A Level of Precision Above Others

By Ben Hoger, Michigan Works! Southwest

To most people, laser assisted machining, or LAM, sounds extremely complicated; add an ultra-precision lathe to that, and it sounds like something from a science-fiction movie. However, it is all very real, and is happening right here in Southwest Michigan at a company called Micro-LAM. Micro-LAM participates in the ultra-precision optics market by not only supporting the manufacturing of ultra precision optics, but by manufacturing capital equipment as well.

Micro-LAM was founded in 2012 by Dr. Deepak Ravindra Menon, who earned his Ph.D. from Western Michigan University, as a producer of laser assisted machining equipment for the diamond turning industry. The company has since started a diamond tooling company near London, England, as well as acquired an optics manufacturer in Keene, NH. According to Chief Financial Officer, Ben Olds, a benefit of the acquisitions was the ability to start applying their technology to the manufacturing of ultra-precision optics, which is not being done by any other company in Southwest Michigan. Micro-LAM also offers training at the Portage facility so customers can learn to properly use the equipment they purchase. The company also sends a technician to the customer’s facility to ensure the equipment is properly installed.

The optics products Micro-LAM produces are used for a variety of purposes in the aviation, space, defense, and general commercial optics industries. ”We work with our customers, bringing our expertise and proprietary methods to help design and manufacture optics that meet or exceed their quality expectations” Olds said. The optics products manufactured by Micro-LAM might be used for systems related to infrared detection, low light (night vision), and laser reflection systems according to Olds.

As overwhelming as Micro-LAM’s production might sound, many individuals already have the skills needed to run the company’s machines. “Someone who’s a very good machinist or who has operated a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine likely has the skills and could be trained to do diamond turning,” Olds said. “We’ve tried to develop processes for setting up the equipment, so the operator doesn’t have to be a physicist to run the machine.”

In 2019, Micro-LAM was recognized by the Michigan Celebrates Small Business (MCSB) Council as one of the top 50 companies in Michigan to watch for innovation and growth. The award is given for entrepreneurship, community engagement, innovation, and growth. According to the company website, Micro-LAM was one of only nine manufacturing companies awarded in 2019. Michigan Works! Southwest is excited to partner with Micro-LAM as they continue to grow and innovate in Portage, Michigan.