Site: Hewlett-Packard Optoelectronics Division
370 W. Trimble Rd.
San Jose, CA
Date Visited: September 27, 1994
Report Author: L. Coldren
Hewlett-Packard (HP) is one of the largest producers of optoelectronics components in the world. The company produces the largest dollar volume of LEDs and optical encoders and 400 million LED chips/month. The company also is a large producer of high-performance optocouplers, low-cost fiber-optic transmitter and receiver components using LEDs, and related microwave and rf (radio frequency) components. Revenues from rf and optical components sales are $700 million/year for 9,000 employees (counting overseas operations).
The Optoelectronics DivisionÍs customers are primarily outside of the company; company representatives estimated only 5% of their customers are internal. The Division's focus is on low-cost, high-volume products. Customers include computer companies interested in low-cost data links; automotive companies interested in bright LED tail lights; and sensor companies, producers of bar code reading instruments, and microwave/rf systems houses.
Producing low-cost, high-volume components is clearly the business of Hewlett-Packard. Company representatives showed plastic-encapsulated LED-based data link components costing as little as $2 for a transmitter/receiver pair for 10 Mb/s Ethernet. With 62.5 micron multimode fiber, a 50 Mb/s link goes for $20. The panelists' hosts indicated they also have more expensive data link items. They anticipate a 622 Mb/s link based upon LEDs. At a recent conference, HP employee Al Yuen reviewed the company's development of VCSELs for higher-speed links. The company is also exploring CD lasers for Fiber Channel and other higher-speed links. Chief competitors named were AMP, Honeywell, and Sumitomo.
The visible LEDs based on AlInGaP/GaAs is one of Hewlett-Packard's areas of current emphasis. The company's researchers are using a wafer bonding technique to place the AlInGaP on transparent GaP for increased external efficiency. Hewlett-Packard is getting 15% external efficiency. (Thirty percent extraction efficiency is typical with transparent substrates.) The company grows not only its own epitaxial material, but also its GaAs substrates. JTEC's hosts emphasized the importance of the company producing its own material. Outside suppliers of GaAs substrates could be used today, but this wasnÍt true in the past. Wafer growth, epitaxial growth, and some processing is done in San Jose. All of the die attach, packaging, and testing, as well as some of the processing, is done off-shore in either Singapore or Malaysia. Wafer fabrication is not automated; packaging and assembly is. About 30% of the effort occurs at the front end (development); 70% occurs at the product manufacturing stage. Sharp and Toshiba were mentioned as competitors.
Hewlett-Packard is also very interested in pursuing GaN for blue, green, and UV emitters. Roland Haitz called it "the most important materials system in the next decade." The company appeared poised to put a lot of effort in this direction, and JTEC's hosts expressed interest in possible government funding, liking the 50% support concept offered by ATP.
Company representatives discussed techniques for technology transfer with the JTEC panel. They viewed the close integration of development activities and manufacturing as critical and claimed most of their basic ideas came from the literature rather than directly from research labs. However, Haitz stated his strong support of university research. Panel hosts again emphasized the importance of materials technology in the company's success. They also disagreed that optoelectronics manufacturing should become more like silicon (wafer-scale everything), and they pointed out several counter-examples. One needs to pay attention to III-V fundamentals, not only the manufacturing process. In San Jose, Hewlett-Packard spends about 9% on R&D. Data links are seen as the company's biggest component application; it does not make systems.