Lasers & Photonics Marketplace seminar – some tech market notes

Feb. 5, 2014
Laser Focus World’s Lasers & Photonics Marketplace seminar was held on Monday, February 4, in conjunction with SPIE Photonics West (San Francisco, CA; 1 to 6 Feb., 2014); here I’d like to simply share my notes on the more technology-related talks in the seminar.
John Wallace 720

Laser Focus World’s Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar was held on Monday, February 4, in conjunction with SPIE Photonics West (San Francisco, CA; 1 to 6 Feb., 2014); here I’d like to simply share my notes on the more technology-related talks in the seminar. (LFW Senior Editor Gail Overton will soon do her own summary of the rest of the talks, as well as the excellent panel discussion on global photonics markets, trends, and opportunities led by Martin Seifert, president of Nufern.)

Dennis Matthews on biophotonics
Dennis Matthews, director of the NSF Center for Biophotonics Science and Technology (University of California at Davis), first surveyed the biophotonics field and market, naming many applications of biophotonics from Raman spectroscopy to intracellular optical probes to quantum dots. He also posed many questions that biophotonics aims to answer -- for example, what are the changes in chemistry in the intracellular level for pharmaceuticals?

Biophotonics tools include lasers (ultrafast and others) for surgery, photodynamic therapy to kill cancer cells, hyperspectral imaging to recognize unhealthy tissue in normal tissue, x-ray diffraction enabled by LINAC to see protein and nanocrystals (ultimately, individual biomolecules). Even a cell phone itself can be a powerful biophotonic device: a $2 lens can turn a smartphone into a 200X transmission, polarization, or fluorescence microscope.

The biophotonics market is now $50 billion worldwide, which includes $37 billion for diagnostics, 37 B, $ 6.2 billion for therapeutics, and the rest for research and other areas. This is predicted to rise to $190 billion by 2018.

Matthews emphasized one important task for biophotonics: bring health care to the patient whenever possible. The patient wouldn’t have to be living near a major hospital; in-house diagnostics (prescribed by doctor), wellness monitoring, will serve developing as well as developed countries.

He notes that the U.S. Affordable Care Act, which recently went into effect, has penalties for patient hospital return, and says that this is actually an opportunity for the biophotonics industry, due to the resulting increased need for in-home monitoring and telemedicine.

Drew Nelson on the European perspective
Drew Nelson, president and CEO of semiconductor-wafer maker IQE (Cardiff, Wales) and president of the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC), gave the keynote speech on “The European Perspective: Photonics21 and Key Enabling Technologies.”

Nelson noted that the key players in the European effort to boost photonics manufacturing in Europe consist of the European Union (EU), with 28 nations; the Photonics21 association, and the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC).

The EU is acting to prevent loss of manufacturing in Europe -- there has been a slide, said Nelson, giving numerous examples, including a loss of global IP position in Europe over the past decade. “Once manufacturing is lost, it never comes back!” said Nelson.

In photonics, this is an increasingly large problem, especially considering the rise in Asian manufacturing. In response, a high-level group (HLG) was launched to examine key enabling technologies., one of which is photonics.

In photonics R&D, a “valley of death” lies between government funding and private development (transition between R&D and transition to commercial). To avoid this, the Horizon 2020 Euro 80 billion research and innovation funding program to promote:

--excellent science
--industrial leadership (where Europe performs badly)
--societal challenges (such as aging, energy challenges, etc.)

Photonics 21 was founded in 2005 and has 200 members from all European countries. It has seven working groups: Information and Communication; Industrial Manufacturing and Quality; Life Sciences and Health; Emerging Lighting, Electronics and Displays; Security, Metrology and Sensors; Design and Manufacturing of Components and Systems; and Photonics Research, Education and Training.

EPIC is an industry-driven organization fostering a competitive ecosystem in Europe. Members of EPIC have access to the EPIC network, including 2500 members’ business cards and 1600 LinkedIn contacts, as well as access to EPIC pavilions at shows, technology workshops, and B2B roundtables.

This is all extremely important for Europe: in 2011 the total photonics market was 350 billion Euros, which is estimated to rise in 2020 to 615 billion Euros; with the European portion coming to 65 billion Euros.

Bill Beck on laser-projection displays
Bill Beck of BTM Consulting, and who founded Laser Light Engines (Salem, NH), spoke on the growing market for laser-projection displays. Although he discussed small displays, his emphasis was on big-screen systems for IMAX, 3D, and “Digital Cinema 2.0,” and lasers used as illuminators rather than raster-scanners.

Why use lasers for projector illumination?
1. High spatial brightness increases brightness beyond that of lamps – especially important for large screens like IMAX
2. Higher dynamic range, wider color gamut
3. Lower cost of ownership (no lamp replacement, lower power consumption)
4. Enables off-board illumination (fiber delivery), “light farms”

Laser projectors come in different types, such as: RGB – red, green, blue laser primaries; blue-laser-pumped wavelength-converting phosphor; and modules – for example, frequency doubling IR into green. Some options include: white phosphor with color filters; RGB phosphors; RG phosphors + blue laser; and green phosphor, blue laser, and red LED.

Beck discussed color gamut (the larger the color gamut, the more saturated the colors can be); TV color gamut is smaller than digital cinema color gamut is smaller than laser-projector color gamut. Nine years ago, Holly wood didn’t want to expand color gamut; but now they do.

High lumens/watt is important -- for efficiency, it’s better to use lasers (red and blue, in particular) that have higher lm/W. For example, a 615 nm laser has 301 lm/W; but a 642 nm laser produces only 109 lm/W.

Market opportunities: retrofitting cinemas $3 billion; giant-screen conversion to laser $200 to $400 million. Emerging applications include “universal projection heads” that can be anything from spotlights or floodlights to image projectors; also, light farms, which are high-power rack-mounted RGB engines, enabling multiscreen or multiprojector installs via optical fiber.

Beck’s summary is that there is a large potential market – not here yet, but starting this year.

About the Author

John Wallace | Senior Technical Editor (1998-2022)

John Wallace was with Laser Focus World for nearly 25 years, retiring in late June 2022. He obtained a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and physics at Rutgers University and a master's in optical engineering at the University of Rochester. Before becoming an editor, John worked as an engineer at RCA, Exxon, Eastman Kodak, and GCA Corporation.

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