Photonics West reflects renewed optimism
by Kathy Kincade
Vendors and attendees were surprised by the air of optimism and the size of Photonics West 2002 (San Jose, CA; Jan. 19–25). Despite sagging economic conditions worldwide, the show attracted 14,674 attendees, including a record number of exhibit-only visitors (6378). This turnout compares to 15,362 attendees in 2001 and 12,116 in 2000.
Traffic on the exhibit-hall floor—which once again overflowed into another facility across the street from the San Jose convention center, with 696 exhibitors this year—was consistently busy, and a number of vendors noted that they were pleasantly surprised by the size of the show and the air of optimism about business in general.
"The show was full of a lot of upbeat talk," said Sandy Garcia, manager of global events at Coherent Semiconductor (Santa Clara, CA). "People were more serious, and we had more shoppers instead of browsers."
In fact, as the week wore on, many company representatives commented that they believe the strong turnout at Photonics West is an indication of things to come at the upcoming OFC (Optical Fiber Communication) meeting in Anaheim, CA (March 17–22).
"Photonics West 2002 was, in many ways, reminiscent of the first Photonics West back in 1992," said Scott Walker, event project manager for Photonics West, which is sponsored by SPIE (Bellingham, WA). "At that time the industry was working to emerge from a deep recession and confidence was low. This year very few people expected the high level of turnout or the excitement that developed over the week. The technical rooms were full and the exhibit hall was packed for most of three days."
While the focus of the four symposia included in Photonics West—LASE, Optoelectronics, BiOS, and Electronic Imaging—was once again cutting-edge technologies and applications, the 2002 meeting had a more practical flavor than in years past. Panel sessions and special events covered such topics as future trends in optical networking, the status of optical components in the telecom industry, intellectual property issues, and venture capital and optics. In addition, reflecting the increasing push to make commercial production of optoelectronic and fiberoptic components more efficient and cost-effective, a new forum on emerging automation and standards issues in photonics manufacturing was very well attended.