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Business update: latest industry responses to Covid-19

02 Apr 2020

Photonics organizations and companies continue to adapt to the pandemic, with significant trading continuing in new ways.

Fraunhofer IMS (Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems) has responded to the Covid-19 pandemic, posting a detailed statement on how its institute activities are continuing, albeit in slightly different form:

“We at Fraunhofer IMS are monitoring the specialized information of the local authorities and health organizations closely. A catalog of preventive and accompanying measures developed by Fraunhofer is securing a risk-minimizing, responsible and also moderate way to deal with the situation and therefore ensuring us to be well equipped for possible future developments.

“In addition to the protection of our employees, the unrestricted maintenance of our business operations is our main objective. In concrete terms, this means that our institute with its development departments and clean rooms is going to continue to be there for you in the best possible way, albeit in slightly different form than usual.

“Our employees are mainly working from home and are available as usual by phone and e-mail. A rolling system was set up for work areas that require the presence of employees to guarantee that operations continue to work smoothly. We apologize for any inconvenience and delays in individual cases. We will do everything to remedy any inconvenience as quickly as possible. We will gladly continue to discuss your conception and realization of your new ideas and projects. Here, we are increasingly relying on virtual meetings in the form of telephone and video conferences.

Countering Covid-19 ideas contest

“In the wake of the current corona virus pandemic, we would also like you to inform about the call by Munich Re and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft for an idea contest in which designs and concepts for respirators and necessary accessories are being sought to enable Covid-19 patients to be treated decentralized worldwide in time of crisis.

“Moreover, Fraunhofer and other European partners are participating in the research of treatment options to combat Covid-19, a project supported by the European Commission's emergency aid fund for urgent research to combat the epidemic. Fraunhofer IMS is involved in the containment of the corona virus with its own technologies.

“Our in-house developed IR image sensors form the core component of a thermal imaging camera that can detect an elevated temperature quickly and contactless. Another project is the non-contact respiratory rate measurement, which prevents contact with patients. Both methods allow a first contactless detection of a disease without longer measurement cycles in the patient.”

AKL International Laser Technology Congress update

The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT) has decided to cancel the International Laser Technology Congress AKL in 2020, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The next AKL will take place from May 4 to 6, 2022, in the usual venue of Aachen, Germany.

However, today, April 2nd, the ILT expanded its rescheduling plans: “So that interested parties do not have to wait another two years for the live demonstrations in Europe's largest laser system park, which are firmly anchored in the AKL, we intend to open our doors as early as autumn, 2020, and again in 2021 for various planned symposia in Aachen – provided that the general conditions permit.”

Laser giant Coherent has extended the capabilities of its PowerMax series thermopile sensors to enable measurement of laser powers as high as 6 kW. The new PM1K+, PM3K+ and PM6K+ water-cooled, thermopile sensors incorporate the novel BB+ broadband coating to deliver reliable power measurements of CW or modulated lasers up to 1 kW, 3 kW, and 6 kW in output power respectively, within the spectral range of 190 nm to 11µm.

Coherent's Covid-19 response

Coherent’s manufacturing in California and Connecticut are impacted by movement restrictions, as is service across Europe, except for essential industries. Coherent is operating with a series of preventative safety measures, is following regional health department guidelines, and is actively managing this dynamically evolving situation.

The company stated, “Our priority is twofold: to ensure the safety of our employees, our customers, and the communities where we do business; and to maintain our ability to provide the products and services our customers require. We are following the US Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization advisories.

“Our business operates with minimal disruption as several of our manufacturing operations are classified as essential services. Non-production employees are following shelter-in-place and/or local social distancing requirements by working from home. Customer and sales engagement is also utilizing remote work technologies.

“Most of our 17 applications laboratories are operating with minimally-reduced capacity, continuing to support our customers’ needs. Business continuity plans are activated at every location around the globe to help mitigate possible supply issues. Out of 27 production facilities, some manufacturing in California, Connecticut, and Scotland is affected by the shelter-in-place order and corresponding local regulations. As a qualified essential business our manufacturing continues and we have made adjustments to prioritize the safety of our employees.“

First Solar, which operates factories located in Wood County, Ohio, Kulim, Malaysia and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, has also provided a manufacturing operations update.

The State of Ohio, where First Solar’s Perrysburg and Lake Township manufacturing plants are located, has issued a “Stay at Home” order, exempting, among other things, essential businesses and operations from its scope. It is First Solar’s understanding that its manufacturing facilities in these locations are permitted to operate under the order.

Similarly, the government of Malaysia, where the company’s Kulim manufacturing plants are located, has implemented a wide-ranging suspension of public activities. Since the implementation of this suspension and at this time, First Solar’s understanding is that these measures do not impact the continuity of its manufacturing operations in the country.

First Solar’s manufacturing operations at its Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam facilities are not impacted by government-mandated restrictions on movement at this time. The Company is continuing to monitor the situation at all of its facility locations.

Lumibird has reported its 2019 earnings, declaring: “Strong profitability for second half of year”. However the company has suspended its financial full-year 2020 guidance, due to the market uncertainty arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. The company added that half of its workforce is “still operational”. The company’s Q1 20 results are due to be published on April 27th.

The company this week stated that its “Pre-tax (EBITDA) earnings for 2019 climbed 26.8% to €21.0m (+17.6% before IFRS 16) and net income of €8.8m, with the net margin stable year-on-year. The Group has a robust financial position, with €49.0m of net cash and €30.8m of financial debt. In the current context of the health and economic crisis, the Group is ensuring the continuity of part of its activities, is moving forward with its strategic projects and is suspending its guidance while waiting to have more visibility regarding its markets.”

Full-year 2019 revenues came to €110.7m, after being adjusted by the statutory auditors, slightly higher than the figure reported on January 27, 2020 (€110.1m). The Laser Division’s business grew 6.4% in 2019 to €71.4m, with: stability for the industrial and scientific business (+1.2% to €25.8m); growth for the Lidar business (+33.5% to €20.5m), marked by the development of sales in the automotive (ADAS), telemetry (3D scanning) and energy (wind sensing) sectors, as well as the extension of production capabilities in order to continue to address these markets with very strong potential; contraction for Defense & Space business (-4.2% to €25.1m), linked to the schedules for completing military programs and a significant base effect between the fourth quarters of 2018 and 2019.

Internet capacity

The Body of the European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC) and the European Commission have issued a joint statement on how they intend to deal with the potential telecom network congestion during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the two organisations have set up a special process to monitor the situation and respond to any pressures on supply that emerge.

The main findings of the first information-gathering exercise by BEREC on 24 March 2020, showed that the overall traffic on fixed and on mobile networks has significantly increased during the Covid-19 crisis, but that no major congestion issues have occurred. According to the information available, network operators have been able to cope well with this additional traffic load. Some local and temporary difficulties with internet access have been observed and mitigated but has not been considered to be out of the ordinary.

In the meantime, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) backed the European Commission's plan to use anonymized telecom data from operators to track the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. (source: Fiber To The Home Council Europe).

Mad City Labs, Inc.CHROMA TECHNOLOGY CORP.ABTechOptikos Corporation Universe Kogaku America Inc.AlluxaECOPTIK
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