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IDEX buys Precision Photonics in $20M cash deal

12 Apr 2012

Industrial fluidics company further expands its optics and photonics technology platform with acquisition of “impossible optics” provider.

IDEX Corporation, the diversified fluidics firm that became a major player in the photonics sector with the $400 million buy-out of CVI Melles Griot last year, has followed up with the acquisition of Boulder-based Precision Photonics.

The $20 million cash purchase is confirmation of the company’s promised policy of consolidating the photonics business, as outlined by IDEX’s Mike Cumbo in an interview with optics.org last month.

Cumbo, president of IDEX’s optics and photonics business unit, said that the company’s model was to achieve 50% of its total growth through acquisitions, and highlighted light detection and integrated subsystems as key target areas.

Precision Photonics specializes in high-specification optical components, through expertise in techniques such as ion-beam sputtered coatings. Founded by former National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) scientist Chris Myatt and Sally Hatcher in 2000, the company had originally set out to target the optical telecommunications sector while it was booming.

Broad applications base
But following the burst of the telecom bubble, Precision Photonics widened its scope and now offers a wide range of components, including high-energy laser mirrors, polarizing optics, beam-splitters, etalons and micro-optics, as well as a custom service dubbed “impossible optics”.

Aside from telecommunications, typical applications include high-power solid-state, ultrafast and fiber lasers, as well as optical coherence tomography and endoscopy in medicine, and emerging directed energy systems in the defense sector.

The company’s board of directors also includes well-known photonics entrepreneur Milton Chang, who invested in Precision Photonics through his “Incubic” venture fund for high-tech start-ups. Back in 2003 Precision Photonics raised $0.9 million in equity funding, according to a filing with the US Securities & Exchange Commission.

In 2009, founders Myatt and Hatcher span off another company from Precision Photonics, in the form of MBio Diagnostics. MBio is developing a proprietary fluorescence-based assay technology to analyze single drops of blood, plasma or serum, for low-cost, high-throughput HIV and hepatitis testing.

Precision Photonics also hit the headlines in 2010 when a former employee was jailed for two years after being found guilty of stealing $230,000 from the company to finance a luxury lifestyle.

Such was the havoc wreaked on the 35-person company at the time that it forced several lay-offs and put the future of Precision Photonics in jeopardy, with CEO Myatt forced to work 20-hour days to keep the business afloat.

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