Globalisation is not very popular these days. It is supposedly responsible for a great many of the problems the rich world economies are facing. Most importantly, it apparently destroys jobs in the Western countries to transfer them to emerging powers. In the buoyant market of photonics, however, I do think that globalisation is an opportunity.
Fibre optics are being placed on a pedestal by the telecoms companies with the likes of Virgin Media in the UK using tag lines such as ‘it’s fast, it’s fibre optic’ to advertise its broadband wares.
But away from the attention of the telecoms industry, fibre optics are quietly helping a range of industries and applications, with companies realising that there is more to optical fibres than speedy broadband; increasingly bespoke fibre technology is being used in military applications, science labs and even dental surgeries.
If you use optics in any way, then the chances are there will be an optical sensor involved. From photodiodes and phototransistors to photon counting devices, and from infrared through to UV detectors, there is a sensor suited to most optical applications that you care to name.
Micromachining is one of the fastest-growing industrial applications for lasers. Initially adopted as a more agile and rapid alternative to conventional technologies, laser micromachining is increasingly central to production of the next-generation of today’s fastest-growing new technologies, such as solar cells and biotech lab on a chip’ devices.
The concept of sharing knowledge and co-operating with other companies operating in the same field may be alien to some, but in emerging technology fields collaboration is essential to ongoing development. Photonics clusters, which exist in various forms worldwide, represent our own industry’s efforts at open co-operation among suppliers, governmental representatives and users of lasers.
It was not long ago that rumours were circulating that GSI was pulling out of the laser business. It had sold off a couple of laser product lines and it looked as if it was going to concentrate on its scanning business and the semiconductor industry.
By John Roush, President, PerkinElmer Optoelectronics