Recent activity points to a resurgence of activity in the German laser market
T he Games of the XX Olympiad-better known as the 1972 Summer Olympics and unofficially touted, prior to their start, as the “Happy Games”-were intended to present to the world a new, vibrant, democratic Germany. Unfortunately a group of terrorists, uncommon then but so common today, committed what is known as the Munich Massacre, recalled in a recent movie, which cast a pall over what until then was a successful event.
Perhaps you’ve forgotten Mark Spitz setting new world records as he won seven gold medals in swimming, or Olga Korbut leading the Soviet team in gymnastics, or the controversy, still bitter to this day, of the U.S. basketball team’s “loss” to the Soviets.
The venue built for these Olympics was intended to show the best of German design and architectural prowess. The overall design of the park, that became a centerpiece of a resurgent Bavaria, lives on today. I’m here standing in front of the Olympic Stadium. A masterpiece of its time; featuring expanses of acrylic glass hung by metal cables from central columns, a design we see echoed all over the world today. Thirty-five years later the park remains one of the largest city parks in the world, and it is used heavily by locals for entertainment and relaxation. In fact I’m here one evening with associates to attend TollWood, a three-week music festival and craft fair drawing large crowds.
Speaking of crowds, Laser 2007, the World of Photonics-the real reason I am here in one of my favorite cities-set an attendance record for this event, held every two years since 1973. More than 25,000 attendees (a 10% increase over 2005) visited 1008 exhibitors (a 6.3% increase over 2005) during the four-day event.
And the hordes of visitors were in a buying mood. Repeatedly I heard from exhibitors that the German buyers were back into the market after a lull of several years. It didn’t take long for this to permeate the air on the first day of the show as it became apparent that a revitalized German economy was going to drive laser sales in Europe this year. Surveys at the show revealed that 94 percent of the visitors and 92 percent of the exhibitors declared the future economic situation as good to excellent.
It wasn’t only the German buyers that kept exhibitors busy until closing each day, as the number of visitors from China and the United States, decidedly low in 2005, rebounded this year. China also moved into third place among international exhibitors behind the USA and Great Britain. One of the larger exhibits in Hall 3, the Production Hall, was by China’s Han’s Laser, a leading supplier of laser marking systems and other processing equipment, who enjoyed strong visitations during the week.
The show had barely opened on Monday when early visitors were calling it the ‘fiber laser show.’ We never did get an actual count but we saw at least a dozen suppliers of fiber laser based marking, microprocessing, and welding systems, led, of course, by IPG, the leading manufacturer. Industry giants TRUMPF and Rofin Sinar, along with Nufern and GSI, joined the fray.
Recalling the controversies of the past Munich shows where fiber and disk advocates would routinely have at each other, it was refreshing to see things settled down to suppliers showing commercial products. Although there was a little residual pettiness left over when Peter Leibinger of TRUMPF was asked at a press conference why the disk laser manufacturer had changed its mind on fibers from two years ago. With a wry smile he said, “That was then; this is now.” And so it is.
David A. Belforte