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Optimistic Mood on Show Floor
Jan 2009
SAN JOSE, Jan. 30, 2009 -- "Cautiously optimistic" was a phrase heard a lot in the aisles of the Photonics West 2009 exhibition when talking about the state of the economy as it relates to the photonics industry.

"One reaction to the worldwide financial crisis that's going on is to actually offer new products that are very interesting for the industry, because there's always opportunities, and that's what we are looking for. And I think we are well positioned for that," said Dr. Heinz Kaiser, vice president and GM of Fiber Optics for Schott North America, which was promoting the doubling (to 300 sq mm) of its one-piece fiber optic faceplate image size for large format medical, military and commercial applications. Schott Worldwide is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

Vendors seemed encouraged by the attendance numbers at the tradeshow, which plans to move to bigger quarters in San Francisco next year. Some were encouraged by the number of exhibitors and attendees at both the biomedical optics (BiOS) and Photonics West exhibitions.

"We exhibited at the BiOS pre-show, and I expected a sharp dropoff in attendance over the last three years, which I also attended, and actually it was about as busy as I've ever seen it, much to my surprise," said Markus Bilger, Custom Optics, JDSU.

During the show, JDSU announced the availability of a new ultraviolet (UV) filter, an optical component critical to instrument makers and used for applications such as environmental monitoring, genetic research, biomedical instrumentation, and medical/aesthetic laser instrumentation.

Bilger expressed concerns, as a business that supplies Chinese companies, that scheduling the event during a Chinese holiday week would keep those customers away, but "I think it's about the same proportion of people as normal," he said.

"We've been doing very well so far this fiscal year, which started Oct. 1, and probably the second quarter we should do well also. Of all the people I've talked to here at the show, nobody seems to have a very clear agenda for the next half year. In all industies, people are cautious," said Stephen Krenitsky, vice president of Advanced Optics for Schott North America, which was promoting its new glass diffractive optical elements for laser beam shaping applications and high-end microscopic glasses for high apochromatic microscopy lenses.

Like Schott, many companies attending Photonics West were demonstrating new products or capabilities, and view the current economic situation as a time for new opportunities.

Douglas M. Rutan, marketing manager for lighting products at Welch Allyn in Skaneateles Falls, N.Y., was honest about the economy's effect on business. Welch Allyn, a Photonics West first-timer, produces lighting products for medical and military applications, and also for sports applications such as scuba diving, cycling and ATV motocross.

Rutan said the economy hasn't really affected their business in the medical and military fields, but that they were surprised at how much sales have dropped off in the sports sector. "Usually, people are willing to pay for their passions," he said. "But they've been pulling back." He noted that the company projected lower earnings for this year and that right now they're on target.

Luckily, Welch Allyn has a range of offerings, which Pranalytica Inc. CEO and Chairman C. Kumar N. Patel says is the key to surviving an economic downturn. "If one market drops off, then you still have the others," he said.

Pranalytica is a product-oriented high technology company that specializes in ultrasensitive gas-sensing instruments for medical, environmental, insutrial and national security applications; the company also offers mid-IR laser systems.

Show organizer SPIE reported that attendance for Photonics West 2009 was 17,903, up slightly over last year's 17,440, with the increase coming in exhibition attendance. 

Click here for more information on Photonics West 2009. 

Melinda Rose

Laura S. Marshall

A noncrystalline, inorganic mixture of various metallic oxides fused by heating with glassifiers such as silica, or boric or phosphoric oxides. Common window or bottle glass is a mixture of soda, lime and sand, melted and cast, rolled or blown to shape. Most glasses are transparent in the visible spectrum and up to about 2.5 µm in the infrared, but some are opaque such as natural obsidian; these are, nevertheless, useful as mirror blanks. Traces of some elements such as cobalt, copper and...
advanced opticsBiOsConsumerdefensefiber opticsfinancial crisisglassHeinz KaiserIndustry EventsJDSUKumar PatelMarkus BilgermedicalMicroscopymilitaryPhotonics WestPranalyticaSCHOTTSPIEStephen Krenitskytrade showWelch Allyn

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