Optical/IP Networks

Ibsen, Act II

Eighteen months ago, a Danish photonics startup called Ibsen Micro Structures was acquired by ADC Telecommunications Inc. (Nasdaq: ADCT) for stock worth $80 million.

Yesterday, the process reversed itself, as Ibsen Photonics A/S emerged, butterfly-like, out of a management buyout from ADC (see Ibsen Makes a Comeback).

A case of a clash of cultures? A little European startup and a big American corporation not seeing eye to eye?

Not a bit of it. Ibsen says that it’s sorry to part company with ADC, which has taught it a lot, particularly about manufacturing disciplines. In the 18 months under ADC’s guidance “we’ve learned that a good idea is not a product,” says Dirk Jessen, VP of sales and marketing at Ibsen.

In fact, Ibsen is a casualty of ADC’s restructuring program that was completed yesterday, at the end of ADC’s financial year. Under the program, ADC has consolidated its business around four core markets -- DSL (digital subscriber line), IP/cable, operational support systems software, and photonics -- and disposed of everything else. This has helped ADC almost eliminate its debt, as it's reduced its total staff from 22,500 on November 1, 2000, to 12,500 on November 1, 2001, according to Rob Clark, ADC’s director of public relations. “We’ve re-invented ourselves," he says, adding that no further disposals are planned (see ADC Reorganizes and ADC Dumps).

Ibsen is something of an oddball among ADC’s castoffs because it’s a photonics company and thus appears to be part of its core businesses. However, Ibsen’s main business is in making phase masks, which are used in the manufacture of Bragg gratings -- wavelength-selective reflectors used in a wide variety of components. These phase masks "aren't something strategic that we had to make in-house,” says Clark.

This view led ADC to tell Ibsen on August 1 that it was going to be shut down, according to Jessen. “We were up against the wall,” he says, because management buyouts typically take five to six months to put in place. Ibsen reckoned it had to complete everything within three months in order to avoid an exodus of staff. Denmark is a little hotbed of optical startups, notes Jessen, so there were plenty of alternative employment opportunities.

The new Ibsen has got $15 million of funding, mainly from 3i Group PLC and a Danish venture capital company called Dansk Kapitalanlæg Aktieselskab. Ibsen now has 71 on staff, compared to 35 when it was acquired by ADC. The original management team is back in place, with the founder, Per E. Ibsen, in the role of VP of business development.

As noted, Ibsen’s main business is making phase masks. It claims to have a unique way of making them that results in very high resolution gratings, or ones that can distinguish among wavelengths that are packed very closely together.

Ibsen achieves this by using a process that starts by splitting a beam of light from a laser into two and then recombining the light to create an interference pattern. The pattern is directed onto photo-sensitive film on top of a block of fused silica. This is then developed, in the same way that photos are developed, leaving some parts of the fused silica covered with a “resist” coating, and other parts left bare. The whole thing is then bombarded with ions to create what amounts to a block of glass with lots of microscopic scratches on it. The scratches are incredibly accurately positioned, and can be as narrow as 100 nanometers and as close together as 200 nanometers, according to Jessen.

This scratched block of fused silica is the phase mask. Ibsen's customers use it by shining an ultraviolet light throught it to create an interference pattern in the doped fiber of chip substrate that’s beneath it, forming a Bragg grating.

Other manufacturers of phase masks -- notably StockerYale Inc. (Nasdaq: STKR) -- use different processes, according to Jessen. It’s also worth pointing out that some component manufacturers, like Southampton Photonics Inc., don’t use phase masks to make Bragg gratings. Instead, they write the patterns directly onto the fiber or chip.

Ibsen is leveraging its expertise to develop its own components, the first one being a channel power monitor based on bulk diffraction grating. The employment of this technology rather than arrayed waveguide gratings (AWGs) -- which are used by companes like Bookham Technology PLC (Nasdaq: BKHM; London: BHM), Kymata Ltd. (now part of Alcatel Optronics (Nasdaq: ALAO; Paris: CGO.PA), and WaveSplitter Technologies Inc. -- delivers a couple of big benefits, according to Jessen. Ibsen’s channel monitor is much smaller -- like a 17mm-thick credit card -- and consumes far less power because it uses passive temperature control. It hopes to have early samples ready by the OFC conference and exhibition next March.

— Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading
realoptics 12/4/2012 | 7:38:12 PM
re: Ibsen, Act II Their channel monitor is nothing close to a big deal because the surface relief grating they have is nothing new and not necessary cheaper either.

This article can only fool the people or VCs who either do not know or afraid of gratings. Much better known approach has at least done by one company, BaySpec, Inc. in Fremont, CA. Their volume phase grating based channel monitors are in production and they are shipping OCPM in quantity, as well as the OCPMS are fully athermal. BaySpec has demonstrated their OCPM even in the last OFC and their devices' thickness is only 16.5 mm, less than this 'future-pending' Danish product.

ADC has good reason to dump them because the technology is non significant and they might be looking for their tech fortune in Silicon Valley.

HarveyMudd 12/4/2012 | 7:38:10 PM
re: Ibsen, Act II ADC has been in businees involving every technology under the sun. ADC has not been able to stablize its product lines.
optigirl 12/4/2012 | 7:38:09 PM
re: Ibsen, Act II You are a man with absoluteley nothing to say.....

You bore us with your mundane comments and your attempts to smear companies hoping to show us that you are in the know.

Go home.

rjmcmahon 12/4/2012 | 7:38:08 PM
re: Ibsen, Act II You bore us with your mundane comments and your attempts to smear companies hoping to show us that you are in the know.

Go home.

Telling someone to go home doesn't help anyone, including the person be told to go home. Most listeners can use their own judgment and evaluate other's opinions, BUT ONLY if these opinions are allowed to be expressed.

Ignoring poor information seems preferred, disputing with better information even better.

Quest does seem to be involved some sort of PR campaign or displute. A critical discussion/debate may help people, including myself, understand why.

optigirl 12/4/2012 | 7:38:07 PM
re: Ibsen, Act II Well, perhaps you might wish to look at the other posters here who feel the way that I do.

Then again, to each their own.
rjmcmahon 12/4/2012 | 7:38:07 PM
re: Ibsen, Act II Well, perhaps you might wish to look at the other posters here who feel the way that I do.


I do believe many share these feelings. Thanks to you and the others who continue to contribute despite these feelings of frustration.


hare_krishna 12/4/2012 | 7:37:58 PM
re: Ibsen, Act II Dear Harvey,

Like you, I am generally pretty ignorant except in my own tiny realm of expertise. I'm an embedded software engineer with no special insight in industry analysis, marketing, emerging technologies, etc.

The difference between you and me, is that I _know_ how ignorant I am, and seldom post because I seldom have anything useful to say.

Well, I'm posting now, to tell you that you have every bit as much insight into the present and future of optical networking as I do.

In other words, your posts are generally worthless. What's your problem? Why do you pretend to insights that you don't have? An inferiority complex or something?
USA 12/4/2012 | 7:37:56 PM
re: Ibsen, Act II Harvey, you do have a tendency to state worthless drivel in your posts. You have responded to some of my posts with your nonsense. I agree with Optigirl, why don't you just forget your password and go into 'read-only' mode...
gea 12/4/2012 | 7:37:54 PM
re: Ibsen, Act II Sometimes i feel like Harvey Mudd is some sort of AI program/gag that mines information and comes up with conspiracies, doubts and accusations. He doesn't seem to really interact with the material in any meaningful way.

More than this, for those not familiar with his nonesense, they may take him seriously, and I have a problem with that. He regularly casts dispersions and accuses startups of deceiving VCs and so on.

Moreover, I have seen him "figure out" that optical component companies, router companies, and optical network companies are all phoney...there ain't no one with that level of expertise in all those areas.

I have always been a chapion of dissenting voices, becuase hidden in whatever personal issues a dissenter may or may not have is quite often a little insight. "Harvey", however, is different: after reading many a post it's clear this guy knows nothing about any of the fields he comments on.

I'm not for censorship, but like Optigirl I'd sure love to see this guy dissappear voluntarily (except he'd almost certainly just change his screen name and do the same thing). Anyone know a guy with a dry cleaning business who can offer Harvey a job? Maybe he'll start posting his conspiracy theories on dry cleaning bullentin boards!
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