31 Jan 2003
Fears that Photonics West would be severely hit by the downturn were proved incorrect at this year's show.
As the doors close on this year's Photonics West, all the signs suggest that the event has coped admirably with the downturn.
Although total attendee numbers look set to come in slightly lower than last year's 14 000 mark, many exhibitors say that the quality of enquiries has been high with less 'time-wasters'.
A total of 770 companies packed the exhibition halls, an increase of 11 % over last year's figure of 695. As of mid-morning Thursday (the last day of the exhibit), the total attendance stood at 11 800 including approximately 4 500 walk-in visitors to the exhibition only. The latter compares with a final figure of around 6 000 for the past two years.
The general consensus amongst the exhibitors was that the first two days of the show were busy, with a sharp drop-off on the third. Of the exhibitors that Optics.org spoke to, most reckoned that the mood of the show was more upbeat than last year.
The reason behind this mood swing could be a shift away from optical communications.
To survive the downturn, many companies that have previously thrived on telecoms are now attempting to find new markets for their existing technology, such as defense and materials processing. Biomedicine in particular seems to be attracting a lot of attention.
A total of 50 companies exhibited at the show's dedicated biomedical optics exhibit, double last year's number. "Biomedical optics also experienced the largest growth for the technical sessions, up by 100 attendees (10%) over last year's figure," said Janice Walker of SPIE. "The biomedical hot topics session was very busy with 300 people and standing room only."
Oliver Graydon is editor of Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.
Jacqueline Hewett is news reporter on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.