October/November 2006

FEATURE

Europe's leading photonics nation?

For Dr Andreas Nitze, CEO of Berliner Glas, the German photonics industry draws its strength in part from the long history of optics in Germany, dating back at least to the foundation of Schott in the late 1800s. Allied to that is the longstanding German tradition of precision engineering, which is nowadays applied not just to optical design but also to the combination of optics with mechanics. A third source of strength is education and research – not just the excellence of the university system but also the apprenticeship scheme.

FEATURE

Are trade fairs here to stay?

Why do you visit foreign trade fairs? What is it that persuades you to make that trip to what is probably a rather urban location in a foreign country, where the weather may not be too bright and where many people might not speak your language? In the past few years the number of visitors to trade fairs round the world has, with some exceptions, shown no sign of increasing. This is a matter of concern to the organisers since, without the expected number of visitors, exhibitors will not return next time. Is the attraction of trade fairs fading?

FEATURE

Stay safe from lasers

A decade ago, lasers were mostly restricted to laboratories, industrial workplaces and hospitals. They were controlled and used by professionals. Today, the fastest growth in lasers is in unregulated beauty salons, where they are used for beauty treatment and hair removal. The second fastest-growing area is in DIY and unregulated personal use.

FEATURE

Feel the heat

Among the thermal imaging products currently available is the WSTB Mk-IV, a wide spectrum beacon available from BFI Optilas (www.bfioptilas.com). Operating in the 3-12µm spectrum, it is ideal for use as a vehicle-mounted IFF system.

FEATURE

A sense of growth by acquisition

Photodiodes are becoming one of the most ubiquitous detector technologies in the world. We all know about the high-tech world of smart bombs and CAT scanners, but these detectors are also produced by the million for supermarket checkout scanners, flame detectors and a thousand other uses. How the world interacts with light is one of the most useful bits of physics for the instrumentation world – and photodiodes are very good at detecting small amounts of light.