Glass-ceramics company, with eyes on space, raises $12 million

Space

WASHINGTON — 3D Glass Solutions, a company developing radiofrequency devices using glass-ceramics, has raised $12 million from investors in the United States and Japan. 

Japanese conglomerate Nagase & Company led the round, with participation from Lockheed Martin’s investor arm Lockheed Martin Ventures, Sun Mountain Capital and Murata Manufacturing Co. 

Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 3DGS builds radiofrequency devices for markets ranging from 5G cellular networks to automotive radar for self-driving vehicles. Demand from the space industry is leading the company to expand, however, according to Mark Popovich, 3DGS president and chief executive. 

“The closure of this round is really allowing us to accelerate the ability to move into higher levels of production for these tip of the spear type of customers, and those are the space-related defense contractors,” Popovich said in an interview. “That’s the fastest pull for the company.”

Jeb Flemming, 3DGS’s chief technology officer, said the company’s components can be used in various satellite parts, such as onboard fiber-optics, antennas and inter-satellite links. The increasing use of Ka-band — a popular spectrum for satellite operators who want to provide internet from space — and higher frequencies is driving demand, he said. 

Glass-ceramics are stronger than regular glass, and can be used in a wide range of applications. Flemming said 3DGS uses a unique chemical process to manufacture 3D glass-ceramic hardware for space that is smaller and lighter than traditional components. 

The first satellite to carry 3DGS technology is scheduled to launch in the coming months, Flemming said. He declined to name the satellite. 

3DGS has done a “substantial” amount of testing to prepare its glass-ceramic components for space, he said, including thermal, shock and vibration tests. 

3DGS is preparing for an “imminent” move to a 200,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Albuquerque that is more than three times the size of its current location, Popovich said. He expects the company to double in size from about 25 people today to around 50 this time next year. 

Popovich estimated that space components will comprise about 20 percent of 3DGS’s manufacturing volume, but will generate 30 to 40 percent of the company’s revenue. 

Lockheed Martin Ventures’ interest in 3DGS stemmed from its potential applications for space products, underwritten by demand from the diversity of other fields for which its glass-ceramic components are applicable, Popovich said. 

In a statement, Chris Moran, Lockheed Martin vice president for corporate development and general manager of Lockheed Martin Ventures, said the defense giant sees potential for 3DGS’s products. 

“We look forward to our relationship with 3DGS and gaining access to its advanced component design capability for high-frequency and heterogeneous electronics applications that could be applied to help address the size, weight and power demands across Lockheed Martin’s platforms,” he said.

Popovich said 3DGS’s Japanese investors can help the company gain market share in Japan as well. 

3DGS has raised $19 million in total. Flemming founded the company in 2007 after leaving Sandia National Laboratories, where he worked on satellite optical systems, he said.

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