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The focus comes from the precision optical components, coatings and assemblies manufactured in its Boulder facility.
The focus also comes from a staff with a diverse background in spectroscopy and metrology, working in the tradition of the company’s founders: scientists from JILA, formerly known as the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, which is operated by the University of Colorado and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Chris Myatt, who founded Precision Photonics in 2000 with his wife, Sally Hatcher, was taught by a pair of Nobel laureates. He earned his Ph.D. at CU under the tutelage of Carl Wieman, who won the Nobel physics prize in 1995, did his post-doctoral work on quantum computing at NIST with Dave Wineland, who won the National Medal of Science in 2007 and shared the Nobel physics prize this year.
Myatt also guided the 2009 incubation of mBio Diagnostics, a Boulder-based subsidiary of Precision that develops low-cost medical devices, and is now chief executive of that company. mBio works to deliver a proprietary fluorescence-based technology that allows rapid diagnosis from a single drop of a patient’s blood, plasma or serum for low-cost HIV and hepatitis testing.
Precision Photonics originally targeted the optical telecommunications sector while it was booming. When the telecom bubble burst, Precision’s focus widened.
One of Precision’s early hires was engineer Nick Traggis, who joined the team in 2001 and worked his way up through the ranks to become vice president for new-product development. “The reward,” he said, “is that I get to work with the caliber of people I do — the smartest people, and I mean our customers as well as my co-workers.”
Traggis said the instruments developed and manufactured by Precision’s staff of 35 are developed for the telecommunications, aerospace, defense, biomedical and semiconductor industries.
Traggis also serves as vice president for product development at Chicago-based IDEX, an industrial holding company that acquired Precision Photonics for $20 million in April. IDEX also acquired Boulder-based Advanced Thin Films, and the two acquisitions will operate in the same Boulder space.
“Both brands will still exist depending on the product line,” Traggis said. “This move was more driven by legal and financial considerations than anything else.”
The collaboration with CU continues for Precision Photonics, Traggis said. “We continue to hire from their research groups,” he said. “Two of our best salespeople are out of the laser-research program at CU.”
Those salespeople target Precision Photonics’ products and technology to the industrial, defense, telecommunications and research markets, Traggis said.
“We’ve learned from CU how to build better metrology tools, how to measure our optics better,” he said. “With their research we can hit tighter specifications.”
Traggis said Precision’s goals include “coming up with higher-power laser operations — especially welding and cutting lasers — first for defense and then trickling down to industrial uses.”