This year was one of those years that Photonics West was held during the same week as the MD&M West show in Anaheim, CA. Usually, they are back-to-back or maybe separated by a week at most, so it is possible for those interested to attend both venues—but some years, they are held simultaneously. A lot of people have commented that there should be more coordination between the two sponsoring organizations, namely SPIE (Photonics West) and UBM (MD&M), but the fact is that they are two totally separate and independent entities and I seriously doubt either of them look at the other’s advanced scheduling to determine their conference schedule—it is more a matter of available conference space.
While I am one of those who did not attend MD&M so I could concentrate on Photonics West, I did chat with a number of my colleagues who did attend—some only attended MD&M and others attended both shows for a day or two. The general consensus is that while both shows were very busy and certainly provided ample leads and opportunities, it seemed that the MD&M show attendance was affected more by the Photonics West venue than the Photonics West attendance was affected by MD&M.
MD&M is the most comprehensive medical manufacturing conference in the U.S., taking place in one of the world's largest hubs for medical device innovation—Southern California. This year's conference featured a program of sessions, panels, and workshops covering disruptive design, new materials, 3D printing, robotics & automation, regulatory guidance, and more. This year, MD&M presented the following venues which I think are quite interesting: the Smart Manufacturing Innovation Summit, 3D Printing Innovation Summit, and the Chief Robotics Officer (CRO) Summit. Smart Manufacturing, 3D Printing, and Robotics— the same three growth areas that we see in the laser industry.
This year for the first time in 4 years I was actually at home to watch the Super Bowl, the last few years being in California attending the above-mentioned conferences. Two years ago, I fell asleep at halftime when the Patriots were losing by something like 20+ points, only to wake up at the very end to see the final go-ahead—in my hotel room. Last year, I watched in a San Francisco pub and was definitely in the minority being a New England fan in California. This year, though, I got to fall asleep in my own house, and then get up very early the next morning to fly to California. So, on to the laser industry!
The week as usual started with the PennWell-sponsored Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar. Former Laser Focus World Editor-in-Chief Conard Holton (who now serves as Editor-at-Large) is focusing on this event almost exclusively in his semi-retirement. I arrived in time to at least socialize at the wine hour. While there were no earth-shattering revelations presented, there was a record attendance of about 180 people. The most popular sessions were the ones on Flow Cytometry and Quantum Computing. The Quantum Computing session lasted 1.5 hours and remarkably everyone stayed to hear the whole talk, which also featured the public announcement of a new world’s record. Both of the above talks will be made into webcasts and will be available in the March timeframe. Stay tuned! Dr. Bo Gu, who gave his usual talk on the status of the laser industry in Asia and specifically China, as usual held the audience’s attention. In fact, in the Wednesday show feedback on Optics.org, they covered Dr. Gu’s talk. Perhaps the most telling thing is that Conard told me he got a number of compliments—something he almost never gets after seminars!
Let me get one point across—Photonics West is so big that my feedback is very limited in that I am only really interested in the state of the industry in general and the microprocessing portion specifically. Also, blogs are supposed to be short! This year, for the first time in over 25 years, I did not teach my course on Laser MicroMachining and so I thought I would do something with the extra day that I have not done since the venue left San Francisco—walk the show from one end to the other. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, it did not happen. I did spend a lot of time in the German pavilion, mostly in the Light Fab booth, but I also had a lot of meetings at various places on the show floor and spent most of the time on the floor getting to and from places than actually browsing. One of the things I was doing was setting the stage for my planned review of ultrashort-pulse lasers that will be ongoing over the next few weeks—stay tuned for this in an upcoming Industrial Laser Solutions issue.
I had a nice and somewhat long meeting with the folks at MKS and this meeting is a good example of some of the things to find at PW. MKS acquired Newport a while ago to add to its array of companies all designated to 'surround the workpiece'. MKS provides customers with key components (including its line of Spectra-Physics lasers), systems, and services that enable successful implementation of laser-based manufacturing solutions. For the semiconductor market, the workpiece is the wafer. For other markets, it may be a biological sample, glass sample, printed circuit board, or metal sheet. MKS is fully integrated to provide the lasers, optics, motion control, and any other element needed to make these high-end manufacturing tools. They have an excellent resource available called the MKS Instruments Handbook – Principles and Applications in Photonics Technology, which was written by a collaboration of their smartest and most experienced technical gurus with many familiar industry names associated. Ask for a copy and check it out!
For those who don’t realize it, Photonics West is actually made up of a number of sub-venues—one of them being BiOS. This show is held on the weekend before Photonics West and though there are many of the same vendors, it is a totally different show and the tables/booths that are set up for BiOS are taken down and re-assembled for PW. I kind of always poo-pooed this show because it was bio-related, it was on the weekend, and hey—why spend money to put booths at two shows in the same week and at the same place? Well, I got a lot of really good feedback about the BiOS show and was told that indeed this venue was better for lead generation than the big PW show itself. So, I will definitely think about checking it out next year, but there goes another Super Bowl (the Super Bowl is on Sunday February 2nd—the same weekend as BiOS)!
The good news is that while PW is the week of February 3-7, 2020, the MD&M show is the next week—February 11-13.
One other thing of note happened during Photonics West week. The official announcement for ICALEO came out and the event will be held the week of October 6th in Orlando. It is not a secret that his announcement was very late in coming out, as it usually happens in the November time frame, so a number of foreign people I talked to will not be attending because they had to get their travel budgets in before the end of the calendar year. Executive Director Dr. Nat Quick was working the PW show with lining up vendors, sponsors, and attendees for upcoming LIA events, including ICALEO. I am told that due to vigorous LIA staff efforts, the expected attendance at ICALEO this year should be record-setting. I will be writing a more complete review of Photonics West for LIA Today and it will appear in the next issue!
So, once again, the photonics industry appears to be booming. Order books are mostly full, even if stock valuations are fluctuating. Everyone I talked to is expecting at least a good 2019 for the first 6 months of the year, with a wait-and-see attitude for the last half of the year. Another big venue is coming up in June—the LASER World of PHOTONICS held in Munich June 24-27. I will be attending this venue and we will see where the economy is at then and how lasers are faring.
I am always interested in hearing your thoughts concerning laser micromachining, the laser industry, comments on entrepreneurial endeavors, etc. AND … we are always looking for fresh, publishable material. Please feel free to contact me at [email protected].