Vector Technology is an independent company established in 1989 and
currently employs 26 people and with a turnover of 900 kEUR. They specialise
in the design, manufacture and supply of laser systems for application
in the textile, leisure, veterinarian medicine, security, measurement,
transport industrial pointer and instrumentation markets.
The company has three major product areas involving the sale of laser
driver modules, specialised laser detector modules and laser emitter/detector
systems for specific customer needs. Over 90% of the company's business
is involved in the supply of laser modules.
The company's current range of laser module designs is based on the
use of discrete analogue components. These surface-mounted technology
(SMT) components are assembled as ceramic hybrid or printed circuit
board assemblies. Whilst the technical performance of the company's
laser modules generally exceeds that of its competitors, the current
device technology introduces cost and size disadvantages.
The rationale for the AE was to employ microelectronic technology in
the form of an analogue ASIC to reduce manufacturing costs and improve
competitiveness. The objective was to integrate the analogue electronics
used for the control of the laser diodes into a single analogue ASIC
device. The system design features provided by this ASIC are generating
the following benefits:
- Significant electronic component cost savings by the use of higher
- Size reductions for the housing assemblies containing the electronic
assemblies, with additional cost-saving benefits.
- The addition of a laser detector circuit to provide analogue measurement
- Improved market competitiveness through the unique market combination
of high performance and low cost laser modules.
These factors will result in a significant increase in product sales,
generating long term economic benefits for the company and its customers.
The skills acquired by the company will allow the company to undertake
further ASIC developments in the future generating further increases
in sales and profit.
The overall duration of the AE was 15 months, but work was suspended
for a period of four months owing to a key member of the team leaving
the company and the AE extended accordingly. It also became necessary
to find an additional sub-contractor when the semi-conductor vendor
made a policy decision not to deal directly with companies designing
their own 700 Series ASIC chips. This added to the complexity of managing
the project. Finally, the first wafer was defective in manufacture,
delaying delivery of chips.
The cost of the AE was 52 kEUR. The expected payback will be 11 months
and this will show a return on investment over the expected life of
the product of 600 % over a 3 year design life.