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ATS Automation Tooling Systems acquires technology license for innovative robotics

November 11, 2003 | General
TSX: ATA

CAMBRIDGE, ON, Nov. 11 /CNW/ - ATS Automation Tooling Systems Inc. today announced it has acquired a perpetual technology license from, and a small equity stake in, Innovative Robotics Systems Inc., ("IRSI") a privately held, California-based specialty robot supplier, primarily to the semiconductor industry.

The license provides ATS with the right to manufacture, modify and integrate IRSI's IR800 series robotics technology within ATS automated solutions. The IR800 robot was originally developed by IRSI for use in ultra-clean environments, such as semiconductor wafer handling. It is ideally suited for use in Equipment Front End Modules (EFEMs), a growing semiconductor market segment, where manufacturers are embracing larger, 300 mm wafer sizes, are incorporating new thin film processes and must meet complex wafer handling challenges.

In addition to pursing opportunities in the EFEM market, ATS intends to further enhance and use the IR800 robot series technology to develop new automation applications for other industry sectors such as healthcare, biomedical and pharmaceutical. These are emerging markets for industrial automation which require specialty robots capable of operating in sterile and other barriered environments.

In conjunction with the license, ATS has also acquired a 3% equity stake in Innovative Robotics Systems Inc. and has been granted the exclusive manufacturing and supply contract for IRSI's IR800 robot family.

"We've worked with Innovative Robotics for a number of months now, both building their robots and developing prototype EFEM products, and are impressed with their capabilities," said Klaus Woerner, ATS President and Chief Executive Officer. "They are a leader in their market segment and are on the cutting edge of clean semiconductor robot technology. This transaction solidifies our relationship and gives ATS another capability that we can maximize for additional value in semiconductor and healthcare markets. In fact, we're already well along in developing unique technology that it is totally suitable to medical applications such as aseptic environments, a market that we believe offers excellent long-term growth potential for automated solutions."

Total cash consideration to be paid by ATS over the next year for the license and equity stake will be US $1 million, including US $400,000 for prepaid royalties against future ATS sales of IR800 series robots. Royalties will accrue on each robot that ATS integrates into an ATS automated solution based on the IRSI IR800 robot proprietary technology.

"From a cost perspective, this agreement is not material to ATS, but from a capabilities perspective, it is," said Mr. Woerner. "It gives us full and immediate access to an important technology and products at attractive pricing and provides us with another competitive advantage as the automation industry leader in some very important markets."

Said Jeff Winters, IRSI President and CEO: "We are very pleased to have completed the strategic agreements and are excited with the opportunity to work with ATS on new projects and market applications. This agreement also enables us to leverage ATS global manufacturing resources to enable IRSI to meet the potentially high volume requirements of major semiconductor equipment OEMs worldwide."

About Innovative Robotics Systems
Innovative Robotics Systems Inc. (www.innovativerobotics.com) is a San Jose, CA, based specialty robot developer and supplier, primarily for use in handling semiconductor wafers. The company's IR820 series SCARA robots combine innovative mechanical design with user friendly, proprietary blended motion control software resulting in the newest generation of low-cost material handling robots. The blended motion control allows for a 20-30% improvement in through-put on any given application. Four independently driven axis provide adaptability and flexibility not possible with 3-axis, R-Theta robot designs. A linear track is not required to use the IR820 with multiple 300mm Front Loaders in standard EFEM configurations. The IR820 robot is field proven to operate at or below ISO Class 1 capability for use in Semiconductor Equipment applications where cleanliness, reliability, and high through-put are demanded.

About ATS
ATS Automation Tooling Systems Inc. (www.atsautomation.com) is the industry's leading designer and producer of turn-key automated manufacturing and test systems, which are used primarily by multinational corporations operating in a variety of industries including: automotive, computer/electronics, healthcare, and consumer products. The Company also makes precision components and sub-assemblies using its own custom-built manufacturing systems, process knowledge and automation technology. ATS is also an emerging leader in the rapidly growing market for solar energy cells and modules. ATS employs approximately 3,500 people at 25 facilities in Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia-Pacific. The Company's shares are traded on The Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol ATA.

Certain forward looking statements are made in this news release, including statements regarding possible future business. Investors are cautioned that such forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including, without limitation, continued acceptance of ATS's products, technologies, customer requirements and other risks detailed from time to time in ATS's periodic reports filed with Canadian regulatory authorities.

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For further information:
Ron Jutras, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
(519) 653 6500