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Friday, April 11, 2003
Laser encoder to reduce industry costs

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.

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, project convener and a professor at NTU, revealed another promising work which may attract international attention: a newly designed 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.

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