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RVSI Gets Orders for Data Matrix Reading for Mobile Phone Circuit Boards

OMRON Automation - Americas

CANTON, MASSACHUSETTS - September 27, 2000 - Robotic Vision Systems, Inc. (RVSI) (NASDAQ: ROBV) today said it has received orders from three of the world's largest manufacturers of mobile phones for equipment to verify and read Data Matrix two-dimensional (2-D) bar codes that will be imprinted on circuit boards. The current orders aggregate in excess of $1 million and were received by RVSI Acuity CiMatrix, Canton, Massachusetts.

Data Matrix 2-D bar codes, the most widely used marks for parts identification, resemble small checkerboards and are found on an increasing number of products. Unlike one-dimensional bar codes, which can hold a relative handful of digits identifying a manufacturer and product identification numbers, a 2-D Data Matrix mark can encode a sizeable amount of digital information within a small mark. Moreover, while standard bar codes are typically printed on paper labels that are then affixed to product packaging, Data Matrix codes may be marked directly on a product either through ink jet, laser marking, chemical etching, dot peening, lithography, or other methods.

The three manufacturers have committed to global use of Data Matrix for tracking and tracing circuit boards through the manufacturing process, and then through the life cycle of the product once in the customer's hands.  One European manufacturer has already installed 500 "read points" - stations where 2-D bar codes are read during manufacturing - and will have deployed 1000 read points by the end of this year. These global manufacturers are deploying Data Matrix reading equipment across four continents. 

"These programs are still in their early stages," said Pat V. Costa, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of RVSI, "yet each one is proceeding at a pace to indicate that, within eighteen months, most cellular telephones being manufactured will carry a Data Matrix identifying mark."

For manufacturers of mobile telephones, Data Matrix seems destined to supplant bar codes printed on paper labels, which are used to track circuit boards through the manufacturing process.  "For any small electronics device, 'real estate' on a circuit board is a precious commodity," Mr. Costa said.  "A Data Matrix can encode sufficient information to individually identify every circuit board manufactured, yet put this information into an extremely small space on that board; as little as one millimeter square."

A Data Matrix mark can be ink-jet printed on the circuit board or etched with a laser.  Either method leaves a permanent identifying number, yet are less expensive to apply than are bar-coded paper labels.  "Paper labels can crimp, tear, and fall off," Mr. Costa said.  "In a manufacturing environment, a circuit board with its paper label missing is considered scrap.  With Data Matrix, the mark is indelible and tamper-proof."

RVSI Acuity CiMatrix is selling two kinds of equipment to the three manufacturers.  The first is DMx Verifier+™ hardware and software to verify that Data Matrix marks have been made properly.  An image of the 2-D bar code is taken as soon as it has been printed or etched on the circuit board, and the mark is graded for readability based on industry standards.  The second and much more prevalent kind of equipment sold is DMx AutoID+™, used for the reading of marks as boards make their way through the manufacturing process.  These fixed-mount units combine cameras, lighting, hardware, and software in an installation-ready package.  Using DMx AutoID+, information relating to the manufacturing of each board, such as detailed information about the chips used or even chip serial numbers, can be recorded in a database.

The recording of such information has tangible benefits for manufacturing engineers.  Improved defect tracking, quality reporting and continuous improvement are just three such immediate benefits.  Over time, manufacturers should see improved correlation between materials, process and defect rates; and correlation between design practices and manufacturing defect rates.  Because data is captured in real time, there can be immediate feedback from inspection and test to the assembly process.

"Over the longer term, mobile phone manufacturers want to use the data captured regarding each board to track the board over its life cycle," Mr. Costa said.  "The serial number encoded in the Data Matrix can tell a repair center if a phone is still under warranty.  It could also be used to identify phones in which cloned chips have been substituted."  

For mobile phone manufacturers, reading the 2-D bar code outside of the factory would entail providing Data Matrix imagers to repair centers or other sites.  "We believe such use is inevitable because it aids the manufacturer to track and trace what is otherwise an item that is indistinguishable from millions of other phones," Mr. Costa said.  "Our goal is to supply fixed-mount and mobile readers not only for the manufacturing phase of this implementation, but the life-cycle phase as well."

About RVSI

Robotic Vision Systems, Inc. (RVSI) has the most comprehensive line of machine vision systems available today. Headquartered in Canton, Massachusetts, with offices worldwide, RVSI is the world leader in vision-based semiconductor inspection and media transfer equipment. Using leading-edge technology, RVSI joins vision-enabled process equipment, high-performance optics, lighting, and advanced hardware and software to assure product quality, identify and track parts, control-manufacturing processes, and ultimately enhance profits for companies worldwide. Currently serving the semiconductor, electronics, aerospace, automotive, pharmaceutical and packaging industries, RVSI holds approximately 100 patents in a broad range of technologies.

Additional information for shareholders

Except for the historical information herein, certain matters discussed in this release include forward-looking statements that may involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Actual results may vary significantly based on a number of factors, including, but not limited to: the historical cyclical nature of the semiconductor industry, risks in products and technology development, market acceptance of new products and continuing product demand, the impact of competitive products and pricing, changing economic conditions, both here and abroad, timely development and release of new products and strategic suppliers and customers, the effect of the company's accounting policies and other risk factors detailed in the Company's most recent registration statement, annual report on Form 10-K and 10K/A, and other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

DMx AutoID+™ and DMx Verifier+™ are trademarks of RVSI

For further information contact:
Neal H. Sanders
(781) 302-2439

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