Despite a drop in overall customer investment levels, business for BOC Edwards is booming.

The growth has come through increased market share in vacuum pumps, gas supply wins and joint initiatives with environmentally-focused customers to develop solutions capable of handling the high global warming waste by-products of TFT-LCD – thin film transistor-liquid crystal display – array etch processes.

BOC Edwards recently formed a joint venture in Taiwan with Highlight Tech Corp focusing on high-value process equipment component cleaning and recovery which is expected to contribute significantly in the coming months.

More than 700 vacuum systems have already been shipped so far this year, with 500 more scheduled for shipment by the end of the year.

David Wong, managing director of the company's vacuum business, said: \\$quot;Our growth in TFT this year is particularly pleasing on two fronts: our product strength, support capability and applications experience is clearly being recognized as customers across the region choose us as the preferred partner when they upgrade manufacturing technology.

\\$quot;We have won the largest share of the vacuum business in virtually every Gen 6, Gen 7 and Gen 7.5 investment. We have also made progress in Japan this year, winning orders for the PECVD - plasma enhanced chemical-vapor deposition - business at a new Gen 6 fab against strong incumbent domestic competition.\\$quot;

This year BOC Edwards is due to invest more than US $20 million in bulk gas generation equipment at TFT manufacturing sites this year linked to the long-term supply contracts.

Mr Wong added: \\$quot;As TFT-LCD manufacturers in Taiwan have become more proactive in addressing global warming emissions from their manufacturing processes, BOC Edwards' thermal processing unit has quickly evolved as the only technology with proven capability to destroy production levels of SF6, the most environmentally harmful exhaust gas commonly used in TFT manufacture.

\\$quot;SF6 makes up to 90 per cent of the global warming emissions from the Taiwan TFT industry, and has more than 22,000 times the global warming potential of CO2.

\\$quot;As we continue to address this key environmental issue in Taiwan, by the end of 2005 we will have supplied a total of more than 50 exhaust treatment systems to TFT manufacturers.\\$quot;

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