Semicon West is the premier conference and exhibition for the semiconductor industry in North America, and perhaps worldwide. A few years ago the conference was held simultaneously in the San Jose and the San Francisco convention centers as there was so much activity. There is no longer any activity in San Jose, and in fact the show keeps getting smaller every year. This year, the North Hall was only about half, full and the West Hall was totally devoted to Solar, as it has been for a few years now.
The real tell tale about this industry is the fact that most of the big guys do not have a presence at Semicon West at all, or perhaps only a minimal presence. Applied Materials, LAM, Motorola, KLA Tencor and many more have decided not to put their marketing money in to this show.
How does this affect lasers? Well, look at the laser companies that exhibited this year and compare to a few years ago. Rofin, RPMC, IPG and Newport were there, but several told me that this would be their last year. DPSS lasers was there marking pens like usual. That is about all. One colleague commented to me that he thought the show was pretty slow on Wednesday afternoon. My reply: "You should have been here yesterday."
So, what's the point? Not just to whine about Semicon West (which by the way was good for me as I had several good meetings and I was busy the whole time, but then again I did not have to pay a lot for a booth), but to compare it with our industry flagship show, Photonics West. This show moved from San Jose to the Moscone Center a few years ago to accommodate the increase in the number of vendors and attendees. The move was accompanied by an increase in both, and it is my opinion that it will not go back to San Jose (although that location is more convenient for me and a lot of other folks). In contrast to the Semicon show, I spoke with many newer companies that told me they will be exhibiting at Photonics West next year. You will find all the "big guys" in the industry at this show – Coherent, Newport, IPG, Trumpf, Rofin, etc. It is a typical venue for promoting new products. It is also heavy on the applications side.
Thus, in contrast to a multi-zillion dollar industry like the semiconductor industry, our "little" laser community is vibrant, exciting, growing, and can still hold the interest of not only our community but of those looking to use lasers in their manufacturing environments. It is indeed a cool time to be a Laser Jock.
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