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High volume LED makers reach for the lasers

A laser scriber system vendor says diamond-tipped tools will become too expensive with increasing substrate sizes.

Diamond is not the best friend of manufacturers seeking to upgrade LED production from 2-inch to 4-inch diameter wafers, according to Electro Scientific Industries.

The Portland, Oregon, equipment vendor reckons that those using diamond-tipped scribers in conjunction with 2-inch wafers will cast them aside as they reach for higher manufacturing efficiency.

Chief executive officer Nicholas Konidaris told analysts on May 12 that his company's laser scribing systems are significantly more economical than diamond tools for larger diameters.

He cites an LED manufacturer he recently visited in Japan as saying that increased areas call for a proportionate increase in the number of "“ and therefore expenditure on "“ diamond scribers.

“At the same time, you miss the opportunity of being very perfectly aligned in your scribes, and therefore you lose area that you could have devices on,” he said. Laser scribing offers more precise alignment, avoiding this waste, the company claims.

Electro Scientific partly blamed its decreasing sales in the first three months of 2009 on low levels of LED fab utilization, but says that this is now reversing.

Since it bought laser sapphire wafer scriber company New Wave Research in 2007 for $36 million in cash, Electro Scientific boasts that its AccuScribe 2112 system has been increasingly adopted.

Offering 12 wafers per hour throughput, the system has been popular with LED manufacturers across Asia. In March, Electro Scientific announced that the systems it had delivered in September 2008 to Chinese manufacturer Aqualite had successfully met a tough GaN wafer production ramp schedule.

It has also supplied multiple AccuScribe 2112 units to Aqualite s compatriot Hangzhou Silan Azure Corp, to dice copper, and scribe sapphire, GaAs and SiC wafers in color LED production.

Subsequent to that, Electro Scientific also announced that its fully-automated AccuScribe 2150 has been used by a key customer in Taiwan.

In the first quarter of 2009, Electro Scientific overall made a $15 million loss on revenues of $18 million, down from $3 million profit from revenues of $70.6 million year-over-year.

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