Is CVD Equipment (CVV) a Graphene Investment?

In an earlier article, we discussed an amazing material called graphene and looked at several companies that have been said to provide exposure to the graphene story; Graftech and Graphene Nanochem. One other company that is discussed as a play on graphene is CVD Equipment, a company that offers a range of chemical vapor deposition and gas control equipment.

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Founded in 1982, New York-based CVD Equipment Corporation (NASDAQ:CVV) has 180 employees and a current market cap of 72 million. Revenues for the past five years are seen below:

 CVV_Revenue

With 8 consecutive years of profitability, the company has provided shareholders with a return of over +180% in the past 5 years. The decrease in revenue and backlog for 2012 is mainly attributed to the disruption caused by their move into a larger production facility. The company provides a revenue breakdown between their CVD and Gas Control divisions which represent about 80% and 20% of total revenues respectively.

What is Chemical Vapor Deposition?

Chemical Vapor Deposition or CVD is a method of applying a very thin layer of material on to a surface. For example, a company we highlighted earlier, P2i, uses this method to apply their nano polymer to shoes, phones, and many other products to make them waterproof. CVD has applications in coatings, semiconductors, solar cells, nanomaterials, LEDs, and many more. In 2008/2009 CVD was first used to produce graphene.

CVD Equipment and Graphene

In 2005, the Company acquired FirstNano giving them turn-key CVD systems for nanotechnology, solar, semiconductor and MEMS applications. Through this subsidiary, CVD offers the following products and services related to Graphene:

  • CVDGraphene™ Services
    A fully equipped application lab that can be rented and comes with scientists for an additional fee. The lab is currently being used by several startups as an incubator of sorts.
  • CVDGraphene™ Materials
    The Company offers several “starting” graphene products that are suitable for initial R&D applications and IP developments as a low-cost starting point for academic researchers and exploration R&D projects.
  • CVDGraphene™ Turn-Key Equipment and Manufacturing
    Several Easytube CVD systems are offered for the production of graphene. The various components of the CVD system can be purchased individually or as a turn-key solution.

The company has also signed join IP development agreements with privately held companies Graphene Batteries and Grafoid.

Competitors

While the company may have potential as a provider of CVD systems for the production of graphene, they aren’t the only ones playing in this space. There are larger companies such as Aixtron and Veeco who compete in the CVD area with market caps of $1.7 and $1.4 billion respectively. Startup PlanarTech recently delivered a CVD machine for graphene production to 2-DTech Limited, a subsidiary of the University of Manchester where graphene was discovered. Another University of Manchester spinout, Graphene Industries, claims to produce the world’s highest quality graphene and uses deposition equipment from Lesker and also Moorefield’s nanoCVD equipment. According to the Photonics Buyers Guide, there are a total of 42 companies selling CVD equipment.

Intellectual Property

Since the company provides CVD machines that can produce graphene as many other companies do, and produces graphene for purchase as a number of other companies do, any sustainable competitive advantage should be supported by intellectual property or strong expenditures in R&D. The company currently values their intellectual property portfolio at around $41 thousand. Only last year the company expanded their laboratory staff and began conducting R&D independently of which incurred costs of $389,000.

CVV may be a good company to invest in for other reasons, however, the Company’s ability to provide investors immediate pure play exposure to the graphene story is questionable. However, with the company’s stated commitment to the future of graphene in their investor presentations, it certainly merits watching.

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