September 26, 2011
By: Tom Tobin, Staff Writer
Source: Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
The former Infotonics Center in Canandaigua has taken another step in its rapid growth as a high-tech manufacturer, adding the tooling capacity to better produce such things as ultra-sensitive sensors.
With the change, officials said the center, now called the Smart System Technology & Commercialization Center of Excellence, or STC, improves its competitive stance in the race to develop and produce the kind of extremely tiny, or nano-sized, mechanical devices that are now state-of-the-art in the security and energy fields.
Among other uses, these microscopic electro-mechanical devices enable soldiers in the field to detect minute movement, engineers to monitor infrastructure closely and doctors to treat patients less invasively.
The new $1 million tool, which is being installed in one of the clean rooms at the center on Route 332 in Canandaigua, has the capacity to build 200-millimeter or 8-inch wafers, center executive director Paul Tolley said. Large-wafer production lines are appealing to customers because more devices and functions can be fitted on each, thus reducing cost and increasing efficiency.
"This is part of our growth plan," Tolley said. "This enables us to commercialize these products more effectively."
He said that the production upgrade is a direct result of the STC's merger last year with the College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering, which is part of the University at Albany.
At the time that deal was announced, Tolley and CNSE head Alain Kaloyeros said that the Canandaigua facility had the infrastructure and the skill to bring to manufacturing fruition many of the projects developed at the Albany center by affiliated companies, including IBM, Sematech, Toshiba and Samsung.
Kaloyeros said last week that his intent is to make the Rochester and Canandaigua area the "center of the universe in high-tech sensors."
"We have now about 3,500 jobs at the CNSE center in Albany, and I very definitely see that same thing happening in Canandaigua," Kaloyeros said.
He and Tolley have predicted that having a manufacturing entity attached to a high-level university research and development center will bring in private and government customers.
Tolley said there are many practical uses for sensors of this kind. "If the engineers for that bridge over the Ohio River had a sensor of this kind, they might have been able to detect tiny cracks long before this."
The Sherman Minton highway span, a major link between Indiana and Kentucky, was closed recently after a large crack was found.
Tolley said such devices will be important in the advancement of "green" energy.
Sensors and signals can help reduce company costs by turning off or dimming lights and activating other energy-saving elements.
Tolley said the potential uses in the military, where roadside bombs are a daily threat, are far-reaching. "The Department of Defense is an important customer, and having a capacity at a center like this keeps the government from going overseas to find a contractor," Tolley said.
The former Infotonics Center was one of five Centers of Excellence created by former Gov. George Pataki and the state Legislature in 2001.
It was envisioned as a public-private venture utilizing the regional university system and such corporate leaders as Eastman Kodak Co., Xerox Corp. and Corning Inc.. But the partnership never took off.
The center has blossomed since the merger with the Albany Nanotech center. Carestream Health has a partnership with the STC Center, and Mosher Baer Technologies Inc. has a multimillion-dollar contract to build LED lighting panels at the center.
"More is coming," Tolley said.
"There is room here to expand, and indeed that was the idea when this site was chosen."