As part of an overarching plan to integrate its different optical technologies and research and development, IDEX Health & Science LLC has opened its new Optics Center of Excellence in Henrietta.
The $14 million John Street facility, which broke ground last October, now houses the company’s local Melles Griot operations, as well as its Melles Griot laser operations formerly housed at a facility in Carlsbad, Calif. IDEX HS’ Semrock facility will begin moving from its Gates location to Henrietta in October.
“It was a bit of a process looking at different sites and selecting sites,” IDEX HS Group President Gus Salem said. “And the short list of why we ultimately went with Rochester is we started with the fact that we had a large base of employees already in the area, so that was certainly an element of the decision-making process.”
Additionally, he said, the City of Rochester has an “amazing” history in optics.
“Between University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology and Monroe Community College, there’s just such great training ground for new optical engineers and optical technicians in the area, so access to skilled workforce was a major factor in the decision,” Salem said.
Headquartered in Illinois, IDEX HS’ parent company, IDEX Corp., has some 7,000 employees and annual sales of $2 billion. The Health & Science division posts $400 million in sales annually.
IDEX is made up of 40 diverse and decentralized businesses in 20 countries who serve a variety of industries, with Rochester serving as a hub for optics.
“In the simplest of terms, we manufacture a number of different optical components,” Salem said of the firm’s Health & Science unit.
IDEX HS specializes in high-precision microscope objectives that are used in semiconductor wafer inspection, one of the most challenging microscopy applications in the world, Salem explained. IDEX also makes those objectives for life science applications.
The company manufactures optical filters that are used to identify specific wavelengths of light, as well as general glass optics that are used in different optical systems for either bending or refracting light. Finally, the IDEX Optics Center will manufacture optical lasers used for illumination in life science applications.
Within the IDEX HS space, said Michael Ransford, vice president of life science optics operations, the company also is involved in fluidics, used primarily in the life science field for DNA sequencing. The company designs, develops and manufactures liquid subassemblies and precision components for a range of applications that require precise control and measurement.
Most recently, IDEX HS acquired Finger Lakes Instrumentation, a Livingston County company that designs, develops and produces low-noise cooled CCD and high-speed, high-sensitivity cooled scientific CMOS cameras for the astronomy and life science markets. That division is expected to remain in Lima for at least a year before eventually moving to the new Optics Center of Excellence, Ransford said.
“There’s a quiet period,” Ransford explained. “They’re going to be helping us on some of our biggest projects right now, so it won’t be completely hands off. We’ll be sort of teaching them how to be a public company, which is a big change for anybody.”
And IDEX also will be teaching the FLI staffers about its company values and strategy, “so they’re comfortable working under the new parent umbrella,” Ransford said.
The new center, a 100,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, was built by Russell P. LeFrois Builder Inc. and is being leased to IDEX. In August 2017, IDEX announced plans to move to a new facility in order to deliver on its commitment to customers to become a best-in-class supplier of optical systems.
The new manufacturing and research and development facility features a class 100 clean room, as well as other clean rooms in the center of the building. Coatings, laser, filter, optics, systems and manufacturing engineers fill the front portion of the building, which also features a large cafeteria/breakroom, outdoor picnic area and IDEX’s signature hexagons and prominent blue walls.
“The primary driver for bringing these things together right now is really a focus around the growth we’ve been able to experience in these life science markets,” Salem said. “The continued investment around a new generation of life science instrumentation has created a real need for us to expand our capability in the life science applications.”
IDEX HS is hitting that message pretty hard, Salem said, because so much of the funding that is coming into these markets right now is driven by investments in creating new and important diagnostics and health related tools.
“And that’s really a large part of the rationalization of making this investment,” he said. “We’ve seen very dramatic growth over the last three years.”
In exchange for the retention and creation of 220 or more jobs, IDEX received roughly $2.4 million through the Empire State Development Excelsior Jobs Program. Ransford said IDEX will surpass that requirement soon, thanks to growth in the industry and a built-in feeder system in local high schools, colleges and universities.
“We looked (elsewhere). Should we do all this in California or should we do all this in New York?” Ransford recalled of the decision to locate here. “And I think one of the big factors for choosing Rochester in particular, not just New York, was the systems that we have here, the focus in the region on the optics programs.”
And optics and fluidics in the region will continue to grow as technology advances, Ransford said, particularly where health care is concerned. He compares that technological advancement to the changes that occurred in communications during the 20th century.
“Think of what a telephone was like in 1900, and think of the iPhone you had in 1999,” Ransford said. “If you think of what health care was like in 2000 and what health care is going to be like in 2050, it’s going to be about the same difference between the rotary phone to your iPhone, which is a computer more powerful than what they used to fly people to the moon in the ’60s.
“In health care you’re going to see that same evolution in a much shorter time,” he added. “And we’re part of that and it’s really exciting to me.”
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