Laser Marketplace Seminar searches for "slivers of light"

January 27, 2009--In his opening address to attendees of the 2008 Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar held Monday, January 26 at San Jose's Fairmont hotel in conjunction with Photonics West, Laser Focus World chief editor Steve Anderson said that the question is not how bad 2009 will be, but whether the laser industry will recover in 2010.

January 27, 2009--In his opening address to attendees of the 2008 Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar held Monday, January 26 at San Jose's Fairmont hotel in conjunction with Photonics West, Laser Focus World chief editor Steve Anderson said that the question is not how bad 2009 will be, but whether the laser industry will recover in 2010.

Anderson said that the "global financial mess" we find ourselves in has taken a toll on the laser industry, which was officially forecast to fall 11.3% to reach $6.32 billion dollars in 2009. And David Belforte, chief editor of Industrial Laser Solutions, said that the news has been so dire in the materials processing sector since early December 2008 that he is taking on the task of adding a "slivers of light" news section on the ILS website as a means to communicate uplifting success stories within the industrial laser market.

Many of the laser industry leaders attending the seminar said that the forecast was less dire than they had anticipated; but it is important to remember that the official numbers in the January issue of Laser Focus World (see www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/349353) were compiled in the November 2008 timeframe, when pessimism was just beginning to creep into nearly all of the laser markets--especially those prone to consumer spending. Many of the companies that had not yet been affected by the economic downturn have surely felt its impact just in recent months.

Green photonics
But the overwhelming sentiment of most of the presentations in the seminar was that when recovery occurs, the laser industry will be poised for continued growth--no other technologies stand to displace the inroads that lasers have made in biomedical, defense, materials and microelectronics processing, entertainment and displays, and research and instrumentation markets. In fact, the Technology Forum on Green Photonics, chaired by Michael Lebby, president and CEO of the Optoelectronics Industry Development Association, pointed out that photonics is uniquely poised to deliver "green" solutions to address the potential 50% increase in the global demand for electricity by the year 2025. And these green solutions go beyond the obvious photovoltaic technologies and solid-state lighting advances into the use of light detection and ranging (LIDAR) for wind-turbine optimization to Bragg grating optical sensors for improved downhole oil extraction.

The Green Photonics Technology Forum included presentations from Eric Takeuchi, director of business development at Daylight Solutions, who envisions photonic sensors in compact, field portable packages deployed in a "citizens as sensor" role in which a collective group of individuals use those sensors to provide local monitoring of environmental gases and pollutants, for example, within a community. Takeuchi feels passionately that photonics can provide the means to understand the scope of an environmental issue, because only change can come through a true understanding of the problem at hand. The Forum also included a presentation by Robert Steele, director, optoelectronics research at Strategies Unlimited. Steele says that even though lighting only made up roughly 7% of the $4.6 billion dollar high-brightness light-emitting diode (HB LED) market in 2007, solid-state lighting is growing at nearly 40% per year and represents a huge opportunity for the photonics industry. And even though the economy is in the tank, Steele says that the solid-state lighting market may slow, but it won't go negative--a nice note to end on considering the otherwise gloomy laser industry scenario.

For more information, go to www.marketplaceseminar.com.

--Posted by Gail Overton, gailo@pennwell.com.

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