Features, Manufacturer Focus

From technology to products

BluGlass Limited, a Silverwater-based semiconductor manufacturer, recognised potential for growth since its humble beginnings at Macquarie University. Before its official inception, the company pioneered experimental technology, but are now producing its own products using the same revolutionary tech. 

BluGlass Limited is an Australian technology company specialising in the development of novel semiconductor materials and devices for the semiconductor industry.

The company specialises in a unique form of semiconductors called compound semiconductors.

BluGlass’ pioneering technology, known as remote plasma chemical vapor deposition (RPCVD), provides numerous advantages to its customers.

This technology enables the production of high-quality semiconductor materials, such as gallium nitride (GaN) and indium gallium nitride (InGaN), with significant advantages over traditional deposition methods.

“Most people are very familiar with silicon, the standard semiconductor that companies like Intel and AMD use in computer chips,” said Ian Mann, chief operations, and technology officer at BluGlass.

“Whereas silicon is a single element semiconductor, compound semiconductors are made by combining two or more elements, and have several advantages over silicon chips, providing greater power, speed, stability, and light.

“The type of semiconductor BluGlass is manufacturing is called gallium nitride or GaN for short; in particular we’re focused on making GaN lasers.”


BluGlass Limited was founded in 2006 as a spin-off from the III-V semiconductor research group at Macquarie University in Sydney.

The company was established to commercialise ground-breaking research in the field of semiconductor materials, particularly focusing on the development of innovative deposition technology, RPCVD, a manufacturing reactor that grows semiconductor materials at atomic scale on specialised wafers.

This technology was designed for the manufacture of semiconductor materials, particularly gallium nitride (GaN), which is commonly used in light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and other electronic devices.

By 2007, its new state-of-the-art semiconductor deposition and demonstration facility located in Silverwater was officially inaugurated.

Shortly after Mann joined BluGlass in 2010, the company underwent a significant pivot from focusing on equipment manufacturing to optimising its proprietary RPCVD technology.

By leveraging its innovative technology, BluGlass transformed into a technology-driven company.

By 2015, the company had conducted validation studies and demonstrations to showcase the effectiveness of its RPCVD technology for GaN deposition.

BluGlass also expanded its intellectual property portfolio during this period, securing patents related to RPCVD technology and semiconductor device manufacturing processes.

“We started out as a technology company, focused on selling our equipment and licensing our unique IP as our go-to-market approach for the first half of my tenure at BluGlass,” Mann said.

“As we continued to build our technology capability, both at the equipment and device level, demonstrating LEDs, lasers, microLEDs and power and electronics; while helping customers solve complex challenges, we realised that we had a unique competitive advantage with our equipment and foundry services business.”

“We realised we could capture greater market share and create more shareholder and economic value by pivoting our model and using these capabilities to our advantage, to make devices and provide them direct to customers.”

Manufacturing capability

Since 2019, BluGlass’ primary manufacturing focus has been developing and commercialising their visible laser portfolio.

In 2022, the Company acquired a full-suite laser fabrication facility in Silicon Valley to bring its downstream manufacturing supply chain in-house. BluGlass’ semiconductor manufacturing involves multiple-steps to turn the GaN wafers into laser devices ready for customer integration, which relies on facilities located in New South Wales, California, and New Hampshire.

As Mann explained, BluGlass “grows” its semiconductor materials using large and complex machines located in the company’s Silverwater facility in Western Sydney.

“These deposition systems physically grow the semiconductor materials in precise atomic structures to create the building blocks for the electronic circuits on the wafers,” he said.

“We specialise in designing specific material stacks or layers crucial for producing high-quality lasers.”

Once the materials have been produced, the wafers are then sent to its facilities in California for the microfabrication process.

“We prepare and polish the wafers, add metal contacts at the chip level for electrical connections, and cut the wafers into individual chips or bars (multiple chips) to transform those materials into lasers.”

When the lasers have been manufactured, they are then sent to New Hampshire to be packaged and reliability tested.

“Now, packaging is not putting it in a box. High-power diode lasers require sophisticated packaging designs to protect the device in its operating environment, while managing the heat dissipated during use through specialist sealed containments and thermal heatsinks, while also preparing the device for customer integration,” said Mann.

The Company is now one of only a handful of manufacturers globally with this full-suite capability to manufacture this critical enabling technology, underpinning global megatrends.

The industry

BluGlass has established two crucial customer relationships. One notable partnership is with Applied Energetics, a company specialising in ultrashort pulse laser systems.

“They supply advanced laser systems for defence, aviation, and national security applications and are a key commercial partner,” said Mann.

Additionally, BluGlass is engaged in a collaboration and customer relationship within the US$2B US Microelectronics Commons initiative, stemming from the CHIPS Act in the US.

The initiative, supported by the US Department of Defence (DoD), focuses on advancing technology areas, with BluGlass specifically being supported by the “lab-to-fab” pathway.

Lab-to-fab aims to facilitate a pathway from laboratory development to commercial manufacturing for semiconductor projects, helping manufacturers overcome the challenges typically encountered during this transition phase.

