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Sylmar’s QPC Laser Focus: Medical Tech

A Sylmar company is riding the wave of the increase in medical uses for laser technology. QPC Lasers Inc. (QPC) is swimming in orders for its low-power, high-brightness products, with companies calling from Europe, Asia and the United States. Used in procedures such as heart and eye surgery, as well as removal of birthmarks and tattoos, the laser segment of the medical-equipment market is a $400 million-a-year business. To get its share, QPC hired a director of market development specifically to get equipment manufacturers to use their lasers in products sold to hospitals and clinics. QPC developed its own technology to manufacturer semiconductor-based lasers that are smaller, brighter and use less power than gas or solid-state lasers. “The brightness is important to get into a fiber and snake it into the body,” said Paul Rudy, vice president of marketing and sales. A January 2006 article in Laser Focus World reported how the growing number of doctors using laser devices is driving the general medical market. No longer were just dermatologists and plastic surgeons buying lasers but general practitioners were as well. The medical market has taken off for QPC because the company’s products are well matched for surgical needs, Rudy explained. In the spring, the company shipped its 2000th varicose-vein treatment laser. In September, QPC shipped its first 100-watt semiconductor laser to a medical customer for use in surgical applications such as urology or cardiology. Founded in 2000, the company went public five years later to generate capital. During the period of private ownership, investors put $55 million into the company, including $10 million for its Sylmar building and up to $30 million toward research and development. The company’s 50 employees do research, development and manufacturing in a 40,000 square foot facility. QPC holds five patents, for creating layers on semiconductor chips, and has another 10 patents pending. The manufacturing facility includes equipment to x-ray each chip to make sure the layers have been placed correctly, and an isolated room with an independent floor and floating table to eliminate vibration. Although medical equipment is the company’s fastest growing segment, QPC also gets significant revenues from defense contracts, said George Lintz, a company cofounder and its CFO. For the second quarter, the company posted a net loss of $1.2 million on revenues of $1.8 million. Analysts following QPC list their stock as a speculative buy. A recent report from Taglich Brothers concluded that in the long-run, QPC’s technology should allow it to capture about 1 percent of the estimated $6.1 billion semiconductor laser market in the next five years. The keys to the company’s success are in its superior technology and that it is now out of the R & D; stage and is producing and shipping a large quantity of products, added Stuart Brown, an analyst with Dutton Associates. “They are coming from a small base but the potential of the markets they are addressing are very large,” Brown said. One move by the company to get more of its lasers into medical devices was hiring Tom Steele as director of market development. He comes to QPC with 18 years experience in the bio-medical market and previously worked for Spectra Physics Lasers and Lightwave Electronics. “His expertise in the medical marketplace will be a tremendous asset to us,” Rudy said. One area the Taglich Brothers report raised as a possible concern was the company’s heavy reliance on defense contracts. QPC doesn’t plan to be in government R & D; for an extended period within two years they plan to have most of their revenues coming from commercial products, Lintz said. “As a small company we know there are markets out there,” Lintz said. “We are not willing to sacrifice our focus to go after these.”

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