Lighting the way

Jan. 1, 2010
It's been 50 years since Theodore Maiman demonstrated the first laser at Hughes Research Labs.

It's been 50 years since Theodore Maiman demonstrated the first laser at Hughes Research Labs. Since then, commercial laser revenues have grown to an annual rate of almost $6 billion in 2010—that's a compound annual growth rate of over 20% and an impressive accomplishment for a device once dubbed a "solution looking for a problem." Despite the economic peaks and valleys of the past decade the laser currently underpins a global "industry" worth more than $600 billion and the long-term outlook is for continued growth. In the near term, this year's market review and forecast of the laser industry also paints a somewhat optimistic picture—"the glass is half-full," says senior editor Gail Overton—and suggests that, after a precipitous 24% drop last year, laser sales will recover about 11% in 2010. Of course that still leaves revenues well short of the $7 billion peak in 2008 (see page 32). Nonetheless, the optimism seems appropriate for the year that marks a half-century of the laser—and several celebrations are in place that recognize this accomplishment, among them "Advancing the Laser: 50 years and into the future" (see and "LaserFest" at

Besides its impact on laser sales, last year's recession also accelerated the trend in publishing of creating original and exclusive online content. The Laser Focus World website has already enabled us to complement the print magazine with unique content in various novel formats, including, for instance, webcasts and video. Now we're taking this even further by launching a completely new website on a new platform that combines the resources of Laser Focus World with three "companion" brands: Vision Systems Design, Industrial Laser Solutions, and BioOptics World. The result will deliver a wealth of new content to our existing audience while attracting new users with more-diverse photonics coverage combined with additional features such as an online photonics community, improved Buyers Guide, and enhanced search capabilities. Please take a look at the new and let us know if you like it.

About the Author

Stephen G. Anderson | Director, Industry Development - SPIE

 Stephen Anderson is a photonics industry expert with an international background and has been actively involved with lasers and photonics for more than 30 years. As Director, Industry Development at SPIE – The international society for optics and photonics – he is responsible for tracking the photonics industry markets and technology to help define long-term strategy, while also facilitating development of SPIE’s industry activities. Before joining SPIE, Anderson was Associate Publisher and Editor in Chief of Laser Focus World and chaired the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar. Anderson also co-founded the BioOptics World brand. Anderson holds a chemistry degree from the University of York and an Executive MBA from Golden Gate University.    

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