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Business briefs

04 Aug 2006

Including news from Varioptic, Unaxis, New Scale, LINOS, and others.

Varioptic, a French company that has pioneered the development of liquid lenses, is to build the world's first mass production line for liquid lenses with Creative Sensor of Taiwan. The production line will be installed in Creative Sensor's manufacturing site in Wuxi, China, and will begin operation by the end of 2006. The first phase of cooperation is targeted to produce 100,000 liquid lenses per month, ramping to higher volumes in 2007. Back in April, Varioptic introduced the industry's first multi-megapixel auto-focus liquid lens for camera phones (see "Camera phones focus liquid lenses on expanding market ").

• The global consumption of fiber-optic components for harsh environments will climb from $1.09 bn in 2005 and $2.02 bn in 2009 to $2.88 bn in 2012, according to new figures from Electronicast Consultants. "Over the past three years, while the global consumption of conventional commercial fiber optic components has gradually recovered from the 2000-2003 market collapse, most harsh environment applications have maintained steady growth," said Jeff Montgomery, president of the consultancy. The market has historically has been dominated by military/aerospace components, with a 65% share in 2005, but this will decline to 54% by 2012. Instead, active and passive components for plastic optical fiber links in the commercial/industrial sector will dominate growth in the market.

Linos, the German optical system manufacturer that has just been bought by the Qioptic Group (see "Qioptiq Group makes bid to take over Linos"), has generated revenues of €43.5 m in the first six months of 2006, an increase of almost 8% on the same period last year. Earnings before tax rose by 74.4% to €4.3 m, while orders taken during the second quarter of 2006 reached €29.4 m. The company confirmed its expectations to record revenues of €85-88 m for the 2006 fiscal year.

Unaxis Optics, a leading manufacturer of projection display components, has signed a non-exclusive license agreement for Vikuiti TIR prisms from 3M Precision Optics. These prisms are an important component in compact light engines that exploit Texas Instruments' Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology for both front and rear-screen projection displays. Operationally, light enters and travels through the prism to illuminate the digital micromirror device, and the image reflected off the DMD then passes through the TIR prism and is imaged onto the screen with the projection lens.

Microvision, which specializes in light scanning technologies, has reported revenues for the six months ended 30 June 2006 of $4.4 m, compared to $8.7 m for the same period in 2005. According to Microvision, the year-on-year decline was primarily due to the reductions in commercial contract revenue. To address the shortfall, Microvision is developing a new embedded scanning engine, called Integrated Photonics Module (IPM), which will form the basis of new head-up displays and embedded miniature projectors, and has revitalized its Flic car-code-scanner product line. The company has also embarked on an extensive reorganization over the past three months.

• Japanese company Tamron has signed a license agreement with New Scale Technologies to use New Scale's SQUIGGLE motors in its optical imaging assemblies, which include digital still cameras, camcorders, and mobile phone cameras. SQUIGGLE motors use ultrasonic vibrations to control optical elements with greater force and precision than is possible with conventional electromagnetic motors (see "Tiny motor shakes up mobile phone market "). Tamron is one of the world's leading manufacturers of high-precision optics, and believes that the SQUIGGLE motors will enable new form factors that will set the company apart from its competition.

Oplink Communications, which manufactures photonic components, modules, and subsystems for the telecoms industry, has reported a 90% increase on its year-on-year fourth-quarter revenues. Sales for the last three months totaled $16.9 million, while net income rose to $1.9 m from $868,000 for the same period last year. Full-year sales reached $54.8 m, an increase of 60% on the previous year, while net income for the year was $1.9 m, as compared to a loss of $2.6 m in the previous year. "We are encouraged by the level of activity in the market overall as we enter fiscal 2007," commented Joe Liu, president and CEO of Oplink. "The strength in our business is a function of solid market conditions, where our customers like Huawei, Siemens, Tellabs, Marconi and others are winning new opportunities with global carriers."

LaCroix Precision OpticsCeNing Optics Co LtdCHROMA TECHNOLOGY CORP.Optikos Corporation Hyperion OpticsLASEROPTIK GmbHUniverse Kogaku America Inc.
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