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Thorlabs eyes medical sector with 'iGuide' optical fiber acquisition

04 Jan 2013

Firm adds to its mid-IR capability with acquisition of IRphotonics’ iGuide optical fiber business.

Thorlabs is adding to its optics capabilities with the acquisition of the “iGuide” optical fiber business belonging to venture-backed, Montreal-based IRphotonics.

The deal comes just a few weeks after the broad-based photonics company bought the quantum cascade laser (QCL) specialist Maxion from previous owner Physical Sciences Inc., and Thorlabs says that the pair will create synergies in what it describes as an “underutilized” portion of the optical spectrum: the mid-infrared.

Thorlabs president and founder Alex Cable said that the combination of mid-IR semiconductor sources and optical fiber – the IRphotonics fiber technology is based on indium fluoride material transmitting at up to 5.5 µm – will give the company a vertical manufacturing base to produce mid-IR subsystems.

“I believe we can make significant contributions to bringing mid-IR technologies to bear on technically challenging problems,” Cable added in a statement.

Founded by Mohammad Saad in 2003, IRphotonics iGuide has developed InF-based optical fibers that have been used in a wide range of applications, including medical and environmental sensing, spectroscopy and defense.

Tower transfer
Thorlabs told optics.org that Eric Geoffrion – IRphotonics’ CEO - and CTO Saad would both transfer to its Newtown, New Jersey, headquarters as part of the deal, along with the rest of the iGuide group and manufacturing equipment including a fiber draw tower.

While the mid-IR spectrum, rich in molecular fingerprint information resulting from the vibrational resonances and also featuring two atmospheric transmission windows, is suitable for a wide range of applications, Thorlabs sees medicine as the most attractive area on which to concentrate.

“In the long run, Thorlabs is particularly excited about applying these technologies to make an impact in the medical arena,” it said. “Initially we will look to move Maxion into our Maryland facility and IRphotonics into our Newton facility and stock their quantum cascade [laser] and fiber offerings.”

In January 2012, iGuide had signed a strategic business agreement with the San Diego-based QCL company Daylight Solutions, under which the two firms collaborated on fiber development and Daylight distributed iGuide products.

In 2010, IRphotonics picked up a Prism Award at the Photonics West event – though that was in recognition of the iCure AS200 system for spot-curing of thermal epoxies and other applications, which is not part of the business acquired by Thorlabs.

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