Integrated Micromachines Inc. Year Founded:

1995

Core Business:

Fiber-optic switches

Revenues in 1999:

$400,000

Revenues in 2000:

$50,000

Revenues in 2001:

$1.3 million (projected)

Employees in 1999:

12

Employees in 2000:

140

Employees in 2001:

185

Goal:

To be the leader in large port-count, all-optical switches

Driving Force:

The need to speed up the bottleneck caused by the existing generation of electronic fiber-optic switches in data transmission

Denny Miu's company is positioning itself to be a leader in fiber optics by using tiny mirrors to move data efficiently

When the first fiber-optical switch rolled off the assembly line last week at Integrated Micromachines Inc., it was more than the traditional milestone marked by a new product introduction.

It was also the most compelling evidence yet of how far this Monrovia company has come in reinventing itself since it shut down its automotive pressure gauge manufacturing operations last year and switched focus to fiber optics.

Though the two products may not appear to have much in common, in fact they are based on the same core technology developed by company founder Denny Miu, a former mechanical engineering professor at UCLA.

That technology is an advancement in the field of microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, which involves etching structures a few millimeters in size (or smaller) onto silicon chips that operate as tiny machines.

"When people tell you it can't be done, you don't know the exhilaration you feel when you do it," said Miu, 44, who started the company six years ago in a basement office at Caltech, along with a handful of associates.

The company has indeed come a long way since its 1995 founding, when Miu drew down on his savings to finance his search for an application for the technology he had developed during a joint three-year appointment at the Pasadena tech powerhouse.

Today, Integrated Micromachines employs 185 people, was the beneficiary last year of $45 million in venture capital funding (including $25 million from Cisco Systems) and is hard at work hoping to jump to the forefront in the emerging field of optical cross connects.

(Miu retains a 5 percent equity stake in the company.) Integrated Micromachines boasts that its technology which uses tiny mirrors to reroute information traveling along fiber-optic cables is superior because its electromagnetically activated mirrors lose only half as much light as competitors' products lose in the switching process.

But it's been a bumpy road getting there.

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