“Because we have a US presence, we were eligible for the commercial lab-to-fab pathway,” said Mann.

“It’s a multi-year programme, of which we’ve secured the first-year contract. As an approved commercial manufacturing partner in the Microelectronics Commons, in addition to the core program, we are working on DoD’s call for projects now. That is aimed at advancing next generation semiconductors for quantum intelligence and computing, and artificial intelligence.”

“That’s a major undertaking. Both the core development, and if we are successful in securing additional projects, this work will both accelerate and fund our roadmap and, more importantly, embed us into an ecosystem of potential customers and partners.”

Image: BluGlass

The workforce

BluGlass’ workforce is currently divided between the US and Australia; with the majority now employed in the US.

As the company has grown, BluGlass has consistently expanded its US workforce.

“Our industry leading team in Australia is well established. Since the fab acquisition, we have been adding highly skilled expert staff in the US. We are very fortunate with the depth of talent now available to us in Silicon Valley, which simply does not exist domestically right now,” said Mann.

“Because of the existing capability in Australia, and now the US, we have sufficient capacity installed to fulfill the next several years of our roadmap with the right staff, and equipment.”

“We figured out a good way to collaborate with our overseas colleagues in New Hampshire and California, which is enabling us to embrace the best of all worlds.”

Hiring top talent has been challenging in both the US and Australia.

Due to the highly competitive market in the US, BluGlass is compelled to face industry giants who are hiring specialised workers at an extreme rate.

“There are a lot of people who’ve got good experience in the US and have worked at other companies. But they’re also in demand,” Mann said.

“With the prolific nature of companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook when it comes to hiring there’s a lot of competition out there for specialty skills.”

“The nice thing there is that those potential employees don’t need a lot of training, they most likely already have relevant experience, and they can hit the ground running.”

In Australia, the challenge is semiconductor hardware engineers are hard to find.

“We’re using a lot of sophisticated equipment for semiconductor manufacturing requiring strong skills in engineering,  process scientists, material scientists, and physicists,” said Mann.

“But sometimes to get people who know the ins and outs of this high-tech vacuum equipment, they often need to be sourced from overseas, as there doesn’t tend to be a lot of that existing hardware engineering talent within Australia.”

“We’ve had success hiring out of the automotive industry here, and upskilling in our equipment, but it then takes time to perfect the skills,” Mann explained.

To ensure that its workforce remains strong, BluGlass has instilled a strong culture of loyalty within the company.

“The unique aspect of our hiring process in Australia is that we really build in strong loyalty, which is demonstrated by low staff-turn over,” said Mann.

BluGlass is also actively involved with multiple leading universities, offering internships, and collaborating on grants.

“That’s been a very successful approach for us from a number of schools,” said Mann.

“Given that we’ve been around for a while, we know a lot of the universities, and we’ve often offered industry linkage grants, or had activity with them.”

“It’s a great way to meet some of the top upcoming talent and you get them involved either through an internship or through a collaboration, to create more skills and hands-on know-how, right here onshore.”

BluGlass is aiming to help the growth of semiconductor industry in Australia, which could entice skilled workers from overseas.

“We would love to see the semiconductor industry here in Australia grow not just for the benefit of BluGlass, but for the whole industry,” said Mann.

Image: BluGlass

Visions for the future

BluGlass’ existing and next-gen laser products heavily focus on ultraviolet (UV) laser technology.

BluGlass recognises the potential for UV in diverse applications such as sterilisation, water purification, and quantum technologies.

“These are very short wavelengths, they can be used in a lot of exciting applications, such as quantum sensing applications for aviation and defence, quantum computing including for AI or utilised in advanced sterilisation and bio-medical applications,” Mann said.

Despite the challenges in manufacturing UV lasers, BluGlass also aims to extend its existing capabilities within visible wavelengths, ranging from violet to blue, through to green.

They intend to establish itself as flexible partners for innovative projects, willing to tackle difficult technological advancements.

“Things like water purification, that’s a rich area for innovation, but making UV lasers is very challenging,” said Mann.

“Once we’ve established our footprint in visible lasers, we will then start extending our development into these other wavelength areas.”

While this strategy may require more time and innovation, BluGlass is confident in its ability to explore new products and applications with its experienced and innovative team.

“That’s our vision and we do think that we can maintain this reputation of being highly innovative, and quite flexible as a custom partner and help the industry develop the next generation of critical technologies. We see that as very much part of our DNA,” said Mann.

“We’re willing to do some of the harder technology development, at the same time, extracting a higher profit margin for that.”

“Additionally, our lasers will potentially be designed-in next-generation technologies that supersede existing markets, while opening new ones.”

Mann believes that BluGlass’ commercialisation phase is coming to fruition after collaborating with DoD and with other industry giants including General Electric, Coherent and Wolfspeed as part of its Hub in the Microelectronics Commons

“This has helped validate our credibility,” Mann said.

The focus for BluGlass now shifts to growing revenues, securing additional defence and major industry players who recognises the value in its technology and capabilities.

Image: BluGlass
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