MD&M remains viable for industrial lasers

ILS Contributing Editor Ron Schaeffer reports from the MD&M West show in Anaheim (February 10-12)

ILS Contributing Editor Ron Schaeffer reports from the MD&M West show in Anaheim (February 10-12) that he expected the show to be more upbeat because those laser companies doing well in the current market are involved in medical device manufacturing rather than automobiles, semiconductors, microelectronics, etc. This show started in a tent in the Disneyland Hotel parking lot over 20 years ago, and it has grown (and merged with other shows) so that the total now occupies all of the Anaheim Convention center. His impression was that show attendance seemed to be the same as last year. He reports that some companies questioned the quality of leads at the show, but that most were positive about the traffic and number of leads generated.

At this show industrial lasers are used in diverse application areas for welding, machining, measuring, heat treating, converting, etc. So the exhibitors are located throughout the hall. He observes that about half of the companies showing lasers at the show were showing 'low end' marking lasers, with the rest consisting of all the other applications.

In the marking area he noted specifically a 355nm marker complete with galvo for about $50k that was being shown by DPSS Lasers. All of the other units observed were using CO2, solid-state, or mostly fiber lasers. Most of the laser companies chose to exhibit in the main floor Precision Tec area rather than the Laser Tec pavilion, which was located in the downstairs hall.

He had the impression that the 'low end' products have taken more of a hit in today's economy than the 'high end' (cost greater than $100,000) equipment. This he attributes to the lower end products becoming a commodity while the higher end units tend to be customized for a particular application.

Fiber lasers continue to be strong with IPG having a big booth and a large team on site promoting new products. IPG showed new green lasers and also short pulse lasers that look very promising for micromachining applications. SPI (probably the second biggest fiber laser company) has joined IPG in providing 'higher power' fiber lasers. A host of other companies are jumping on the fiber laser bandwagon by providing their own lasers, still a minor portion of the overall market that is being fought over by many of the smaller companies.

Schaeffer heard comments about the relative high cost of leads per exhibit but even so he only talked with two companies who decided to skip this show – one this year (conflict with Medical Device Puerto Rico) and one next year, too high a cost. He plans to talk with some of these same exhibitors at the MD&M East show in NYC in June, a show that is not as big as West with a much higher overall cost, considering hotels, etc. By then the economic situation in the U.S. should be more defined.

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