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Oxford Instruments seizes TDI's LED potential

The UK-headquartered firm hopes that its global reach will help it to fully exploit TDI's nitride growth technology.

Equipment maker Oxford Instruments broke into the lucrative LED epitaxy equipment market on April 10 with the cash purchase of Technology and Devices International, Inc., for $1 million.

TDI will continue its day-to-day business at its Silver Spring, Maryland, site with Oxford Instruments providing management, sales and administration support.

Oxford Instruments will take on debts of $2.2 million, and a business that ran at an $800,000 pre-tax loss in the year ended June 2007. The sale price could further increase to $6 million depending on revenues from TDI s hydride vapour phase epitaxy (HVPE) reactor.

This tool s potential to cut the cost and boost LED manufacturing volumes is already attracting attention, according to Andy Matthews, managing director of Oxford Instruments Plasma Technology (OIPT).

“A wide range of LED manufacturers support the concept of using HVPE for the growth of the nucleation and base layers in the production of templates," he said. "We will be working with these manufacturers, some of whom are existing Oxford Instruments customers, to provide the most cost effective solutions to their production problems."

TDI also sells GaN, AlGaN and AlN epiwafers and this will continue to provide revenue as the combined company develops the HVPE tool business. Matthews also makes the point that TDI's expertise in applying HVPE growth is important in terms of customer support and refining epitaxial processes further.

OIPT says it previously addressed three of the nine steps needed to make high-brightness LEDs, with tools for plasma etching to define the LED structure, device isolation by PECVD, and substrate etching. Adding epitaxy as a fourth offering will enable the company to capitalize on already established knowledge and contacts in this sector.

“With a global sales and service support infrastructure, OI is certainly well placed to bring TDI's product to market,” Matthews said. “Long experience of the HBLED market has allowed OIPT to develop hardware and software systems which are complementary to the development required for TDI's technology.”

It s now clear that Oxford Instruments is the major partner that TDI said its founder and former president Vladimir Dmitriev was about to disclose when he died in January.

“His death was a great shock and caused some delay in the progress of the deal as one might expect, but certainly was not a driver of it,” Matthews said.

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