Lamina Ceramics, Sarnoff Spinoff

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This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the October 10, 2001

edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Sarnoff’s Land Sale & Spin-Off

At a time when most people do not even want to think

about building a new office building, let alone a whole new office

park, the Sarnoff Corporation has found a way to possibly kickstart

the proposed expansion of its 350-acre corporate campus on Route 1

in West Windsor Township.

The plan: Sell the 90 prime acres at the front of the property to

its across-the-highway neighbor, Princeton University. Sarnoff would

give up its plan to construct a conference center hotel on that

portion of its land, and use the money to capitalize its other plans

for the remainder of its corporate campus. Princeton would take title

to the 90 acres with no immediate plans for its development but

knowing that it now has options on both sides of Route 1 if — or

when — its campus reaches that point. As of now the campus has not

yet crossed Carnegie Lake.

The deal is described in the conditional tense because it is

contingent on Sarnoff working out a deal with West Windsor Township.

The municipality

recently proposed changes that would reduce the Sarnoff’s development

potential from .30 to .21 percent of land area (the floor area ratio

or FAR). Sarnoff’s has reduced the density in its plan from .24 to .21

percent FAR.

"As we listened to the concerns of the citizens of the community

and held ongoing discussions with township officials, says Sarnoff

CEO Jim Carnes, "it was clear that less development phased farther

out in time was important."

The price of the land has not yet been announced, but the package

would include Sarnoff’s entire front lawn plus the front part of the

property along the Millstone River. In the event that Sarnoff decided

to sell more land, the proposed deal would also give the University

first rights to purchase additional acres.

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Lamina Ceramics, Sarnoff Spinoff

Meanwhile, the latest company to get hatched under the

wing of Sarnoff Corporation is Lamina Ceramics, developers of high

performance ceramic packages for use in optical and wireless


Like most hatchlings at Fisher Place and Washington Road, it draws

nutrients from discoveries that Sarnoff made a good while ago, and

it is bridging the gap from military to civilian applications. Also

like many other young Sarnoff companies, it must move soon to less

expensive quarters outside of Princeton.

Formed in April, Lamina Ceramics has landed $12 million in venture

capital financing from Morgenthaler Venture Partners through Greg

E. Blonder, a former Bell Labs inventor who is also the VC contact

for Princeton Lightwave, a Sarnoff spinoff that moved to Route 130.

Bob Pavet is also a Morgenthaler partner who is on the Lamina board.

"We are looking for space and believe we have identified several

possible locations in the Burlington area," says Taylor Adair,

president and CEO.

A friend referred Adair to the search firm that was trying to fill

the CEO position. Adair, 43, grew up in Richmond, Virginia, where

his father was in sales. He has an undergraduate degree from Villanova

and an MBA from Wharton’s executive program, then worked for Flam

& Russell Inc., a microwave engineering company in Horsham,


and Leeds and Northrup, in North Wales, Pennsylvania. In eight years

at EMC Technology Inc., a Cherry Hill-based manufacturer of radio

frequency (RF) and microwave radio components made from ceramic


he led the company through two sales, most recently to Smith


He and his wife have two children and live in Moorestown.

Among the other five employees here are three from Sarnoff (two


and an engineer), a vice president of engineering, a process


engineer, and a controller.

Lamina designs and manufactures products for high frequency electronic

applications. It makes packages for indium phosphide and gallium


chips; it will also make ceramic boards.

"The name of the technology we are commercializing is low


co-fired ceramic on metal," says Adair. Competitors have low


co-fired ceramic (LTCC), but not on metal (LTCC-M). "The advantage

to metal," says Adair, "is that it constrains the shrinkage

of the ceramic when it is fired, provides a thermal heat sink, and

increases the flexural strength of the ceramic." Such strength

helps to eliminate breakage when manufacturing large packages or


LTCC-M also allows chips to be in an airtight environment —


because some of the materials are more frail than silicon and could

degrade if exposed to oxygen.

Potential clients are military organizations and major aerospace


makers of microwave transmit and receive modules; makers of fiberoptic

components; and any manufacturer that needs a highspeed backplane

(a circuit board that links other circuit boards).

Sarnoff has had this type of electronic chip packaging technology

under development for nearly the past decade. "It is very well

developed in a lab environment, and we need to scale it up to


production," says Adair. "Nobody that we are aware of has

commercialized this technology."

— Barbara Fox

Lamina Ceramics, 201 Washington Road, c/o Sarnoff

Corporation, Princeton 08540. Taylor Adair, president and CEO.

609-720-4949; fax, 609-720-4927. Home page:

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