Producer of optical filters plans to expand its 43,000-square-foot manufacturing facility near Hunt Club Road to about 60,000 square feet before the end of the year.Iridian Spectral Technologies, which makes optical filters used in items from 3D glasses to medical diagnostic equipment, is set to expand its local manufacturing capacity by 40 per cent after reaching a deal to be acquired by a U.S. manufacturer. Illinois-based IDEX Corp. has signed a definitive agreement to buy the Ottawa-based company for $150 million. The transaction is expected to close in the next few weeks. Iridian has more than 180 employees and is projecting sales of about $36 million in fiscal 2023. Buoyed by the backing of IDEX, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange and last year posted revenues of more than US$3 billion, the company plans to expand its 43,000-square-foot manufacturing facility near Hunt Club Road to about 60,000 square feet before the end of the year. Iridian president George Laframboise told Techopia the self-financed company has been seeking a “strategic partner” to help it “find a way to move to the next level.” He said joining forces with the American manufacturing powerhouse will “open the doors to new markets” for Iridian. “They are going to give us the depth of resources, the skill and knowledge that you can only acquire by becoming part of an organization like IDEX,” explained Laframboise, who will remain in his current role after the deal closes. “We are going to go a long way with them.” Over the past 25 years, Iridian has quietly evolved into one of the Ottawa tech sector’s most successful homegrown photonics enterprises. The firm is recognized as a world leader in manufacturing optical filters that allow light to be separated into different wavelengths. The vast majority of its sales come from foreign customers in three diverse markets: telecommunications, biomedicine and entertainment. The firm’s founders, the late Peter Dawson and current chief technical officer Brian Sullivan, worked at the National Research Council before launching Iridian in 1998 to produce optical filters for telecom companies. Two years later, the firm was acquired by optical communications giant JDS Uniphase. Iridian’s management team bought the company back in 2002, when its annual sales were about $2 million. Since then, the firm has diversified its customer base well beyond its telecom roots. Iridian’s filters can now be found in products ranging from devices that use reflected light to help doctors detect cancerous tumours, to glasses that help moviegoers experience the illusion of three-dimensional vision. Since the late 1990s, the company has produced millions of 3D glasses as well as projection equipment for cinemas and theme parks in North America and Europe. “I like to think of us sometimes as a company where, when no one else wants to do it, (customers) come and see us,” said Laframboise, a former NRC employee who joined Iridian as a manufacturing supervisor a few months after it was founded and worked his way up the ranks as the company grew. “We love a challenge. We’ve pushed our technology forward by being willing to take a risk.” Eventually, the firm’s trailblazing tech caught the eye of IDEX’s optical technology team. The U.S. firm initiated discussions about a potential M&A deal late last year, and the two sides quickly determined they were a good match. “We look for companies like Iridian who are really technologically advanced and capable of supporting solutions within a market that require a higher level of expertise,” said David Ruppell, president of IDEX Optical Technologies. Laframboise agreed. “I have looked for a strategic partner for a long time, and I have never been able to tick all of the boxes off that make me say, ‘This is the perfect fit,’” he said. “I think we have found that. That puts my mind at ease. Now we get down to the business of growing.”
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