01 September 2005

The worldwide optoelectronics marketplace offers industry players a number of viable approaches for generating and sustaining attractive, profitable growth. Technology differentiation is generally a critical element in all of these approaches. The various approaches, however, seek to achieve technology differentiation in fundamentally different ways. Experience shows that all of the approaches can be successful, given the right conditions and sound technology and market strategies. Introduction of fundamentally new, breakthrough technologies is one particular innovation path, and is often the primary focus of corporate strategic plans. This approach aims to generate significant differentiation, and is typically associated with substantial, multi-year R&D and manufacturing investments.

01 September 2005

A high-profile use of lasers in modern life is that of printing and graphics, as Peter Rees discovers

In printing, lasers are everywhere from the home to the largest industrial presses. It is a technically diverse sector with lasers of several types finding favour with equipment manufacturers and users. Perhaps this isn't surprising, given the different types of printing in use - lithography, flexography, gravure - and the fragmented nature of the industry.

There are tens of thousands of commercial printing companies worldwide - the US alone has around 35,000 firms - and most are small or medium-sized. The result is that change - at least across the whole industry - comes slowly. Paradoxically perhaps, printing technology is changing rapidly as it becomes increasingly computerised and automated. Fully digital presses - see panel - cannot yet match the overall product quality of traditional offset printing, in which ink is spread on a metal plate holding an image, transferred first to a rubber blanket and then to paper.

01 September 2005

With the photonics market encompassing everything from the smallest component to the largest integrated laser system and beyond, tracking a product from manufacturer to end-user is often tricky, if not impossible. By Warren Clark

So, how do products reach you? Well, there are two main routes, but even they can be broken down into several variants according to the type of product and the sector of photonics. Principally, though, you will either buy your product direct from a manufacturer or via a distributor.

The direct route is often not that direct. It is rarely a case of picking a product off a shelf or calling the manufacturer direct and expecting the product to arrive next day. That does happen, of course, but the complex nature of the photonics industry means that unless you know exactly what you want - and that it is available as a standard product - you will find that the route to market involves a few more twists and turns.