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SDL Buys Polaroid's Fiber Laser Business

Photonics Spectra
Apr 1999
Robert C. Pini

SDL Inc. has acquired Polaroid Corp.'s fiber laser business for $5 million. Over the past seven years, the two companies have jointly developed fiber laser technology and shared in the production of systems for thermal printing and data storage markets.
According to SDL's chief financial officer Mike Foster, "Our main objective was to simplify the manufacturing. Polaroid wanted to sell because they are in a restructuring phase. It was a noncore category for them, and we were the obvious buyer." Under the former arrangement, one Polaroid department supplied SDL, which manufactured the fiber laser systems and then sold them back to Polaroid. "This greatly rationalizes the business," Foster said.
As part of the deal, SDL will acquire all related patents and licenses. Under terms of a multiyear, multimillion-dollar agreement included in the purchase, SDL will supply fiber laser subsystems to Polaroid's Graphic Imaging Div.
Foster did not disclose sales and revenue figures for its fiber laser systems, but suggested that the market is growing. The technology is also used in marking systems that are touted as efficient power users. Fiber lasers use doped, double-clad optical fiber pumped with a single, high-power laser diode.
Foster reported that the company's purchase left analysts reassuring investors that SDL is still focused on communications. In fact, SDL Chairman and CEO Donald R. Scifres noted that SDL recently introduced a 1.5-W cascade Raman fiber laser for remote pumping of undersea optical amplifiers. The onshore fiber laser generates light at around 1100 nm and, because of the Raman effect, it cascades down to 1480 nm.
Scifres also said the purchase will have no impact on employees; he expects no layoffs or transfers. The new acquisition will retain its management and its location in Cambridge, Mass.

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