Imaging and Detector Industry Report

July 1, 2003
SID conference sees its way through a tough year; Tsunami and PXIT merge optical-testing businesses; Sensors Unlimited awarded DOD contract; MORE...

SID conference sees its way through a tough year

The final numbers for the 2003 annual meeting of the Society for Information Display (SID; Baltimore, MD, May 18–23) show that overall attendance declined moderately to 5700 from 6500 in 2002 and the number of exhibit booths dropped only slightly, from 474 to 451. Like many other trade shows this year, the reduced attendance was attributed to the SARS virus and the weak global economy. Even so, analysts speculated that the robustness of the SID show reflected strong growth of the display segment in an otherwise lackluster electronics industry.

Among the technical trends apparent at SID 2003, the increasing speed of LCD panels for television was particularly striking. Leading manufacturers of LCD television modules and receivers showed TFT-LCD panels with gray-to-gray switching times in the range of 10 to 12 ms that go a long way toward eliminating the smeared moving images that marred earlier generations of LCD-TVs.

If the proliferation of small organic light-emitting display (OLED) prototypes was a distinguishing feature of last year's SID, this year's was a showcase for more prototypes, ready-to-manufacture modules, and a few OLED-containing products. Chi Mei demonstrated a 20-in OLED that uses amorphous silicon thin-film transistors, a hot topic in the SID technical conference because using a-Si opens the door to lower-cost active-matrix OLEDs.

Tsunami and PXIT merge optical-testing businesses

Tsunami Photonics (Dublin, Ireland), specialists in fast-test-system software for photonic components, has acquired the PXI (PCI extensions for instrumentation) business of PXIT, a manufacturer of PXI-based modular test systems. The merged entity will trade under the PXIT name and will focus on providing test solutions for manufacturers of optical and optoelectronic components. The new company will combine PXI optical instrument modules, proprietary technology, and analysis software to provide high-speed, cost-effective optical test solutions. The merged entity received an investment of more than $1.5 million. Venture capital company Delta Partners led the investment round, together with Enterprise Ireland (Ireland's enterprise development agency) and several private investors.

Sensors Unlimited awarded DOD contract

Sensors Unlimited (Princeton, NJ) has received a U.S. Air Force contract for the first phase of a 33-month program to develop a high-frame-rate, high-bandwidth, low-noise, focal-plane-array and camera for active tracking, wavefront sensing, laser ranging, imaging, and scoring. The company plans to accomplish these objectives with a single focal-plane-array and camera. "For the first time, staring and ranging imaging will be possible with a single camera," said Marshall Cohen, president of Sensors Unlimited. "This dual-mode sensor/camera is made possible by our patented technology that allows low-noise, high-sensitivity PIN photodiodes and high-speed, high-gain avalanche photodiodes to be fabricated within each pixel of the focal plane array. Despite sharing space within the pixel, each photodiode exhibits full optical fill factor."

Japanese firms form OLED joint venture

Optrex (Tokyo) and Nippon Seiki (Nagaoka, Japan) have formed a joint venture to build organic light-emitting-diode (OLED) displays and sell them to their respective parent companies. The new company, Adeon, will be equally owned by Optrex and Nippon Seiki and will open for business in July with manufacturing to begin in September. Optrex designs and manufactures OEM liquid-crystal displays and has a major share of the worldwide LCD market for both mobile phones and automotive displays. Asahi Glass Company, parent company of Optrex, has been developing OLED structures and analyzing degradation mechanisms.

Equinox takes optical imaging to Mars

Equinox Interscience (Golden, CO) has been awarded a $1.3 million contract from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop a mineral identification and composition analyzer (MICA) for use on future Mars missions. MICA will combine multiple optical and x-ray imaging techniques to determine the mineralogical nature of Martian rocks, sand, or dust. The objective of the MICA project is to demonstrate how optical imaging combined with x-ray diffraction and x-ray fluorescence techniques can facilitate rapid geological reconnaissance of Martian surface materials.

Also in the news . . .

Three-Five Systems (Tempe, AZ) is moving ahead with plans to spin off its microdisplay division, Brillian. Three-Five will provide Brillian with $22 million in initial funding and plans to publicly trade Brillian stock on Nasdaq. . . . Intevac (Santa Clara, CA) has been awarded a four-year, $22.5 million contract for LIVAR sensor manufacturing and technology development for the U.S. Air Force's Systems for Airborne Laser Sensing and Analysis Program.

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