Unipixel Inc., a 60-employee Colorado Springs operation acquired from Atmel Corp. last year could double in size by 2018 as technology advances to allow mobile-device manufacturers to produce screens that can folded, bent or rolled, the operation's top manager said.
Unipixel plans to add 20 employees by year-end to accommodate growth in its XTouch product line, made in the former Atmel plant at 1150 Cheyenne Mountain Blvd. now owned by Microchip Technology Inc., said Tom Moss, Unipixel's vice president of fabrication operations.
Atmel developed the technology under the XSense name as a thin film imprinted with ink that contains copper and can conduct electricity to be used in the touchscreens of smartphones and tablet and laptop computers. But in early 2015, Atmel decided to shut down or sell the operation.
"We are seeing growth," Moss said. "We have everything we need here to keep the business where it is and grow it. ... We even have all the equipment we need to ramp up to our current goals."
Moss is optimistic about Unipixel's growth in Colorado Springs because the XTouch product this year has been designed into 17 mobile devices from the world's top manufacturers, ranging from notebook personal computers to tablet computers that can be converted into laptop computers by attaching a keyboard.
Unipixel has not disclosed the identity of the manufacturers, but Atmel has been selling the XSense displays for tablets made by Taiwanese computer maker ASUS and personal computer and printer giant HP Inc.
About half of Unipixel's local employees work in the manufacturing operation, while the rest handle shipping and receiving, purchasing and sales orders, as well as safety, quality, reliability, finance, IT and engineering functions that previously had been provided to the XSense operation by Atmel, Moss said.
XTouch production initially would be expanded by adding manufacturing shifts, he said. Unipixel plans to exercise options it has to continue leasing space from Microchip for another 12-18 months, but the company has looked at a former semiconductor manufacturing plant shut down by Intel Corp. for future expansion, he said.
"We would likely have to subdivide that space" to fill the massive Intel plant, which spans more than 400,000 square feet, Moss said. Unipixel bought the product line from Atmel in April 2015 for a $450,000 promissory note, but also licensed the technology for two years and prepaid $9.3 million in royalties as part of the license, which can be extended for another 10 years.
Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234