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OIDA Member Profile - Multiphoton Optics

Samantha Hornback, Research & Program Development Coordinator, The Optical Society

Multiphoton Optics OIDA Profile

OSA Industry Development Associates (OIDA) member Multiphoton Optics, Germany, is a leading developer of green technology in the 3D lithography space. To learn more about Multiphoton and what it’s up to now, OSA spoke with co-founder and President Ruth Houbertz.

What market does Multiphoton Optics serve?

The major focus and the view of the company is optics and photonics. We look into data transfer, mobile, automotive, medical, computing, illumination, imaging—basically all markets in which the shaping or guiding of light plays a major role. We use light as a tool, and we create functional structures from very sophisticated materials. We use our expertise in the way we deposit the energy into the material and how to orchestrate the beam while producing the optically functional structures.

Caption: Ruth Houbertz showing Jonas Wiedenmann an opto-PCB with optical waveguides for in-board transmitter-receiver coupling

Credit: Multiphoton Optics

Multiphoton is particularly small company—18 people right now. We have very skilled people who truly understand how to operate the equipment and create the customized software. The strength of Multiphoton Optics across all these markets is in understanding the customer, the industry, and the requirements of the devices or the components our customer would like to create. It is a matter of breaking it down to the functional elements.

Where do you expect Multiphoton to be in 10 years?

It would be beneficial for us to partner with a big company, and this is something we are currently pursuing. I think we will be part of a bigger “something” that will really know how to make use of our expertise and merge that with complimentary expertise.

My view of what we will be is, most likely, a first-rate element in a development and pre-production company where people can evaluate the designs and tap the strength of the processing we have in place, as well as our know-how. We know what we can do best, we know our strengths and weaknesses, and we see both the opportunities and the threats. That means we know that we can bring value and contribute to a larger group. We also support our customers up to the production level which – in my opinion – could be complemented by a bigger partner in the optics and photonics space.

This is my current prediction, but obviously my view and the situation could change.

You emphasize corporate and social responsibility on your website. What does that mean to you, and how have these values influenced the company?

For me, it’s very important that there is a respectful treatment of each person in the company and that each person is aware of the company’s values. These values include trust, respect, and reliability. We emphasize the importance of families and a balance between work and life. We also are concerned for the environment, and our efforts were recognized with the SPIE Green Photonics Award in 2013 at my time at Fraunhofer, in the preparation phase of the company.

As a company, I feel we have the responsibility to demonstrate this, to make a difference and to be a role model. It sometimes looks a little bit like a fractal—you’re a role model to the role model to the role model on different levels. The company has to be an example for other companies, although we are small. If we are able to reach one or two or ten or twenty people, then we already made a difference because these people can act as nuclei for the next level, just like in a nucleation and growth model in surface physics.

Your homepage lists the statement, “Imagination is the only limitation. Be Smart. Be Multiphoton.” What does it mean to “Be Multiphoton?”

It means we do not recognize limitations. We try to put every person into the position that allows them to create value. By either creating new ideas or adapting ideas and combining them with our expertise, we are actually able to create these next-generation products and keep all our promises in being rapid, precise, and scalable.

For example, we create value by using different designs for a certain feature in a component, improve testing, use materials to add function and reduce the number of interfaces. Our approach is a complete, green process approach. We reduce the processes used, which leads to the reduction of resources, solvents, materials, process steps, time, manpower and so on. This not only makes the process smart and cheaper, but it also helps the environment.

Tell me a bit about your personal career path. How did you get to this point?

It’s a very simple career. I got my diploma in physics in ‘89 and my Ph.D. in physical chemistry in ’93. After some time back at the university, I went to Sandia National Labs in Livermore, CA, USA. I really enjoyed living in Livermore—it is my second home. From there I came back to Germany, and I started at Fraunhofer.

I developed the idea of the company from 2006 to 2011, but the original idea of creating green data transfer systems started in late 2000. There was a “click” moment in my head when I saw the first light coming out of an Intel chip presented at Photonics West. I thought, “Man, this is something you really cannot connect to a fiber, but we can.” By 2012, I started to reduce my time at Fraunhofer to focus on developing the company (officially founded in 2013). In 2014 I was done at Fraunhofer, and I started to raise seed funding, having enough to start in November. That’s my career, it’s simple, and it’s brought me to the point that I am sitting here talking to you.

What advice would you give others looking to start a company?

If I were to start the company again, I would start in a garage in Silicon Valley which would provide more “360 degree” space. At Multiphoton, I thus have combined ideas from the United States, Germany, and many other places, and that is important to having success.

Again, I think the statement on the homepage is key. When you cannot imagine certain things or outcomes, you limit yourself. My approach is: Just try it—so what if it doesn’t work? That will bring you to the next level. Finally, get rid of bad things quickly because they compromise your view and all the things you are doing.

Multiphoton is an OIDA member. In your opinion, what is the value of that membership?

I clearly see the importance of being part of networks like OIDA as they are a good way of really creating value through partnership, customers and even relationships with competitors or competing technologies. Events and meetings are another important part of the OIDA membership. I really enjoyed the OSA Innovation School in July, and I found it very interesting how OSA managed that.

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