Tech Transfer Success Story
is nothing faster made by man than a femtosecond (10-15 second) pulse,"
says Philippe Bado, president of Clark-MXR in Dexter, Michigan, and a
former investigator at the University of Michigan-based Center for
Ultrafast Optical Science. When he went to the Pentagon five years ago
to solicit research funds, Bado explained that this was a time span so
short "that the federal budget does not get any bigger. I think that's
how I got my funding."
Founded in the early 1990s, through most
of its history Clark-MXR designed, manufactured and installed lasers for
academic research. Its customers were primarily universities, and its
business included customer training and support because "most lasers are
pretty sophisticated pieces of equipment, a big beast," says Bado. "Not
exactly a user-friendly type of tool."
Then the company developed much more
compact and reliable femtosecond lasers. "The most important thing is
you don't need a PhD to make it work," says Bado. "You turn it on and it
comes on. To most people, that sounds normal, but in the femtosecond
laser business, it's not. This doesn't make it a consumer product
because it still costs a quarter of a million dollars. But people in
industry can start thinking of using it."
Reliability was another big plus compared
to "traditional" lasers, says Bado. So, too, was the development by CUOS
researchers of a new micromachining method that employs the Clark-MXR
laser to cut, reliably and repetitively, very small holes, lines, and
other features both at and below the surfaces of a wide variety of
"That's where the synergy with UM came
in," Bado says. "We developed that laser that can be used in industry,
and meanwhile UM came up with an important application for it."
He also credits the UM Office of
Technology Transfer for connecting him and his company with investors,
specifically Ann Arbor-based Avalon Investments, founded by former
Gateway CEO Rick Snyder. "We need a significant amount of cash to
develop systems for the industrial market, and that's where Rick Snyder
and Avalon come into play," says Bado. "In addition, Rick has a lot of
business savvy that we can definitely use. He brings more than money; he
also brings the knowledge of a growth economy that's going to be really
useful to us."
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