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Singapore: Photonics industry expected to grow

Singapore“s photonics sector could grow “at least three to four times” to a billion-dollar industry in the next four to five years, the Economic Development Board (EDB) said at the end of April. Prod…

Singapore“s photonics sector could grow “at least three to four times” to a billion-dollar industry in the next four to five years, the Economic Development Board (EDB) said at the end of April. Production output from this manufacturing cluster, which involves the light technology used in optic-fibre networks and sensors, currently amounts to “a few hundred million (Singapore) dollars.” But “I won“t be surprised if output could reach S$ 1 billion in four to five years“ time,” said Gerald Goh, EDB“s deputy director of electronics and precision engineering. Chip equipment makers Agilent Technologies Inc. and Hoya Corp. already have started development work in Singapore, while 3Com is expected to begin work in the third quarter, Goh said. “Should these (projects) materialize, output should be significant,” he said. Goh was speaking at a press conference for an EDB partnership with 3M Co. of the US to open an optical components manufacturing, and research and development facility in Singapore. The centre, costing over S$ 10 million, is expected to commence operation in the third quarter, EDB and 3M officials said. The EDB will contribute about S$ 5 million, mainly in the form of technical assistance subsidies and company reimbursements, Goh said. 3M, best known for making Post-it notes and Scotch cellophane tapes, will house the new center in its existing plant in Woodlands in the north of Singapore. Currently, the plant produces 3M“s Microflex circuits used in inkjet cartridges and hard disk drives. The US company will set up a research and development unit in the Woodlands plant. It will also transfer its entire optical components manufacturing capabilities from its headquarters in Austin, Texas, over the next 12 to 14 months, said Charlie Boyer, technical director of 3M Asia Pacific Ltd. Following the transfer, Singapore will manufacture all 3M optical components products, such as Fiber Bragg Gratings, more commonly known as FBGs, he said. The entire Singapore-based optical components facility is expected to create over 200 jobs over the next two to three years, Boyer said. 3M currently has over 1,000 employees in its Microflex manufacturing operations, 75 in research and development, and 30 in its sales office in Singapore. The company expects the Singapore center to support Asia“s fast-growing optical networking industry, particularly with strong, rising demand projected to come from the region“s telecommunication companies. 3M is a diversified conglomerate with interests in sectors including electronics, healthcare, transportation and telecommunication.

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