Customers pull Kopin into solar and HEMTs
Kopin is branching out into two currently high-profile compound semiconductor segments to extract greater value from its 6-inch GaAs wafer manufacturing facilities.
Although the company s III-V business is now focused on GaAs HBT epiwafers its first products were GaAs-based solar cells for powering satellites, and it will now return to the photovoltaic market.
The company is also developing MOCVD-based HEMT manufacturing processes at its Taunton, Massachusetts facilities, on the request of partners impressed by current HBT yields.
Talking to compoundsemiconductor.net, Kopin s CEO John Fan downplayed the move to into solar cells, saying that they would not be in the marketplace for “a couple of years”.
“Solar cells are very involved because demands for efficiency, especially in concentrator cells, are so high,” he said. “Also, some of the new ideas we re exploring with our partners are pretty innovative, so it will take some time.”
”We believe the HEMTs, advanced structure HEMTs, and HBT/HEMTs will be much more immediate.”
When CPV was young
Kopin still retains intellectual property from its early photovoltaic products, which it developed in conjunction with the US National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) and manufactured for Boeing. Included in its portfolio is a method for lifting a GaAs cell off its substrate, and then stacking it on top of another cell made from a different material, like silicon, or copper-indium-selenium films.
“Lift-off technology allows us to make tandem cells much more flexibly,” said Fan. “You can do series connect, you can do parallel connect, you can do a lot of different things.”
These comments come on the back of Kopin s results for 2007, in which the company made a $6.6 million loss, in comparison to losing just $2.1 million in 2006. This increasing deficit was in part due to gradual erosion in the company s selling prices, although the focus on new products will help combat this trend.
Skyworks Solutions and Advanced Wireless Semiconductor Company, the Taiwanese fab to which Skyworks outsources some of its operations, together accounted for approximately $31 million of Kopin s $44 million compound semiconductor revenues in 2007.
Other than its III-V business, Kopin also runs a cyber-display manufacturing unit that is similarly dominated by sales to Sanyo but also sees the firm work with the US military.
According to Fan, it s these relationships that have enabled the company to look at new, higher-value products.
“We do not do this in a vacuum "“ we usually have partners pull us into it,” Fan said.
“Because our partners have been working with us again and again when we say, "˜Those are our product plans', people know that we do mean it.”