INTEGRAL VISION INC (MAXC) - Description of business
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Integral Vision, Inc., a Michigan corporation (or the "Company"), was incorporated in 1978. The Company develops, manufactures and markets flat panel display inspection systems to ensure product quality in the display manufacturing process. The Company primarily inspects microdisplays and small flat panel displays, though the technology used is scalable to allow inspection of full screen displays and components. Integral Vision's products primarily use machine vision to evaluate operating displays for cosmetic and functional defects, but can also provide electrical testing if required for a given application. Integral Vision's customers and potential customers are primarily large companies with significant investment in the manufacture of displays. Nearly all of the Company's sales originate in the United States, Asia, or Europe. The Company's products are generally sold as capital goods. Depending on the application, display inspection systems have an indefinite life and are more likely to require replacement due to possible technological obsolescence than from physical wear. Automated inspection has become a necessity for manufacturers who need to continually improve production efficiency to meet the increasing demand for high quality products. The Company's automatic inspection systems can inspect parts at a lower cycle time and with greater repeatability than is possible with human inspectors. While the Company has several large companies as customers, these customers are working with new microdisplay technologies. Integral Vision's success will be substantially dependant on these customers getting their emerging display technologies into high volume production. Products SharpEye - Integral Vision's SharpEye product provides Flat Panel Display (FPD) inspection for reflective, emissive and transmissive display technologies. SharpEye is designed for the detection of functional and cosmetic defects in LCOS, OLED, MEMS, 3LCD/HTPS, LCD and other emerging display technologies. These technologies are applied to consumer products such as camcorders, rear projection computer monitors, digital still cameras, HDTV, projectors, video headsets and video telephones. The core technology of SharpEye inspection algorithms is the ability to quantize data to the level of a single display pixel. SharpEye can be configured for production inspection or for display evaluation in a laboratory based on the equipment configuration selected. ChromaSee - Integral Vision's ChromaSee product, which was introduced in 2003, provides luminance, color matching and defect inspections for FPD displays. Defect detection includes functional (e.g. failed pixels, icons) and cosmetic (e.g. scratches) defects. ChromaSee integrates with production equipment to allow inline or offline testing. A configuration interface (Task Sequencer) uses a familiar "Tree View" representation of the inspection sequence flow. For deployment into production, the operator's interface provides essential views of results, images and statistics for production floor personnel. Lifetime Tester - Integral Vision's Lifetime Tester product evaluates changes in display luminance, color and other performance characteristics over time. The Lifetime Tester facilitates the process of comparing different display manufacturing processes and formulas by evaluating large numbers of samples side by side to determine their life characteristics. This allows design and process engineers to efficiently evaluate the effectiveness of proposed design and process changes off line prior to implementation. IVSee - Integral Vision's IVSee, introduced in 2005, provides FPD inspection for applications which still require manual handling. IVSee is designed for the detection of functional and cosmetic defects in LCOS, OLED, MEMS, 3LCD/HTPS, LCD and other emerging display technologies. IVSee is configured to be integrated into existing manual inspection stations allowing them to receive the benefits of computer aided optical inspection without the need to modify the manufacturing process to automate handling of the display. The operator's interface provides essential views of results, images, and statistics for production floor personnel. LCI Professional - Applications formerly done with LCI-Professional are now primarily done with IVSee. See description above. Marketing The Company generally markets its vision products to end users, but the Company has had success integrating its products with OEM's in certain circumstances. Although sales are made worldwide, the Company's strongest presence is maintained in the US (through Company employees), and in Asia and Europe (through sales representatives). Competition Presently, most final inspection of small flat panel displays is manual. Higher resolution, increased brightness, and increased contrast in newer versions of the displays are stretching human capabilities to do the inspections. Automated inspection offers a good return on investment as it uses less clean room space, requires fewer fixtures and hardware because of a faster cycle time, and reduces the labor required for inspection. Competition for machine vision based microdisplay and small flat panel display inspection comes primarily from Westar Display Technologies, Inc. Production and Suppliers The Company's production process consists principally of assembling standard electrical, electronic and optical components and hardware subassemblies purchased from suppliers into finished products. The Company generally does not rely on a single source for parts and subassemblies, although certain components and subassemblies included in the Company's products may only be obtained from a limited number of suppliers. Management believes alternative sources or designs could be developed for any of the components used in its products thereby mitigating any exposure to product interruption from shortages of parts or limited suppliers. Major Customers The nature of the Company's product offerings may produce sales to one or a limited number of customers in excess of 10% of total net sales in any one year. It is possible that the specific customers reaching this threshold may change from year to year. Loss of any one of these customers could have a material impact on the Company's results of operations. For 2006, sales to Qualcomm MEMS Technologies, Texas Instruments, Energy Conversion Devices, and DuPont represented 31%, 21%, 21% and 14% of net sales, respectively. There were no amounts due from these customers at December 31, 2006. For 2005, sales to Hewlett Packard and Texas Instruments represented 71% and 21% of net sales, respectively. Approximately $75,000 was due from one of these customers at December 31, 2005. Intellectual Property Management believes that the technology incorporated in its products gives it advantages over its competitors and prospective competitors. Protection of technology is attempted through a combination of patents, applied for patents, confidentiality agreements and trade secrets. The Company presently has 14 U.S. patents. There can be no assurance that the Company will have the resources to defend its patents or that patents the Company holds will be considered valid if challenged. In addition, it is possible that some patents will be rendered worthless as the result of technological obsolescence. Governmental Approvals and Regulations The Company is not subject to government approvals for any of its primary products or services. Certain applications using laser technology require compliance with CDRH Section 21 CFR 1040. Product Development The market for Machine Vision is characterized by rapid and continuous technological development and product innovation. The Company believes that continued and timely development of new products and enhancements to existing products is necessary to maintain its competitive position. Accordingly, the Company devotes a significant portion of its personnel and financial resources to product development programs and seeks to maintain close relationships with customers to remain responsive to their needs. During the period ended March 31, 2006 the Company began activity associated with a product development agreement with Energy Conversion Devices (ECD) where the Company is compensated for a portion of its costs for the development of online inspection for a continuous web of display material. This best efforts subcontract with ECD proceeds from a contract from the United States Display Consortium. The Company's net engineering and product development costs amounted to $1.2 million and $960,000 in 2006 and 2005, respectively. The Company's current product development efforts are primarily directed to Flat Panel Display and Component Inspection products. Environmental Factors The costs to the Company of complying with federal, state and local provisions regulating protection of the environment are not material. Employees As of February 17, 2007, the Company had 18 permanent employees, all full time, compared to 21 at February 28, 2006 and 16 at February 28, 2005. None of the Company's employees are represented by a labor union.