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ESI Leads $15M Axsun Round
Nov 2006
BILLERICA, Mass., Nov. 9, 2006 -- Axsun Technologies Inc., a Billerica, Mass., maker of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)-based micro-optoelectronic spectral engines, announced this week it has closed a $15 million funding round. Electro Scientific Industries Inc. (ESI), a Portland, Ore., supplier of production laser systems for microengineering applications, led the Series D financing, joined by current investors Prism Venture Partners, Vantage Point Venture Partners and Stata Venture Partners, and other private investors.

In addition to the funding, Axsun announced a strategic argeement with ESI to explore and develop applications based on Axsun's spectral engines. In addition to the equity financing, Axsun closed an asset-backed loan agreement with Bridge Bank. Axsun said it  will use the proceeds to enhance its core spectral engine offerings in industrial process spectroscopy, including the process analytical technology (PAT) pharmaceutical, homeland security and optical communications markets.

Steve Harris, vice president of R&D at ESI, will join Axsun's board. Other board members are Axsun CEO Dale Flanders, Bill Seifert of Prism Ventures and David Fries of Vantage Point Venture Partners.

Axsun's MEMS-based spectral engine for processing optical signals was introduced to the optical communications market in 2002. In 2004, the company introduced a near-infrared (NIR) spectrometer for process monitoring applications. It extended its micro-optical platform this year with a Raman spectrometer engine targeted at identifying unknown substances for the homeland security market.

"Axsun's unique NIR and Raman spectrometers are now seeing the same broad market acceptance enjoyed by our optical channel monitors in the telecom market," Flanders said. "Potential applications extend into a number of new and exciting markets."

ESI's Harris said Axsun has proven that its core MEMS optical platform extends beyond the optical channel monitor market into a variety of industries, for which spectroscopic sensors can deliver the chemical information needed in manufacturing.

Axsun received a $2.5 million contract last month from the US Army to develop and implement technologies for automated assembly of MEMS devices. Axsun is working with the Army to develop advanced versions of the LIGA process, a technology for fabricating highly precise microcomponents from metals and plastics (LIGA is an acronym from German words for lithography, electroplating, and molding).

Axsun's Livermore, Calif., facility produces many of the LIGA mounting structures used in Axsun's IntegraSpec NIR spectrometer and OMx telecommunications monitors as well as miniature devices and components for commercial and military applications.

The Axsun-West LIGA foundry has been shipping high-precision metal components to corporate and government customers at a rate of more than 10,000 devices and components per month and is expanding its capabilities to create micron-scale feature fidelity, Axsun said.

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The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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