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ProPhotonix hit by German solar slowdown

20 Jan 2012

But full-year sales from the LED and laser diode module vendor are still forecast to meet expectations.

ProPhotonix, the designer and manufacturer of LED light engines and laser diode modules used in machine vision and other industrial applications, says that the slump in demand for photovoltaics manufacturing equipment hit its sales in the final quarter of the year.

But according to the firm’s latest trading update, it will still post figures in line with market expectations, with revenues for the full financial year now set to come in at around $17 million. That would represent a 12% increase on 2010, after a year in which the company has raised $5.1 million in cash through a share issue and invested in sales and R&D resources.

“In the first half of the year, the company’s LED division benefited from particularly strong shipments to the German solar panel production equipment industry, which dropped off significantly later in the year,” reported the London-listed firm, which is based in Salem, NH.

The full-year sales figure would indicate that revenues fell to $3.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, down both sequentially and year-on-year. While there was a rush of demand for solar panel installations from German consumers seeking to beat the latest feed-in tariff reductions in December 2011, production and capital investment by the country’s solar firms remained subdued. The industry has been working through a huge pile of cell and module inventory, and Chinese manufacturers have grabbed more market share with their low-cost offerings.

“Management is not expecting a recovery in orders in this segment until the second half of 2012, due to the global overcapacity in the solar panel market,” said ProPhotonix.

R&D investment
Despite what the company described as the “mixed” trading picture in the closing quarter, it is set to continue with its diversification strategy by broadening its portfolio of both products and customers. With both its US sales force and research team strengthened significantly, ProPhotonix said that it was making progress in applications across the medical, automotive and semiconductor inspection sectors.

“Several of these opportunities bode well for a significant increase in revenue in the second half of the current year and into 2013,” added the company.

The first step in that portfolio expansion will be the launch of a new version of its “InViso” laser diode module, called “InViso Micro”, which the company will be showcasing at the Photonics West 2012 conference and trade show in San Francisco and first unveiled at the Vision show in Stuttgart late last year.

Developed at the company’s R&D center in Cork, Ireland, the new module offers an improved linewidth of just 16 µm at a working distance of 120 mm. CEO Mark Blodgett says that the product upgrade will support customers in the machine vision sector needing to meet more stringent requirements in production monitoring.

“We are committed to maintaining and broadening our reputation as innovative solution providers in the machine vision industry. InViso Micro is a step in that direction and will allow us to expand sales to the automated inspection market,” said Blodgett in a statement.

• ProPhotonix is showcasing the new module at Photonics West booth #1201 from January 24-26.

ProPhotonix' 'InViso' modules for machine vision: company video recorded at Photonics West 2011:

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