A visit to sunny California

May 24, 2017
About a half-dozen companies pulled me aside and asked my opinion about developing a femtosecond laser.
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Last week, the hills were mostly green, with some brown showing on the tops and pocketed throughout. Unlike most of the last decade, there has so far been plentiful rain.

Another thing California seems to have at the moment is a thriving economy. My feedback from attending shows, conferences, and making field visits is that everybody is busy throughout the industry. A number of people asked if I knew anyone looking for a job!

When I travel to California, I usually try to go during the weeks of ongoing conferences so I can spend at least a day at the different venues and get to see a lot of people in a short amount of time.

Last week, the conference was CLEO (May 14-19, 2017). The organizers are still using extended hours (11:30-7 p.m.) to try to keep people at the venue, but in my opinion it just forces the vendors to stay longer while the local attendees still flee before 3 p.m. to avoid traffic. The traffic was slow on Tuesday (the only day I was there), and I was told it was even worse on Wednesday and more so on Thursday.

However, I must point out that this conference in San Jose has some advantages over SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco—because of the smaller attendance, it is possible to spend more time talking to vendors at CLEO than at Photonics West. In general, you can also have access to more senior people (who are otherwise standing around the booths looking at their smartphones). In the 'old days,' we had a rule that cell phones were not allowed in the booth! Now, look around at any time and at any location on the show floor, and you will see most—if not all—vendors hypnotized by their "handys," as the Germans call them. Whatever happened to booth etiquette?

About a half-dozen companies pulled me aside (as the 'expert' in femtosecond laser machining) and asked my opinion about developing a femtosecond laser in order to line up at the trough for the feeding. Indeed, the established femtosecond laser companies are doing well, but while numbers are rising significantly, margins are not as fat and the state of femtosecond laser technology is, in my opinion, pretty mature. Fortunately, the applications for femtosecond lasers are in my opinion much less mature. So, for those companies not already involved in delivering femtosecond lasers and who are thinking about jumping on board, a word of caution—this growing market is really becoming crowded.

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].

About the Author

Ron Schaeffer

Ron Schaeffer, Ph.D., is a blogger and contributing editor, and a member of the Laser Focus World Editorial Advisory Board. He is an industry expert in the field of laser micromachining and was formerly Chief Executive Officer of PhotoMachining, Inc. He has been involved in laser manufacturing and materials processing for over 25 years, working in and starting small companies. He is an advisor and past member of the Board of Directors of the Laser Institute of America. He has a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Lehigh University and did graduate work at the University of Paris. His book, Fundamentals of Laser Micromachining, is available from CRC Press.

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