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  • Same economy bears different results

Photonics Spectra
Sep 2012
Three top photonics companies recently announced quarterly results, and the mixed results reflect the industry’s ongoing attempts to recover from the 2008 downturn.


Strong sales in the microelectronics market, particularly those of excimer laser annealing systems for flat panel displays, contributed almost half of Coherent’s third-quarter revenue of $196.4 million, the laser maker reported.

Profit for the quarter, which ended June 30, was $17.2 million, or 72 cents a share, down slightly from the record-setting $19 million, or 74 cents a share, for the same quarter a year ago.

Bookings received during the quarter were $218.9 million, a decrease of 4.2 percent year over year but an increase of nearly 20 percent over the previous quarter.

The book-to-bill ratio was 1.11, resulting in a backlog of $369.4 million, a record, CEO John Ambroseo told investors.

The microelectronics and materials processing markets performed solidly, while there were declines in the scientific and instrumentation markets, which are subject to funding cuts and uncertainties, Chief Financial Officer Helene Simonet said in an earnings call with investors.

Excimer laser annealing allows high-volume production of polycrystalline silicon on conventional glass substrates, instead of requiring such polysilicon layers to be produced on expensive special glass at high temperatures. Low-temperature polysilicon greatly enhances the performance of silicon thin-film transistors in certain types of displays.

Coherent’s excimer lasers are the only industrial-grade ones with the high pulse energy optimized for that application, the company says.

IPG Photonics

Strong sales of fiber lasers for materials processing applications were the driving factor behind IPG Photonics’ $37.7 million profit for the second quarter, a 23 percent increase over the same quarter last year, the company reported. Revenue increased 13 percent year over year, to a record $138 million.

IPG Chairman and CEO Dr. Valentin Gapontsev attributed the company’s sales growth to three factors: the continued adoption of fiber lasers over other types, the increasing number of applications using lasers and the strong demand in several key industries.

“Second-quarter materials processing sales increased 16 percent year over year to $124.6 million,” IPG Chief Financial Officer Tim Mammen said in a conference call with investors. “This market continues to drive our growth and accounted for 90 percent of total sales during the quarter.”

Telecommunications, advanced applications and the medical market accounted for the remaining 10 percent. Revenue from these decreased 5 percent year over year to $13.3 million, Mammen said.

The biggest materials processing applications for fiber lasers are cutting, welding, marking and engraving, he said, adding that IPG also is seeing growth from cladding, drilling, brazing, annealing and rapid prototyping.

CVI Melles Griot

Cost-cutting will continue through the end of the year at CVI Melles Griot following its lower-than-expected financial performance in the second quarter, the CEO of parent company Idex said. The restructuring is intended to “right size their cost structure” to drive profitability; cost-cutting measures at the laser and optical equipment manufacturer have already resulted in a loss of about 20 percent of its workforce and one manufacturing facility.

CVI Melles Griot’s products are used in spectroscopy, cytometry, remote sensing, target designation and interferometry, among other applications. Idex acquired the company in June 2011 and added it to its optics and photonics platform. Other companies in that platform, located within the Health & Science Technologies segment, are Semrock, ATFilms and Precision Photonics.

Idex CEO Andrew Silvernail said Idex has been “pretty aggressive” in reducing CVI’s head count, cutting it “by a magnitude of plus-20 percent.”

He didn’t attach a specific number to the downsizing, but Idex’s companywide 2011 restructuring initiatives included severance benefits for 337 employees, the company reported in a May 2012 SEC filing. As of Dec. 31, 2011, the company employed 6814.

The process of heating and slowly cooling a solid material, like glass or metal, to stabilize its thermal, electrical or optical properties or, as in semiconductor materials, to reverse lattice damage resulting from ion implantation of dopants.
excimer laser
A rare-gas halide or rare-gas metal vapor laser emitting in the ultraviolet (126 to 558 nm) that operates on electronic transitions of molecules, up to that point diatomic, whose ground state is essentially repulsive. Excitation may be by E-beam or electric discharge. Lasing gases include ArCl, ArF, KrCl, KrF, XeCl and XeF.
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