Laser Industry Report

July 1, 2001
Progress continues toward 157-nm lithography; Cree Lighting sues Nichia for patent infringement; Laser simulation contract may hit $400 million...

Progress continues toward 157-nm lithography
About 330 participants from worldwide tool and materials suppliers, chipmakers, consortia, laboratories and academia attended a strongly optimistic Second International Symposium on 157-nm Lithography in May (Dana Point, CA). Progress reports, especially regarding lasers, materials, and resist development, increased optimism about extending optical lithography below 65 nm, according to Rich Harbison, 157-nm program manager for International Sematech (Austin, TX). "The response from the technical community has been outstanding," he said. Sixty-eight presentations were made during the three-day symposium organized by International Sematech in conjunction with the European research institute IMEC (Leuven, Belgium) and the Japanese consortium Selete (Yokohama, Japan).

Cree Lighting sues Nichia for patent infringement
Cree Lighting Co. (Goleta, CA), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cree Inc. (Durham, NC), announced a lawsuit in May against Nichia Corp. (Tokushima, Japan) and Nichia America Corp. (Mountville, PA), filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, seeking enforcement of a patent relating to semiconductor devices, such as light-emitting diodes, manufactured using a gallium-nitride-based buffer technology. The patent was issued to Boston University in November 1997 and licensed to Cree Lighting. Boston University is a co-plaintiff in the action that alleges infringement by Nichia for "importing, selling and offering for sale in the United States certain semiconductor devices made from gallium nitride films."

Laser simulation contract may hit $400 million
Lockheed Martin Information Systems (Orlando, FL) has won a Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement Systems (MILES) XXI contract from the US Army to produce and field laser-based training systems that furnish real-time feedback to trainees and simulate the "stress and lethality of actual combat in a variety of scenarios." The initial $13-million contract award for low-volume production is the first phase of a multi-year production contract that could ultimately exceed $400 million. Work on the system will take place in Lockheed Martin Information Systems' and Schwartz Electro-Optics' facilities in Orlando and Lockheed Martin's facilities in La Mesa, Mexico.

Senior lender demands loan repayment from SLI
Semiconductor Laser International Corp. (SLI; Binghamton, NY) announced last month that its senior lender, BSB Bank and Trust (Binghamton, NY), had demanded immediate payment of the amounts due under the company's revolving line of credit and mortgage, which in the aggregate represent approximately $1.7 million. The bank has stated that if it is not paid immediately, it will begin foreclosure proceedings. SLI continues to explore its options, which include identifying alternative sources of financing and/or a restructuring. SLI also intends to explore claims it may have against BSB Bank and Trust.

Also in the news . . .
Last month, Micronic Laser Systems AB (Taby, Sweden) announced a settlement with Etec Systems Inc. (Hayward, CA) to litigation pending between them in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. . . . IPG Photonics Corp. (Sturbridge, MA) announced last month that it asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to grant the withdrawal of its registration statement on Form S-1 relating to its proposed initial public offering "due to unfavorable market conditions.". . . Laser manufacturer El.En (Milan, Italy) is reportedly considering a US acquisition in the medical-cosmetic surgery sector. . . . Applied Materials Inc. (Santa Clara, CA) has announced an agreement, pending approval by the Israeli government, to acquire Oramir Semiconductor Equipment Ltd. (Yoqneam, Israel), which specializes in advanced laser cleaning technologies for semiconductor wafers. . . . Significant product cancellations from several large gallium arsenide customers are expected to impact results at AXT Inc. (Fremont, CA) for the third quarter ended Sept. 30. . . . The Selective Laser Sintering Users Group (SLSUG; Austin, TX) will hold its annual conference this year in Las Vegas, NV, in September.

Hassaun A. Jones-Bey

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