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IPG to expand laser fabrication with Veeco tools

Semiconductor laser maker IPG Photonics orders two cluster MBE tools from Veeco Instruments that will be used for a significant ramp in manufacturing volumes.

IPG Photonics, the fiber laser maker that owns a compound semiconductor fabrication facility at its Oxford, MA, headquarters, has ordered two more MBE tools from Veeco Instruments.

At its fab, IPG makes high-power GaAs semiconductor lasers that emit at 980 nm. It uses the devices in fiber laser systems that are typically employed in materials processing applications, such as welding or cutting metal parts.

For example, IPG recently won a supply deal with a "top-tier" customer in the automotive industry under which it will ship ten 1 kW fiber lasers to cut hydroform parts.

Unlike conventional laser systems that use optical pumping of a separate crystal to produce high-power emission, fiber lasers work on the principle that the incoming light from a semiconductor source excites erbium or ytterbium atoms embedded in an optical fiber. The result is a compact, high-power system with excellent beam quality.

IPG successfully floated on the Nasdaq stock exchange in late 2006 with an initial public offering of stock that raised some $96 million and, pleased with the performance of a GEN200 MBE tool that it purchased from Veeco last summer, it has decided to get two more of these cluster systems.

The compact cluster tools feature a 4 x 4-inch wafer configuration, and are a key part of IPG's capacity expansion program.

Last year, IPG told compoundsemiconductor.net that during 2006 it expected to manufacture laser diodes with an estimated aggregate output power of 2 MW. The latest epiwafer capacity expansion is part of a plan to raise that total to around 6 MW in 2008.

The individual high-power laser chips emit between 4 W and 8 W, although IPG says that it is hopeful of increasing this figure too.

IPG's public offering of stock coincided with a sharp increase in sales. During the final fiscal quarter of 2006, it posted total revenue of $42.1 million and a very healthy operating profit of $10.6 million.

In its full-year results, IPG's sales jumped nearly 50 percent on the 2005 figure to $143.2 million, while operating income for 2006 almost doubled to $36 million.

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