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Silicon Valley display maker plans to expand manufacturing site in Mass.

Posted by Scott Kirsner  March 26, 2010 08:00 AM

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Prysm, a San Jose-based maker of energy-efficient flat panel displays, is announcing this morning that they plan to double the staff at their Concord, Mass. facility, from about 35 to 70.

It always strikes me as interesting to hear about an out-of-state business choosing to manufacture in Massachusetts, so I had a quick chat yesterday with Patrick Tan, who manages the Concord site.

Prysm is a developer of laser-lit, large format screens called "laser phosphor displays." Tan tells me the advantages are they consume a fraction of the power of an LCD or plasma screen, while still presenting a sharp and bright image. (The materials in Prysm's displays are also easily recycled, the company says.) Tan says Prysm's screens are about "eight to ten times more energy efficient than plasma, and three or four times better than LCDs. We can run a whole video wall for about the same amount of power consumption as your home microwave."

Tan helped start Prysm's Massachusetts operation in November 2005, and last summer, the group moved into a new 23,000 square-foot facility in Concord. 

Though Prysm does manufacturing in India and China, Massachusetts is its primary production site in North America. Why here, not exactly the rock-bottom-cheapest place to make something? "The talent pool," says Tan, an MIT alum. "We're in clean rooms, using funky equipment, coming up with new ways of doing things I guess you could say we're leveraging the Yankee ingenuity. This can be a tougher place for really labor-intensive manufacturing, but this is a great place when you're trying to come up with clever ways to do something better, faster, and cheaper."

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About 30 of the 35 Massachusetts employees have engineering backgrounds, Tan says. "As we grow, we'll need more skilled technicians and operators, but we'll also add 10 or 15 more engineers." (That's Tan on the left, at a company celebration held earlier this year.)

The company plans to market its displays for indoor commercial use first, in places like convention centers, airports, and shopping malls. But Tan says the consumer electronics market (think TVs) "is the holy grail. That's definitely on the road map, although you don't want to start there."

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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