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A Light Touch(HKTDC Electronic Components & Parts, Vol 04,2007)

RoHS-Compliant Photocells


Macron Int'l Group Ltd produces high-end, light-related electronic components for control modules that are RoHS-compliant
Sometimes, finding a niche product can result in establishing a major business line. This has certainly proved the case for Macron Int'l Group Ltd (MIG), which produces high-end, light-related electronic components for control modules.

MIG, which started out as an electronics components distributor some 15 years ago, carried photoresistors among its lines. "We then conducted intensive research and determined that the market for these components held greater possibilities," relates Marketing Manager Kelvin Cheng. "That prompted us to go into manufacturing, and we were among the first in Hong Kong to produce photoresistors."

Unfortunately, many other players had similar thoughts, and a resultant glut of photoresistors caused profit margins to plummet. Clearly, MIG had to re-think and shift to a higher-value product.

"Happily, having entered the photoresistor line early, we were quickly able to come to grips with light-related manufacturing technology as a whole. This enabled us to consider the development of new, associated lines," says Mr Cheng. "That led us into our current niche, producing electronic control components using photo-sensitive semiconductors and, of course, our own photoresistors."

He notes that the firm's photoconductive cells work with photosensors of all types, including digital imaging units, telecommunications equipment and straightforward lighting applications such as switching on street lights at dusk.

"The photoresistors largely act as switches, reacting to a light stimulus, while our optical isolators are used as noise filters in audio equipment. They are also found in sensitive control equipment, guitar amplifiers and mobile phones, where their energy-saving features are used to control the LCD backlight," he explains.

Sales of optical isolators now outstrip those of photoresistors. "The isolators are value-added products that produce better profit margins," Mr Cheng says. "Plus, they are RoHS compliant."

The capability to meet RoHS standards makes a considerable difference. "The most efficient element used in the manufacture of photocells is cadmium, which is on the hit list of European watchdogs monitoring environmental affairs," Mr Cheng says.

"MIG has developed a patent-pending technology that maximises the useful features of cadmium sulphur and cadmium selenium, the two main photosensitive materials used, while minimising the quantity required," he adds.

"For example, we have increased usage efficiency so that only 48ppm of cadmium is present in our products, which is below the 100ppm EU limit. We can show this with our SGS test reports."

The company sees improved business ahead as demand increases for its optical isolators. "It's not just the European market," says Mr Cheng. "The US is following the RoHS standard and manufacturers in Japan and the Chinese mainland are also looking at compliance." The firm carries out its laboratory tests in cooperation with the City University of Hong Kong.

"Today, our products are mainly used by leading audio parts manufacturers, such as Harman/Kardon and Panasonic, and many smaller companies," Mr Cheng says. "The full range of products includes ultra-thin photoresistors, squared photoresistors, coated photoresistor, photodiodes and optocouplers."

Dutch firm Vintage Revolution is one such user. The company is a designer and manufacturer of premium multi-effect processors for professional musicians, and demands the highest level of quality.

"Vintage incorporates our RoHS-compliant optical-couplers (MIG models MI-1210CR-R series, A, E, H and I) and figures in the supporting documentation we provide by informing the EU in Brussels that it is using them successfully as drop-in replacements for earlier, non-RoHS optocouplers," Mr Cheng says.

He advises that, in August 2007, Vintage Revolution Director Davide Amadei said: "We have found MIG's components perform extremely well, a conclusion based on extensive testing of the sound quality produced."

With an eye on the future, Mr Cheng says he sees increased demand from the automotive industry and in any machine/appliance that requires a control mechanism. "Thus far, we have a pretty good competitive edge as our only competition comes from other companies still trying to achieve RoHS compliance," he states.

While acknowledging their challenge, he believes many would-be competitors still have to wrestle with the high standards, legal issues, and regulatory requirements. "That's the real challenge," he insists.

MIG's photoconductive cells, already selling well in major markets such as North America, Europe, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and India, look like finding a comfortable niche in a world very conscious of the need for a cleaner environment.


Macron Int'l Group Ltd

Rm 703, Kowloon Bldg,
555 Nathan Rd, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel: 852-2781-3743
Fax: 852-2613-9222
Web: www.macron.com.hk