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Laser startup expects manufacturing partner; federal research continues

[caption id="attachment_30006" align="alignright" width="252" caption="A 4mm by 4mm by 250 micron valve seat (top) and a check valve (bottom) machined by Raydiance and the Small Spacecraft division of NASA at the Ames Research Center. The devices will be deployed on free-flying nanosatellites, the International Space Station, and future lunar and planetary research laboratories."][/caption]

PETALUMA – Raydiance is gearing up to leap from the laboratory onto the factory floor.

The maker of commercial ultra-short pulse laser systems will soon announce its first major commercial manufacturing partner, according to company President Scott Davison.

“We’ve established our technology platform in research labs worldwide and we recently solidified our go-to-market strategy by a three-year extension of our partnership with Rofin,” he said.

German company Rofin is a leading producer of laser solutions for medical device manufacturers with 35 locations and a strong presence in India and China. The partnership gives Raydiance a global market and Rofin an important heat-free laser technology.

Raydiance’s first commercial partner could well be a government supplier like Raytheon, Lockheed or Boeing. The Petaluma company has worked successfully with the Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health to develop applications, earning a total of about $20 million in research and innovation grants.

“The DoD is a great sponsor of innovation and springboard for new applications. It doesn’t have to chase funding,” said Mr. Davison.

Raydiance received $5 million to develop laser burn surgery applications for the DoD and recently began a new development cycle for a smart scalpel, an instrument that can distinguish between live, healthy cells and dead or cancerous tissue.

The government grant phases, from $100,000, then $950,000, and possibly several million for advanced research, allow companies like Raydiance to gather preclinical data for medical applications.

“Then we can take that data to a commercial partner,” he said, adding that commercialization of medical applications is “farther out for us. Our first partner will be non-medical.”

That points to industrial machining on a micro level. Raydiance, working in collaboration with the small spacecraft division at NASA Ames Research Center, is producing elements in next generation microfluidic devices using the Radiance ultrafast laser platform.

The devices will be deployed on free-flying nanosatellites, launched from free-flying microsatellites for research purposes. The devices will also be used on space stations and planetary research labs, according to Raydiance Director of Marketing Adam Tanous.

Getting down to earth, the applications lend themselves to the defense and airline industries.

“We intend to build a multimillion dollar company with a broad range of markets,” said Mr. Davison. “Our current focus is on getting liquid, and with that aim we’re evaluating the sectors in which to grow equity.”

The Raydiance system, the first computer software controlled, non-thermal ablating laser available on a commercial level, has spawned competition.

“It was bound to happen, and we welcome competition. The Germans are developing similar systems. But we have a two to three year market lead,” he said.

Raydiance arrived in Petaluma in 2006 to commercialize technology developed by the University of Florida and DARPA. The 41-employee company is led by former AOL Chairman Barry Schuler.