Strategically Blogging

Fiber Laser Market Continues to Evolve

Allen Nogee 09/05/2014

I’ve always been a person who has been very interested in the latest technology, and sometimes it’s hard for me to believe how much technology has changed over the years.

Everything from flat screen TVs, DVRs, audio equipment, cables and wiring, computers, tablets, smartphones, and so many others have evolved over the years, and in most ways, the new technology is quicker, smaller, cheaper, and more energy efficient. Today we take all these things for granted, but it wasn’t that long ago that a flat screen TV or a smartphone was a novelty. Today we just can’t even imagine living without these things.

Martin Shih

A Win-Win Situation: Cree Announces Investment in Lextar through Private Placement

Martin Shih 09/05/2014

Cree recently announced plans to invest US $83M in Lextar Electronics, one of Taiwan’s major LED manufacturers, in order to acquire 13% of Lextar shares and to enter a supply/royalty agreement. Cree will become Lextar’s second largest shareholder (AUO, Lextar’s parent company, is the biggest shareholder) and obtain one member of BOD. This deal is expected to be done at the end of 2014 and the lock-up period is 3 years, which means Lextar will reserve its capacity for Cree for 3 years.

Lasers in Medical Imaging: The Forecast Looks Very Bright

Allen Nogee 07/11/2014

Almost all medical imaging to date has used one of three technologies: X-rays, magnetism (MRI), or ultrasound. X-rays alone have been used for almost 120 years now, and although today’s imaging technology has improved vastly over the many years, the fact remains that x-rays, ultrasound, and magnetism are all technologies that, due to many factors, produce coarse images, at least by today’s standards. But what if a very coherent light source was used instead, maybe a laser?

Actually, Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), which produces images based on the reflections of coherent light, is not a new technology. OCT has been used since the early 1990s, especially in the area of ophthalmology, where the images produced by OCT are 100 times finer than standard images produced by ultrasound. In just the last five years, OCT has become one of the most important retinal imaging techniques used today.

The Impact of the Epistar Acquisition on the LED Industry

Martin Shih 07/09/2014

Epistar (2448.TW) announced a plan to fully acquire Forepi (3061.TW), the second-largest chipmaker in Taiwan, through a share swap (1:3.448), implying 18% share dilution to Epistar. The effective date will be the end of 2014, and Forepi will be delisted from the TAIEX.

After the merger, Epistar will become the world’s largest LED chip maker in terms of capacity with a global market share of 15%, which will better position the company to lead in future technology development.

EPA's New Emissions Cutting Plan Could Have an Effect on LED Lighting

Philip Smallwood 06/30/2014

On June 2nd, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal plants by as much as 30 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. The EPA will finalize the proposal in mid-2015 and then give states a year to design their own plans to meet targets. The organization will let states meet emission targets for power plants in several ways, including through plant upgrades, by switching from coal to natural gas, by improving energy efficiency, or by promoting renewable energy outside the plant site. This approach will give states greater flexibility in designing plans to meet the EPA’s targets.

Some thawing in the opto end markets?

By Tom Hausken
There are signs that some markets for optoelectronic products are thawing a little bit. Foundries in Taiwan have hired back workers. Large-area flat panel display production in Taiwan was up in March over the previous month. Sales of flat panel TVs and video recorders were up in Japan . Memory chip prices are up and Samsung, for one, expects improving demand for memory chips this quarter. Hon Hai, a major contract manufacturer, is hiring in Taiwan, China, and the Czech Republic, with expansion plans in Mexico, Turkey, Russia, and elsewhere. Even equipment supplier EV Group announced that it will add a shift to accommodate demand for through-silicon via (TSV) and nanolithography tools. Compound semiconductor supplier Triquint has also announced a bounce as inventory burns off.

At the least, this is an indication that inventories are now worked out of the supply chain. But, it's interesting that a lot of the news comes from one place: Taiwan.

Dominique Numakura of DKN Research Group notes several reasons for Taiwan's thaw in his recent newsletter . First, it's based on two successful products that are emerging now, just as the recession hurts sales for just about everything else. Those products are the netbook computer and the smart phone. Another reason is that spillover of demand from mainland China's stimulus package has driven up demand for large screen TVs supplied from Taiwan. Numakura also suggests that Taiwan has a more urgent and proactive approach to the downturn, more aggressively seeking out opportunities than Japanese and American counterparts that take a more reactionary approach.

It helps to note too that the semiconductor downturn dates all the way to 2007 already, so improvement is well overdue.

Any thawing will be good news for anyone making optoelectronic chips for common appliances: things like image sensors, displays, LEDs, etc.

There is still plenty of bad news coming out every day. For example, iSuppli doesn't buy the hype about a memory chip recovery, arguing that the supply will still exceed the growth in demand. And for the most part, the demand for fab tools and other manufacturing equipment remains frozen solid. But the chip demand has to improve before anything else can.

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