Although Benediktas Vanagas and Kuldar Sikk’s Dakar Rally team had to stop early due to a medical emergency, the racer managed to perform a unique experiment: the Neolit ultrashort pulse generator laser from Lithuanian laser innovator Litilit that was in the car with him made it through the journey and is now working perfectly. This is the first time in the history of Dakar that an ultra-precise, femtosecond industrial laser has been transported on the race track.
Vanagas placed the Litilit laser in the driver’s storage compartment attached to the car door during the prologue stage of the Dakar. The device was there until the fatal collision with a rock, which caused Vanagas to withdraw from the race after suffering a head injury.
“Of course, no one expects or anticipates accidents, so we are happy that we managed to avoid a major accident and that both crew members came back safe and sound. As recently revealed, the car was subjected to a force of 19.8 G’s in the collision – a really powerful impact. Even though we had not specially protected the laser, it survived the journey and the accident and is working as it should. So our experiment to assess the durability of the Neolit laser was a success – we found the laser to be extremely robust, reliable and resistant to external factors such as shock and impact,” says Nikolay Gavrilin, CEO of Litilit.
Vanagas, who “tested” the femtosecond laser on the track for the first time in the history of Dakar, pointed out that the rally is a challenge for both riders and machinery. Although they cannot fly at the speed of light, as the pulses emitted by the laser do, the maximum speed on the track is 180 km/h. At this speed, off-road, over dirt, rocks, sand, dunes, and covering more than 500 kilometres every day, shaking and jolting are a constant state of travel.
“I used to be convinced that lasers are sensitive and fragile devices that require special conditions to operate. So when Litilit asked me in the run-up to Dakar if I could find room in the car for a book-sized box with a laser, I thought they were joking. I was sure that the device would be out of order after the first stage. The fact that Lithuanian lasers are as durable as Knights was unexpected. It is not for nothing that Lithuanian laser developers are well-known and set the technological trends for the whole world,” says B. Vanagas.
Unlike other lasers of its type, the Neolit ultra-short pulse generator laser does not use semiconductor materials such as gallium or arsenic, which makes the device longer-lasting and more durable. The one-piece construction ensures high stability and protection against vibrations and temperature changes.
With this laser, Litilit is a finalist in the International Photonics Society’s (SPIE) competition, Prism Awards 2022. The ‘Oscars of Lasers’ award is presented annually to laser, photonics or optics companies for their most innovative products.
“Litilit“ is a Lithuanian start-up developing innovative femtosecond laser technology which has attracted a 3.5 million euros investment from Taiwanese venture capital fund “Taiwania capital“. This is the first investment from the 200 million USD package unveiled earlier this year, targeting Central and Eastern Europe.
“As the world leader in the semiconductor market, Taiwan has a significant presence in the laser industry. The lasers exported to Taiwan are mainly used in the semiconductor industry and related high-tech fields. This investment thus not only demonstrates their beliefs in “Litilits” lasers but also international recognition of the innovations we are developing. It opens up opportunities for us to accelerate our growth, expand our production capacity and establish new trade relationships“, – says Nikolajus Gavrilinas, CEO at Litilit.
“The Taiwan Investment Fund aims to strengthen cooperation between European countries by investing in innovative future technologies. “Litilit”, a Lithuanian company that has established business relations with Taiwan, develops unique lasers, which are in high demand worldwide. Working together, we can achieve more and grow faster. One of our priorities is to help “Litilit” enter and grow its business in the US market,” says David Weng, CEO of Taiwania Capital.
An important investment for the whole of Lithuania
A new 200 million USD Taiwanese investment fund focused on Central and Eastern Europe was announced in May this year. The fund will focus on joint ventures, investment projects and start-ups in high-tech areas such as semiconductors, lasers and biotechnology.
The Minister of Economy and Innovation, Aušrinė Armonaitė, emphasizes that Taiwan’s investment in Lithuania shows the global importance of new technologies developed in our country. “This investment is yet another confirmation that Lithuanian laser companies are promising players on the global market. As we enter a new phase of Lithuania’s economic development, we continue our ambitious goal to accelerate the growth of the Lithuanian laser, biotechnology and other innovative businesses,” says Armonaitė.
“Litilit’s” 3.5 million Eur investment from Asia opens even wider horizons for other start-ups in our country. “Litilit, created and successfully developed in Lithuania, is changing the global laser market today. The investment was drawn in a very difficult economic and geopolitical environment, which only confirms the enormous potential of the technological solution. It also underlines the relevance of the entire laser technology market and opens new cooperation opportunities for other start-ups in our country,” says Inga Langaitė, the head of “Unicorns Lithuania”, the association that unites the most promising Lithuanian start-ups.
“Since receiving our initial investment, “Litilit” has further improved its proprietary technology, built an automated laser assembly line and solidly expanded its customer base in Europe, South East Asia and the US. The Taiwanese investment will help “Litilit” to expand its business and become the world’s leading manufacturer of femtosecond lasers. “Litilit” will also be able to benefit from the Taiwanese partners’ expertise in improving manufacturing processes and their global network of potential customers,” says Žygimantas Susnys, Managing Partner of the venture capital fund “Iron Wolf Capital“.
Stepped into a niche that others avoided
Founded in 2015 by Nikolay Gavrilin and Kęstutis Regelskis, Litilit develops and produces ultra-short femtosecond optical pulse lasers with exceptional properties.
A patented solution developed by one of the co-founders together with the Center for Physical Sciences and Technology allows these lasers to be produced significantly more efficiently than was previously possible. The company was supported by the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology in taking the innovation developed by the researchers into business and in taking its first steps.
“Femtosecond lasers for a long time have been a niche product, with long and complex manufacturing times. Our technology has allowed us to automate the production process by making it faster and more efficient while improving the repeatability of optical parameters and product reliability. This is very important because these lasers need to be extremely precise – they are used in areas such as electronics manufacturing, medicine, manufacturing, microscopy and space research,” says Gavrilin.
For the future – growth
The first 1.6 million euros company attracted from “Iron Wolf Capital” in 2020, the same year it secured a further 2.5 million euros European Union subsidy for research and development.
“Litilit” continues to invest in increasing production efficiency and plans to launch a new semi-automated production line next year, which will enable the production of two femtosecond lasers per day.
Over the last two years, “Litilit” has grown from 4 to 25 employees and continues to expand it‘s team. Their products are exported to South Korea, Taiwan, USA, UK, Japan and other countries. The company is currently actively working with customers with a need for hundreds of femtosecond lasers over the next couple of years and an estimated value of tens of millions of euros. The automated laser production being developed by “Litilit” will enable this demand to be met with a team of around 70 people. By comparison, the current market leaders employ around 500 people to produce this volume of complex lasers.
Founded in 2017, “Taiwania Capital” is a venture capital fund that manages 4 funds with a total portfolio of 465 million USD. “Taiwania Capital” has invested in more than half a dozen companies around the world in areas such as semiconductors, laser optics, biotechnology, aerospace, financial technology, electric vehicles, smart manufacturing, software development and smart city solutions. “Taiwania Capital” has offices in Taiwan, the US and Lithuania, and plans to establish offices in Central and Eastern Europe.