Laser Munich exhibitors focus on innovation

The attendance surge that was expected on Tuesday was 24 hours late as crowds streamed into the Messe Munich exhibit halls, which filled up right from the opening bell and continued until mid-afternoon. Thursday, closing day, was as usual lightly attended, with many halls quite light in attendance at noontime.

Regardless, the show closed with a total attendance of over 24,000 professionals, a slight drop of 2600 from the show two years ago.

Why this obsession with attendance? First, it's a German thing. There is a fierce competition among the many Messes in Germany and meeting expectations is considered as a sign of a fair's success to draw, even in a recessionary period.

Second, we journalists, lacking any other verifiable way to measure the crowds, are reduced to finding the totals so that we can judge the show's success.

Perhaps the most important reason is that the success of Laser World of Photonics sets a pattern for business in the next two years. In this respect the overall impression one gains from this year's event is that business is good in some sectors (scientific, R&D, and military), but less so in others such as industrial, except for photovoltaic, medical devices, and military ordnance.

Laser marking, that perennial pump for low-power lasers was not the driver this year that it has been in the past. Many new and innovative marking systems were on display, but these will be the products of the end of this year as far as sales increases go.

This year 1040 exhibitors, a new record, seemed to focus on innovations, with a majority of the exhibitors showing new products and in many cases multiple innovative products. The theme seemed to be innovation as a means to counter the effects of the recession, and many companies we interviewed told us that they were employing their engineers on innovative products during a period when sales orders were low.

ILS and our associates from other PennWell publications agreed that the outlook as viewed by a majority of the exhibitors is that the third quarter will be flat, the fourth will see some small upticks in low-power lasers, and the big ticket items will not see substantive sales increases until well into the first half of 2010.

This was the theme of my presentation at the Global Industrial Laser Market delivered at the 9th Laser Marketplace meeting, held concurrently with the show. It seems that those attending this event were of the same accord, as I noted many heads nodding in agreement as my PowerPoint presentation proceeded. Among these were corporate and marketing management officials from leading laser and system suppliers.

My judgment on this week in Munich: we will see a flat third quarter, we may see some upward movement in the fourth quarter, a growing market in 2010 will lead to a definite return to pre-recession numbers by early 2011. This, of course, is for systems sales revenues which are heavily dominated by high-power CO2 lasers.

Finally, as one TV commentator said on Wednesday morning, 'the economic news for the second half of 2009 will not be as bad as the first half.' I guess that's positive.

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