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HSINCHU, Taiwan; and FUJIAN and SHANGHAI, China – For Asian laser diode makers, green seems to be the dominant hue. It shows up in emerging and recovering markets, as a look at just a few companies reveals.
At HC Photonics Corp. in Hsinchu, for example, green is the color – for now. That may change in the future, however, said Karin Wu, the company’s marketing and sales director.
The firm’s green focus is a result of the emergence of picoprojectors – handheld or pocket-size ones suitable for use in cell phones, notebooks, netbooks and the like. Picoprojectors could be a new mass market, with tens of millions of units worth hundreds of millions of dollars shipping. There were a number of picoprojector announcements from companies such as Syndiant Inc. in Taiwan and Foryou Multimedia Electronics Co. Ltd. of Huizhou, China, at the recent Consumer Electronics Show.
There is a problem with current technology, which employs LEDs as a light source, Wu said. “The image is not big enough, bright enough or always focused. That’s the reason people are trying to adopt laser-backed picoprojectors.”
Doing that requires red, green and blue laser diodes. However, there are no commercially available green semiconductor laser diodes that meet required specifications.
That’s where HC Photonics comes in. The 10-year-old company, which does business throughout Asia and the rest of the world, specializes in periodically poled nonlinear technology. It uses a lithium niobium implementation that enables conversion of 1064-nm to 512-nm light. Thus, picoprojector makers could use it with readily available near-infrared sources to generate green light.
HC Photonics Corp. gets the green light needed for picoprojectors from frequency-doubling an infrared input. Courtesy of HC Photonics.
Wu noted that picoprojectors are in an early stage and that the company’s sales are not yet large. However, as long as there are no suitable green semiconductor laser diodes available, HC Photonics could be well positioned to take advantage of growth in this market, she said. “Our solution is competitive.”
According to Man Li, the general manager’s assistant at Daheng Optics in Beijing, demand is increasing and the market for optics and laser-related products is expanding. The new year looks to be a good one, although the company does not have a laser-related product announcement at this time.
A different focus
Laser crystal maker Fujian Castech Crystals Inc. reported developing a new crystal growing technique. The company put the method to use in manufacturing a new Nd:YVO4 product, creating a crystal greater than 60 mm long, of excellent inner quality, and with low bulk absorption. The material emits in the infrared.
An improved crystal-growing method allows Castech Crystals Inc. to manufacture larger Nd:YVO4 crystals. Courtesy of Castech.
Castech frequency-doubles this output by using it in conjunction with other materials. The result is a diode-pumped microchip laser crystal, which the company claims is highly efficient and could be used as a green light source in a picoprojector.
In speaking about a different kind of green, Castech marketing manager Tanny Tan noted that the recent Photonics West trade show indicated that the market is in better shape than it was last year. Opportunities and customer interest seem to be increasing.
However, that may be due in part to a change in emphasis at Castech. “This year we put more attention to precision optics,” Tan said.