Laser Industry Report

March 1, 2004
LEOMA goes into 'holding pattern'; Intel invests in Cymer EUV technology; Spectra-Physics partners with SPI on fiber lasers; MORE...

LEOMA goes into 'holding pattern'

After nearly 20 years as the North American laser industry's only industry trade group, the Laser and Electro-Optics Manufacturers' Association (LEOMA; Pacifica, CA) is going into hibernation. According to executive director Breck Hitz, the issue is primarily one of finances, an issue that has plagued the organization for many years.

Member dues are based upon annual revenues, ranging from $600 per year for a company with annual revenues of $600,000 or less to $2200 per year for a company with annual revenues in the $200 million range. Over the years, these dues paid for activities designed to advance the laser and optoelectronics industry, including programs to alleviate worker shortages, lobbying activities with government agencies, litigation reform, and participation in the ISO laser standards committee.

But Hitz said that many companies just couldn't justify the expense, which translated into less financial support than the organization needed to sustain itself. In recent years, a handful of individuals and companies have kept LEOMA afloat; according to Hitz, in the late 1990s Spectra-Physics donated $40,000 to the LEOMA treasury. Then, in 2000, four firms—Spectra-Physics, Coherent, Melles Griot, and Newport—put in $10,000 each to keep LEOMA going. But in the long run, even this was not enough.

LEOMA will function only as needed to maintain the organization's name and alternative dispute-resolution activities. LEOMA will still have a web site and Hitz will continue as executive director, overseeing the annual meeting and filing an annual report.

Intel invests in Cymer EUV technology

Cymer (San Diego, CA) and Intel (Santa Clara, CA) signed an agreement for Intel to provide $20 million in funding over the next three years to accelerate development of production-worthy extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) lithography light sources. Extreme-UV lithography is positioned for commercial deployment in 2009, but several issues must be addressed to keep the technology on track, including the ability to increase source output power to meet the wafer throughput requirements of high-volume manufacturing while minimizing the cost of ownership for EUV lithography tools. According to Peter Silverman, director of Intel's lithography capital-equipment development, the agreement will further enable Intel and Cymer to concentrate on the critical technology challenges and deliver a cost-effective, commercial EUV source for development tools in 2006.

Spectra-Physics partners with SPI on fiber lasers

Spectra-Physics (Mountain View, CA) and Southampton Photonics (Southampton, England) signed a formal agreement to market high-power 50- and 100-W fiber lasers to Spectra-Physics' extensive industrial customer base. According to the companies, the fiber lasers are ideal for printing, marking, and engraving, and their unique design opens new opportunities in other industrial applications such as rapid prototyping/sintering, plastic welding, selective soldering, and flat-panel display processing.

In related news, SPI announced a contract with the Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge to provide a kilowatt fiber laser for industrial materials processing, such as high-speed cutting and welding, and deep section cutting.

Bush budget delays NIF demonstrations

The proposed federal budget from the George W. Bush administration would further postpone demonstration of fusion ignition—the primary rationale behind the $4 billion National Ignition Facility (NIF)—until 2014. Officials blamed the delay on shifting budget priorities in 2002 and 2003 that slowed work on a key component for maintaining frozen pellets of hydrogen needed for laser fusion. Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (Livermore, CA), where NIF is being constructed, had originally intended to deliver ignition as early as 2002. In 2000, U.S. Congress tripled the original $1.5 billion funding for NIF and pushed the completion date out to 2008, with ignition to begin in 2010 or 2011.

Also in the news . . .

Mesophotonics (Southampton, England), a developer of disruptive photonic-crystal technology, closed a $10 million second round of fund raising. . . . nLight Photonics (Vancouver, WA), a manufacturer of high-power semiconductor lasers, raised $12 million in its third round of financing. . . . Raytheon Company (Tucson, AZ) was awarded five separate U.S. Air Force contracts totaling $7.9 million to manufacture and deliver Paveway II Laser-Guided Bomb kit components for several international customers including Egypt, Oman, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates.

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