Seminar to highlight new market opportunities

NASHUA, NH—Innovation has long been a hallmark of the lasers and optics industry.

Dec 1st, 2007

NASHUA, NH—Innovation has long been a hallmark of the lasers and optics industry. Often accused of being too much a series of technologies in search of applications, this industry has reinvented itself in the last few years, taking manufacturing, packaging, distribution, and marketing cues from the semiconductor and consumer electronics industries.

The introduction of new technologies such as LEDs and fiber lasers, coupled with a shift by many companies from thinking like a scientific R&D lab to making business- and product-development decisions oriented toward specific markets and customer needs. This shift has in turn opened up several new investment opportunities for lasers and optics. Solar energy (photovoltaics), laser projectors (big and small), nanoimaging, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) vision—all of these applications have been enabled by technology innovation. And as a result, Wall Street is beginning to take notice again of the laser industry, and not just for telecom.

“Many laypeople tend to think that lasers are merely a device of Captain Kirk, Darth Vader and other science-fiction characters, but today it is practically impossible to listen to a CD, use the Internet, or even drive a car without lasers having been involved somewhere in the process,” said John Harmon, a financial analyst with at Needham & Co. (New York, NY), which regularly tracks several laser companies, including Coherent, Newport, JDSU, and Rofin-Sinar. “Although the group of public laser companies is dwarfed by a single giant such as Cisco or Google, we think laser stocks offer many of the characteristics investors seek in growth stocks. This industry continues to realize the much higher growth rates that a ‘mature’ industry should provide, and there have been some recent developments in technologies and applications that have created a high level of enthusiasm among both industry participants and investors.”

The life sciences are particularly benefiting from many of these advances, with optical technologies enabling a number of advances related to improving disease detection, diagnosis, and treatment. For example, optical coherence tomography (OCT) is enjoying a dramatic expansion, driven by advances in several photonic technologies, including ultra-broadband light sources such as ASEs and superluminescent diodes. At present, the global market for OCT systems is estimated to be $150 million and growing at an annual rate of 25%-30%, driven in large part by commercial applications in ophthalmology.

“In 2006, a number of companies introduced spectral-domain OCT systems to the ophthalmic market,” said Greg Smolka, author of a new market report on OCT technology and applications that will be published in January 2008 by PennWell. “These systems offer speed increases of 30–100X and two times better resolution than the existing time-domain technology. This speed increase allows for not only much faster image capture but, more important, much higher image accuracy.”

Both Harmon and Smolka are among the featured speakers at the 2008 Laser & Photonics Marketplace Seminar, organized by Laser Focus World, Industrial Laser Solutions, and Strategies Unlimited. The seminar will take place January 21, 2008, in San Jose, CA during Photonics West. Harmon’s presentation will discuss recent trends in the industry with a focus on what investors look for from the group, while Smolka will share some market and technology data and analysis from the new OCT report.

Other scheduled speakers at the seminar include Peter Leibinger, managing partner, TRUMPF, who will give the keynote address, “Photonics: is the best yet to come?”, and Dave Clark, director of marketing, Newport, who will discuss “Solar Markets and Opportunities for Lasers.” The 2008 seminar will also feature a special forum devoted to emerging opportunities and markets for ultrafast lasers. For more information or to register, go to www.marketplaceseminar.com.—Kathy Kincade

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