Consumers aren’t likely to recognize its name, but electronics manufacturers worldwide know Cree Inc. as one of the top three or four sources of LEDs used in everything from traffic signals to message displays on wireless telephones. About 58% of Cree’s revenue in the fiscal year ended June 2002 came from LEDs. But there’s more to Cree than light, though describing some of its products is about as easy as catching beams from an LED.
For one thing, the mix is changing, testimony to the company’s commitment to research and development. Cree expects 70% of this year’s sales to come from products it developed or invented in 2002. While the new products include LEDs, Cree also develops and makes devices from its patented process for fabricating semiconductor wafers from silicon carbide and gallium nitride. They’re used in power transmitters and in lasers for next-generation DVD recorders. It also makes silicon carbide crystals, which look and feel remarkably like diamonds, for the gemstone and jewelry markets. And Cree is working on new LEDs that will be bright enough to compete with light bulbs.