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3 Questions with Tom Hausken

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With COVID-19 affecting the nation’s economy in every sector, the photonics industry has been working to respond to the closing of factories and the delay of exports. Photonics Media spoke with Tom Hausken, The Optical Society’s (OSA’s) senior industry adviser, about the current state of the industry.

What got you thinking about running a contest?

Our customers are doing some really cool things with our products and solutions to unlock the unknown. We wanted to shine the spotlight on ways they’re working to make the world a safer, cleaner, and healthier place for our future generations. Spectroscopy can be used to find limitless answers to unknowns. In using light to interrogate the world around us, we can begin to explore the possibilities and offer solutions to some of the most challenging problems. Everything starts with a question. Just ASK (Applied Spectral Knowledge).

Is there anything in particular we should know about the competition?

Anyone using Ocean Insight solutions or products is eligible to participate. The contest, which recently closed for submissions, has generated a lot of interest. We use social media, our eNewswire subscriber list, and PR to promote it.

The annual competition yields Ocean Insight equipment credit to five winners. First place: $3000; second place: $2000; third place: $1000; fourth and fifth places: $500. A panel composed of Ocean Insight spectroscopy experts determines winners, and each winner will have his/her/their own personal sales engineer to help redeem the prize for the best solution for his/her/their equipment needs. Also, the top three winners could earn a professionally filmed video about their project.

How did it go last year?

Fantastic! We had participants as young as eighth grade submitting videos. That eighth grader was the exceptional Kylah Blough, who won third place and who was studying butterfly behavior and how markings are used for communication. Our second-place winner, Dan Burns, stumbled upon a cool experiment by dipping LEDs into liquid nitrogen. And our first-place winner, Dr. Joris DeLanghe, along with his scientific partner, Dr. Elisabeth VanAken, are using spectroscopy to diagnose and treat cataracts.

What impact have you seen on sectors of the photonics industry as a result of COVID-19?

The immediate effect is that the supply chains are disrupted. They were already changing before with the trade war, and now very much more so. But it’s not easy to change suppliers. If you can find new suppliers and qualify them, you may not be able to get the parts on planes right now. And if you can, you may have to pay a premium since the freight is half full. But all that said, it varies from company to company, with the actual impact hard to generalize.

How have photonics companies responded to the industry impact during the coronavirus pandemic?

Many photonics companies seem to have qualified as some kind of essential business, or are otherwise open or already returning to work. The effect is much less dramatic than with the hospitality or travel sectors, where business dropped off a cliff. The companies most negatively affected are not highly visible right now, but certainly small photonics businesses are the most vulnerable.

With supply chains heavily dependent on Asian markets, where virus cases seem to be making a slow but early recovery, what have you noticed as far as a response from photonics investors and the supply chains in China and surrounding countries?

I won’t generalize about investors, which covers a broad category from holders of publicly traded stock all the way to venture capital. The good news is that Asian factories have worked hard to keep running, with some factories returning to normal levels in late March even as U.S. factories were closing down. Now the U.S. factories are bringing lines back to production that were suspended for many weeks. There are many reasons to look to Asia for signs. The pandemic largely hit there first, they have more memory and experience with this sort of crisis, and their economies are so strongly dependent on exports that they will do their best to safely bring exports back up. They are making laptops and computer monitors as fast as they can. The concern is that once the surge in demand from pandemic-related reasons subsides, there could be a slump in demand for electronics later in the year. That’s just one sector. Others expect to do relatively well (such as communications and security), while others are at greater risk. Certain sectors like laser-based machine tools were already weak in 2019, and a slowdown only makes that worse.

Photonics Spectra
Jul 2020
GLOSSARY
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
photonicssupply chainCOVID-19Tom Hausken3 Questions

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