A shining example of academic and industrial collaboration is OptiGrate Corp., a world-class optics company that specializes in the volume Bragg grating (VBG) technology that its founder, University of Central Florida Professor, Dr. Leonid Glebov, perfected in the lab at CREOL (The College of Optics & Photonics) at the university.
The Oviedo-based company was established in 1999 and is a major success story for the UCF Business Incubation Program (UCFBIP), which provides a variety of business development services and resources to start-up companies in the community. Dr. Alexei Glebov, president, and CEO of the company comments, “CREOL is one of the best schools worldwide in photonics. There are very few schools that offer photonic programs.”
During their early years, OptiGrate was funded through the US government programs by agencies such as NASA, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, the MDA (Missile Defense Agency), and others. Through the support given by these agencies, OptiGrate was able to develop their product to the level that enabled them to successfully commercialize, and bring to market, their unique technology.
In 2008, Dr. Alexei Glebov, joined the company from the Silicon Valley bringing with him extensive experience of photonics industry acquired at Lucent Technologies, Fujitsu, and Finisar. At this point, the goal was to transform the company to volume manufacturing standards and bring the volume Bragg technology to international markets. It required not only change in the technology, production lines, automated solutions, but also a notable change in the mindset of OptiGrate’s team. “Volume manufacturing is a different world as compared to high-end technology development,” says Alexei Glebov, “and we succeeded to make this transition smoothly and efficiently while maintaining high standards in our advanced research efforts. OptiGrate demonstrated a good example of efficient synergy between academic research, government funding, and commercial success.”
OptiGrate has pioneered and commercialized a full range of volume Bragg grating-based holographic optical components for optoelectronics, analytical, medical, semiconductor, and other industries as well as manufactures Laser Diode Systems enabled by the VBG components. This exclusive technology improves the performance of laser systems substantially and reduces the complexity and cost of analytical instruments and ultra-fast lasers. Practical applications include pharmaceuticals, medical, nanotechnology, defense, and other national security uses, research, and many others. Simply put, Bragg gratings allow lasers to work on precise frequencies and enhance their properties so that they can better such tasks as explosive detection, high power laser pumping, materials analysis and processing, laser surgery, to mention a few.
Drs. Leonid and Alexei Glebov are one of only two father and son duos to receive the prestigious honor of being named Fellows by SPIE, The International Society for Optical Engineering. Fellows are members of distinction who have made significant scientific and technical contributions in the multidisciplinary fields of optics, photonics, and imaging. It is estimated that Fellows comprise one percent of the total global membership (hundreds of thousands) of SPIE.
OptiGrate was nominated as the Small Manufacturer of the Year by the Manufacturer’s Association of Central Florida (MACF); was elected as 50 Florida Companies to Watch in the program’s inaugural year of 2011, and receive an Outstanding Incubator Graduate award from the National Business Incubation Association in 2014.
In May 2017 OptiGrate was acquired by IPG Photonics Corp. OptiGrate was a long-term supplier to IPG, and as this relationship has deepened, the companies determined that there was a strong mutual benefit by joining together. IPG Photonics Corporation (NASDAQ: IPGP) is the world leader in high-power fiber lasers and amplifiers. Founded in 1990, IPG pioneered the development and commercialization of optical fiber-based lasers for use in diverse applications, primarily materials processing.
OptiGrate has a unique position in the volume holographic elements market. They supply components to more than 600 customers on six different continents. The world is certainly within reach for OptiGrate — right here from Central Florida.