The vast majority of today's touch screen conductivity material is based on ITO - indium tin oxide. It is a rare earth metal that is quite expensive, has a limited supply that is mostly mined in China (China produces about 90% of the world's supply of REM) and can be a bit challenging at times to work with in a manufacturing environment due to its flexibility properties.
Now, what if there was a company that had come up with a better touch screen conductivity solution than ITO? One that was much cheaper, had superior conductivity performance characteristics, was much more energy efficient and had no supply constraints? Could that company possibly have come up with a better mousetrap - or at the very least a new dominant touch screen technology? Would that company's touch screen solution be an attractive replacement touch screen technology to the Microsofts, (NASDAQ:MSFT) Apples, (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Googles (NASDAQ:GOOG) of the world and to the myriad of other companies that utilize touch screens in their products? Would that be a company you might want to invest in?
That company does exist and will very soon go into commercial production with their touch screen product which it calls UniBoss. The company is based in Woodland, Texas and is called Uni-Pixel (NASDAQ:UNXL). Uni-Pixel is a company focused on developing and commercializing performance engineered films for the lighting & display and flexible electronics markets. They develop electronic, protective and optical films. They also have a product that is a protective cover film solution they refer to as Diamond Guard that has just very recently gone into full commercial production.
UniBoss is produced via a patented roll-to-roll or continuous flow printed electronics manufacturing process that offers high fidelity replication of surface micro structures, advanced micro-optic structures, and conductive elements on thin film. Their process can produce ultra-fine line (<5µm width) conductive lines and patterns that can be used for many printed circuit applications. They are able to easily customize the grid patterns and conductive material used to meet individual customer needs. In addition to the performance, efficiency and cost advantages mentioned above, the company's CEO Reed Killion says that UniBoss is easier and more economical to integrate into the touch screen manufacturing process and will provide the customer significant manufacturing cost savings as well. He has stated on numerous occasions that UniBoss takes about one quarter the manufacturing steps to integrate into the customer's touch screen solution than the current ITO solutions do.
Everything Uni-Pixel claims about Uniboss sounds great but as always the proof is in the pudding. Well, the pudding started to heat up when earlier this year on February 28th Uni-Pixel announced a collaboration with Texas Instruments (NASDAQ:TXN) to integrate TI's touch controllers with Uni-Pixel's UniBoss printed touch sensors. The validation of UniPixel's solution just took a big leap forward. In the press release, Gaurang Shah, vice president of Audio & Imaging Products at Texas Instruments, commented: "UniBoss offers unparalleled cost and performance benefits that make it a perfect match for TI touch screen controllers. Together, Uni-Pixel and TI will bring to market high-quality touch screen solutions at an extraordinarily low cost." On their May 11th conference call Reed Killion said that the qualification and integration process with Texas Instruments would be done by the end of the second quarter (June 30th) and that they were working on a definitive sales and marketing agreement. He also stated that he expects the first joint design win for UniBoss and TI's touch screen controllers to be in the third quarter of this year.
In addition to the Texas Instruments relationship, Uni-Pixel has sampled UniBoss to about 30 touch panel suppliers and OEMs that have expressed interest and submitted requests for design and sampling of UniBoss enabled touch sensor solutions. This has resulted in Uni-Pixel signing thirty non-disclosure and material transfer agreements with these companies and it is working with many of them to integrate UniBoss into their products.
The company has no debt and about $6 million in cash. Killion believes that they will not need to raise more funding as he believes revenues will start to ramp fast enough to provide for the company's financial needs. The company currently has 7.1 million shares outstanding.
Conclusion: Uni-Pixel appears to offer a good risk / reward proposition with little downside at this point and a nice chance for significant price appreciation going forward. As with any investment make sure to do your own research and evaluation. For any investors wanting to further explore Uni-Pixel and its prospects I would strongly encourage you to listen to the company's May 11th conference call which can be found on the company's website. It's extremely informative. I'd also recommend that you read the research report written by Ankur Desai of MDB Capital Group. It's an excellent write up on the company and its prospects.
Disclosure: I am long UNXL.