Turbulence ahead?

Jan. 1, 2008
Despite softness in some photonics market segments and the economic challenges of 2007 - which included record energy prices and the housing credit debacle in the U.S. - the lasers and photonics markets came through 2007 quite well.

Despite softness in some photonics market segments and the economic challenges of 2007which included record energy prices and the housing credit debacle in the U.S.the lasers and photonics markets came through 2007 quite well. Our 2008 Annual Review and Forecast estimates global sales of lasers gained about 9% in 2007 over 2006. Performance of individual segments was less straightforward, though. Bookings for the semiconductor-processing equipment segment trended downward, for instance, while other segments showed stronger-than-anticipated gainsindustrial laser revenues were boosted by the ever-growing sales of fiber lasers (see page 74). But as we move into the New Year, economic uncertainties continue and seem likely to create turbulence for the industry. The credit-market malaise is spreading to encompass business lending just as consumer confidence is being undermined: factors to keep in mind when considering our projection of 7% growth for 2008.

Among the higher-growth segments is the life sciences. Annual sales of “biomedical optics” reached more than $6 billion in 2005 according to Dr. David Benaron (of Stanford University and Spectros Corp.). What’s more, while speaking at last year’s Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar, Benaron suggested this market would see a further fivefold increase over the next five years (see marketplaceseminar.com). Noting this rapid growth, Laser Focus World is starting a new publication aimed at researchers and engineers involved in biomedical optics. BioOptics World will launch Jan. 21, 2008. Please take a look at BioOpticsWorld.com and let us know what you think.

And while it has yet to take off in a commercial sense, the field of plasmonics is another exciting “growth segment.” Plasmonics promises what electronics and photonics do not: very small size with very high speed by essentially merging electronics and photonics. Integration of surface-plasmon structures with semiconductors could lead to new active surface-plasmon devices (see page 103). And plasmon-based grating-gate detectors are being explored as tunable detectors of terahertz radiation (see page 131).

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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