Bumpy ride ahead

In this column last January I made an understatement of “economic-bailout” proportions.

Jan 1st, 2009
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In this column last January I made an understatement of “economic-bailout” proportions. At the time, we were projecting 7% growth in global laser sales for 2008 over 2007, and I added the following cautionary note: “As we move into the New Year, general economic uncertainties continue to mount and seem likely to create turbulence for the [photonics] industry on a larger scale.”

The global financial markets were indeed turbulent–increasingly so as the year progressed. And while the impact on lasers and photonics was, to begin with, mitigated by strength in a couple of market sectors, such as photovoltaics and bio-optics, there was ultimately no escape. In the words of Coherent president and CEO, John Ambroseo, “An unprecedented set of macroeconomic events led to a disappointing fourth quarter.” Ambroseo was discussing Coherent’s results, but he may as well have been talking about the entire industry: we now estimate 2008 global sales of all lasers to have been only 4% above 2007.

Looking forward, there seems little doubt that macroeconomic conditions will remain–at best–unstable and that 2009 will be a bumpy ride for us all. Manufacturers report increasing order push-outs as we end 2008 with no clear picture of what 2009 might bring. Making predictions in the current climate is akin to sticking a pin in a spreadsheet while blindfolded ... nonetheless, we project an 11% drop in global laser sales for 2009, which puts revenues back to pre-2007 levels. You can find the rationale behind our forecast on page 54.

But despite the economic chaos, the technology fundamentals of photonics are unchanged. So we look forward to covering another year of innovation and opportunity–from rollable displays (page 79) to remote sensing (page 97); and from wafer-level optics (page 87) to nanoscale metrology (page 106). The New Year also brings a new look to Laser Focus World: a new layout with a more contemporary look. We hope you like it.

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Stephen G. Anderson
Associate Publisher/
Editor in Chief
stevega@pennwell.com

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