Shares of Newport Corp. continued to slide Thursday, a day after the Irvine laser maker cut its sales forecast for 2012.

Investors sent shares down more than 15% in midday New York trading to a market value of about $551 million, seizing on the company’s slashed sales outlook this year.

Newport said in its first quarter earnings release on Wednesday that sales are projected to hit $650 million to $665 million for the year, down about $20 million from its previous guidance.

Chief Executive Robert Phillippy and Chief Financial Officer Chuck Cargile in a conference call following the earnings report said the sales outlook was lowered due to unexpectedly weak orders from the research sector in the first quarter.

Newport makes lasers and related controls for telecommunications, chipmakers, researchers, medical companies and manufacturers.

Newport missed Wall Street expectations on revenue and beat estimates on adjusted profits for the quarter.

Newport reported sales of $157.2 million, up 22% from a year earlier.

Analysts on average had forecast sales of $160 million.

The company’s increased sales in the March quarter were buoyed by its July acquisition of Austria-based High Q Technologies GmbH—a family-owned maker of “ultrafast lasers” and lasers for surgical procedures.

The company landed a $37.7 contract to supply these types of lasers for surgical procedures that will be shipped throughout 2012 and 2013.

Adjusted profits topped $12.1 million, beating Wall Street estimates of $7.1 million.

Sales are projected to be flat this quarter.

Wall Street expects Newport to post $166 million in revenue this quarter and an adjusted profit of $10 million.