Fri, Apr 11, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Laser encoder to reduce industry costs

PROFITABLE RESEARCH A four-year research project led by the Institute of Applied Mechanics at National Taiwan University has yielded numerous advances and patents

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A research team sponsored by the National Science Council (NSC) has successfully developed a "laser encoder system" involving nano-optical technologies, the utilization of which could reduce the operating costs of high-tech industries due to improvement in both manufacturing processes and measurement systems, officials said yesterday.

The four-year research project, which cost NT$40 million and was led by the Institute of Applied Mechanics at National Taiwan University (NTU), resulted in 11 professional papers, 17 patents and 7 component system products pertaining to technologies ranging from nano-optics to Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS).

The team's achievement gained international attention in January 2000, when Applied Optics, a journal of the Optical Society of America, put the teams' work on a holographic printer named Sparkle on the cover.

Yesterday, C.K. Lee (李世光), project convener and a professor at NTU, revealed another promising work which may attract international attention: a newly deigned laser encoder system.

Lee said that it performs much better than major rivals produced by the Japanese firm Cannon.

"It has 10 times greater precision and its signal strength will be increased by a factor of 10," Lee said at a press conference.

For years, Canon has developed many kinds of highly accurate laser encoder systems, which can ensure enhanced performance of positioning sensors involved with nanotechnology.

For national defense and business considerations, however, Japan has forbidden the sale of key components of domestically produced laser encoder systems to Taiwan.

Lee said that the laser encoder system technologies play key roles in positioning systems required by diverse high-tech industries, ranging from semiconductor to flat- panel display manufacturing.

According to statistics provided by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Taiwan's output of high-tech semiconductor industries next year will value NT$1 trillion. However, the cost of importing manufacturing facilities for high-tech semiconductor industries exceeds NT$200 billion, about one fifth of the output value.

By adopting Taiwan-produced laser encoder systems with better performance, Lee said, the rate of domestic production for high-tech manufacturing facilities, 5 percent, could be significantly increased,further reducing costs.

According to Lee, domestic companies can successfully adopt the high-precision laser encoder in manufacturing facilities involved with anti-counterfeit technology.

"The team's achievement will influence domestic industries, whose total output value exceeds trillions of Taiwanese dollars," said Tsay Chung-biau (蔡忠杓), director general of the NSC's department of engineering and applied sciences.

Tsay said that domestic firms would be the council's highest priority in transferring related technologies developed by the team, which was composed of nearly 100 professional researchers, including nine professors.

Lee said, however, that Taiwan needs innovative strategies to share existing position systems' markets needed by manufacturing facilities for high-tech industries, because long-term reliance on familiar brands still dominates consumers' behavior.

Other competitors, Lee said, include firms in Germany and the US.

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