides what is known as “cold ablation”, where little or no heat is transferred to the machined material.

That approach has a number of advantages, particularly in the precision and quality of the micromachining, as well as the ability to machine any material, independent of the laser’s wavelength.

Rapid sales growth
Ultrafast technology has a particular advantage when it comes to micromachining thin sheets of glass that are transparent to traditional industrial laser wavelengths, and which are also problematic for diamond tools.

Lumera has also worked on potential applications in dentistry – where an ultrafast laser “drill” could in theory be used for pain-free procedures. At last year’s International Laser Marketplace event held in Munich, the company’s CEO Achim Nebel said that the use of ultrafast lasers in industry thus far represented only “the tip of the iceberg”.

The main stumbling block with the approach has been to deliver sufficiently energetic pulses at a fast enough rate of repetition with the degree of reliability needed to be considered truly industrial.

Coherent says that the $52 million acquisition fee represented around 1.5 times Lumera’s anticipated 2012 revenues, suggesting that the German firm has increased its sales from €7 million in 2008 to approximately €26 million this year - and that the technology has begun to proliferate.

Lumera has enjoyed significant success with its broad range of “Rapid” and “Hyper-Rapid” picosecond products in such applications as specialty marking and engraving, photovoltaic manufacturing, glass cutting and LED scribing, stated Coherent.

“We are excited to have Lumera as part of Coherent,” added Mark Sobey, one of the Californian firm’s executive VPs.

“With a combined industrial picosecond installed base of more than 500 systems in 24/7 production, we intend to leverage our world-wide sales and service network and joint technology expertise so that these growing markets will benefit from the broadest selection of ultrafast laser solutions backed by the service support for which Coherent is known.”

Award-winning tech
Earlier this year a Lumera laser was at the heart of a micromachining system built by Schepers that won the Innovation Award for Laser Technology, handed out every two years by the European Laser Institute (ELI) and the Arbeitskreis Lasertechnik (AKL) association.

Schepers’ system for three-dimensional structuring of metal was used to machine a micro-embossing tool for precision roto-gravure printing and other applications.

Working with Schepers on the development, Lumera’s R&D team and the other project partners built a 400 W picosecond MOPA laser system based on a 10.6 MHz laser seeder and a slab-based laser amplifier.

As part of the Coherent family, Lumera joins recent acquisitions Midaz Lasers, the Imperial College, London, spin-out that has developed a compact solid-state amplifier operating across both nanosecond and picosecond regimes, and the DPSS laser specialist Innolight.

Taken together, the Lumera, Innolight and Midaz acquisitions represent significant use of Coherent’s extensive cash holdings, which stood at around $225 million at the end of September, prior to the deals being completed.

Last week the company also said it would return some of that cash to shareholders via a special dividend of $1 per share, worth a total of approximately $24 million and payable December 27.

CeNing Optics Co LtdBerkeley Nucleonics CorporationMad City Labs, Inc.Hyperion OpticsTRIOPTICS GmbHSPECTROGON ABLASEROPTIK GmbH
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