Three-Five Widens Customer Base

Display maker Three-Five Systems Inc. (Tempe, AZ) has had great success in the past couple of years selling small LCDs designed for cellular phones, with most of its sales going to Motorola Corp. (Tempe, AZ).

Display maker Three-Five Systems Inc. (Tempe, AZ) has had great success in the past couple of years selling small LCDs designed for cellular phones, with most of its sales going to Motorola Corp. (Tempe, AZ). With its fortunes so closely tied to one customer, however, Three-Five has been perceived as having a potential lack of stability. Thus, the company has sought to widen its customer base. Now, Three-Five has announced that it received a design win and multimillion-dollar production order from Seimens Mobile Phone Division (Austin, TX). The program calls for a custom chip-on-glass LCD intended for mobile phones. The displays will be manufactured at Three-Five's facility in Beijing, China. Such a development is likely to ease the concerns of investors, who watched Three-Five's stock price drop in value even as the company reported growth in earnings.

Three-Five has made a concerted effort to enlarge its customer base, says Elizabeth Sharp, vice president of corporate relations. This has resulted not only in the Seimens order, but in winning of other customers whose names Three-Five would not reveal. Because Three-Five's business results entirely from custom devices, the penetration of a new account takes time, she explains. Persistence has paid off: out of 20 design wins the firm received in the first half of this year, 15 of them were from customers other than Motorola.

Three-Five is also heavily involved in developing more-advanced technologies such as small, high-contrast sunlight-readable displays. Most well-known of these technologies is the liquid-crystal-on-silicon microdisplay, in which a liquid-crystal material is sandwiched between a silicon backplane and a cover glass. Such a display uses almost 100% of its pixel area as a light-modulating surface, is low in power consumption (less than 100 mW including tricolor LED illumination), and is well suited for devices that require microdisplays, such as projectors or head-mounted display.--John Wallace, Senior Editor

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