November 3, 2004, Sunnyvale, CA--Contrary to rumors floating around the industry the last few weeks, Novalux--founded in 1998 to develop semiconductor laser products based on the proprietary Novalux Extended Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (NECSEL) technology--is still a viable business, according to Jean-Michel Pelaprat, chairman of the board and now interim CEO. While some people have been let go and CEO Jeff Cannon has resigned, the company is also in the process of hiring a new CEO and a new business development manager, with an eye toward moving aggressively into some new markets within the next year--most notably displays, graphic arts, and sensing.
In the mean time, Novalux has temporarily stopped selling its Protera laser to address some technical issues with that product. Pelaprat says that the fundamental NECSEL devices are very reliable; however, the Protera product has experienced some lifetime issues. Thus Novalux is working to improve the product design. In fact, while the company has scaled back its manufacturing operations for the time being, its engineering staff remains intact. According to Pelaprat, Novalux still has 30 employees and expects to be back selling the Protera laser in a few months.
"The Protera has many benefits, particularly in its manufacturing cost structure, that give us an advantage," he said. "But we had to make a choice: should we continue to ship products we know have the potential to fail, or pull back and fix the problems?"
In addition to addressing the packaging and lifetime issues, Novalux is putting much emphasis on gearing the NECSEL arrays for consumer display applications, particularly rear-projection TV. According to Pelaprat, the company recently received a two-year, multimillion-dollar DARPA contract (through the Super High Efficiency Diode program) in support of the array development, and the company is reportedly working with some partners in the display industry. In addition, in October Novalux received another large round of funding from existing investors and several new investors, according to Pelaprat.