Here is a portion of what I wrote last year after the 2014 MDM East conference:
“This year’s show featured just a few laser job shops and system integrators, with almost no laser vendors and none of the ‘big’ companies like Coherent, Trumpf, IPG, etc. I was even surprised at the small number of laser marking companies. In years past, there would be a proliferation of these small companies in the expo hall, but this year the number was much smaller than 4–5 years ago. In fact, some of the big companies (and many of the smaller companies) did not even send people to 'walk the floor.'”
The above statements still apply. They actually had a "Laser Tech" area—a portion of 2 adjoining aisles—and there were no laser companies to be seen. Also adjacent was the "Precision Tech" area, with only EO Systems (a German 3D printing laser company) visible. Some laser companies were scattered around the show floor, but not many. By my count, there were six companies identifiable as laser job shops, two as laser system vendors, two as laser marking vendors, and zero (yes, zero) as laser manufacturers—unless you count DPSS, which I place in the laser marking category.
So, why are there so few laser people attending this event? I have beefed in the past about the high cost of having an expo in NYC and about the dilution of the event from having all of the new, smaller venues located regionally. However, I think there is another explanation. First, let’s establish that there is a LOT of potential business at this venue and it is a great place to both meet up with existing customers and also to find new ones. On the other hand, from a survey recently conducted by Medical Products Manufacturing News, the top five MedTech hubs in the country are, in order from number one, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Boston, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles/Orange County, and finally San Diego. So, three of the top five are in CA, which is probably a good indicator as to why the MDM West show in Anaheim is still by far and away the flagship event.
However, most of the discussions I had were at a level that really did not involve hardware or "lasers" as such, but simply at the problem solving level. Potential customers don’t care how the product is made, just that it can be made and at an affordable cost. So, it makes sense that job shops should have more success talking to these potential customers since they operate more in the "problem-solving" mode. In general, customers are not coming to this show to by hardware, but to find manufacturing methods. Hardware purchases may follow, but the progression usually begins by doing contract manufacturing.
So, this event—which at one time was the premier medical conference—has now degraded into more of a regional venue and the Anaheim event has in turn retained its more national character.
I am off to the LASER World of Photonics in Munich next week (week of June 22) and will report on all the latest and greatest from there.
I am always interested in hearing your thoughts concerning laser micromachining, the laser industry, comments on entrepreneurial endeavors, etc. AND … we are always looking for fresh, publishable material. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.