December 2006/January 2007


Time to face reality

Recent Hard Talk columns have commented on the importance of people in providing companies or organisations with sustainable competitive advantage. A recent survey in The Economist discussed various aspects of the global talent shortage. This reminded me that one of the pieces of wisdom and encouragement that my supervisor, laser and instrumentation innovator, Dan Bradley, gifted me was that ‘there is always a shortage of good people’.


Solid and reliable

Solid-state lasers and their applications are more ubiquitous than you might imagine; if it weren’t for micromachining using modelocked solid-state lasers, mobile phones would still be the size of bricks. There are three kinds of solid-state lasers: rod (which we will be dealing with in this feature), thin-disc, and fibre. Diode lasers also use a gain medium in their solid state, but they are considered a different type of laser by most engineers and scientists.


Size matters

MEMS, or micro electromechanical systems, may seem like a space age technology, but it is not new; for around 20 years, scientists have been producing devices with moving mechanical parts in the scale of millimetres, micrometres, and, more recently, nanometres. However, it wasn’t until much later that scientists and engineers truly saw the capabilities these devices could possess, finding them to be cheaper, have greater integration potential and lower power consumption than the alternatives.


Medicine and photonics

Photonics has an increasing part to play in medicine, whether in the manufacture of medical devices, diagnostics or even treatment. More and more suppliers are finding increasing applications in and around the operating theatre.

Lasers from SPI Lasers are being used to weld medical devices, which are getting smaller and need to last longer. Lasers are particularly suited to the demands of medical devices, as they allow smaller welds, better yield and faster cycle times.


The year ahead

Looking back to Photonics West at the beginning of this year, the mood appeared to be generally buoyant, and the outlook largely positive. Now, nearly 12 months on, how does the industry feel the next year will pan out?