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BluGlass has developed an innovative, environmentally-friendly process to manufacture its GaN lasers.

Company profile

Company: BluGlass Limited

Sector: Manufacturing 

Location: Sydney, New South Wales

Brief Profile: Increasing Australia’s sovereign manufacturing capabilities with energy-efficient, gallium nitride laser diodes.

Why R&D is needed

BluGlass is one of just a handful of gallium nitride (GaN) laser diode manufacturers in the world. These visible lasers are used in critical and emerging technologies including robotics, advanced materials manufacturing and defence technologies, as well as scientific and bio-medical applications.

GaN is the most important semiconductor material since silicon, due to its power and speed advantages combined with efficient light emission. GaN conducts electrons one thousand times more efficiently than silicon and is cheaper to manufacture.

With the help of the Research and Development Tax Incentive (R&DTI), BluGlass has developed an innovative, environmentally-friendly process to manufacture its GaN lasers. The company has scaled up this process for commercial production and its latest research is improving the performance of GaN lasers and expanding their applications.

How the R&D Tax Incentive has helped

BluGlass joined the R&DTI in 2009 and the program has been instrumental in enabling the company to undertake over a decade’s worth of complex research aimed at improving the manufacture of GaN diodes and ultimately, commercialising those improvements.

Now realised, these improvements include replacing toxic ammonia in the production process with an inert nitrogen plasma, and the development of specialised equipment to scale production of GaN lasers at the company’s Sydney facility.

BluGlass Chief Technology & Operations Officer Dr Ian Mann says the R&DTI has been critical to improving the energy and performance efficiency of both the company’s proprietary remote plasma chemical vapour deposition platform and its suite of commercial lasers.

Other advances have focused on driving performance, efficiency and reliability of its laser diodes for uses that range from nanoscale welding of microchips to DNA sequencing and quantum computing.

The flexibility of the R&DTI has proved to be a pivotal feature for BluGlass, enabling it to evolve from an IP licensing and semiconductor equipment company to a direct-to-market GaN laser supplier with commercial products in market.

"As the business has matured, we've still qualified for R&D incentives for our foundational research, rather than being excluded because the proposed end-use of our technology changed," Dr Mann explains.

He says the R&DTI has supported collaborations with industry, universities and other research providers. This has helped to expedite developments and augment the company’s own capabilities.

Support to build local capabilities

BluGlass has kept most of its R&D in-house to maintain its competitive advantages.

“We’ve invested in developing homegrown talent and retaining on-shore capabilities,” says Dr Mann.

As well as retaining talented staff, BluGlass has worked with local suppliers to build equipment and specialist facilities – effectively establishing an Australian semiconductor supply chain and ecosystem.

“This has provided benefits that extend beyond BluGlass, and has created broad capabilities in advanced manufacturing here in Australia," says Dr Mann.

He adds that the R&DTI has given investors confidence in the company with the Australian Government seen as a financial backer and partner in developing the breakthrough semiconductor technology.

Advanced manufacturing ecosystem

Stef Winwood, BluGlass’ Head of Corporate Communications and Investor Relations, says the R&DTI support has helped foster Australia's advanced manufacturing capabilities.

"Semiconductors have important strategic value for Australia. We certainly want to be part of Australia making more strides in advanced manufacturing capability. We have all seen, thanks to COVID, what supply chain vulnerability can look like."

BluGlass has established innovation hubs with its suppliers, which are critical to the company’s progress and provide advanced manufacturing skills to others in the sector.

Ms Winwood says GaN lasers are not just changing the way things are made but the very things that can be made.

We are a small Australian company with cutting-edge laser technology. With the support of the R&D Tax Incentive, we have developed world-leading competitive advantages, and we are well positioned to take international market share.
— Stef Winwood, BluGlass’ Head of Corporate Communications and Investor Relations

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