108 million dieters in the U.S. alone are spending about $20
billion per year on weight-loss efforts.
Instrumentation and sensors
“Currently, super-resolution microscopy is the most vibrant sec-
tor in the laser instrumentation market,” says Mike Tice, VP of
consulting services at Strategic Directions International (SDi;
Los Angeles, CA). “While laser scanning confocal microsco-
py has existed for decades, newer techniques invented over the
past 10 to 15 years are now being vigorously commercialized,
and the innovators of two particular techniques—stimulat-
ed emission depletion or STED and single-molecule micros-
copy—were recently awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Breaking the diffraction limit for optical microscopy, these
and other super-resolution techniques known by a bevy of ac-
ronyms such as STORM, PALM, and SIM are furthering life
science research.” Tice adds, “The long-established LIBS [la-
ser-induced breakdown spectroscopy] technique is also expe-
riencing a renaissance, as next-generation systems provide bet-
ter performance and a few vendors have configured LIBS into
handheld instrumentation for wider applicability.”
Besides microscopy and spectroscopy instrumentation, op-
tical coherence tomography (OC T) systems continue to shrink
in size as the applications base grows; in this case, OCT is
moving beyond its roots in ophthalmology. In February 2014,
Axsun Technologies (Billerica, MA), a wholly owned subsid-
iary of Volcano Corporation (San Diego, CA), received a vol-
ume purchase order for swept laser optical coherence tomog-
raphy (OC T) engines from Michelson Diagnostics (Orpington,
England) that will power Michelson’s Vivosight Multi-Beam
OCT system. Michelson says that Vivosight is the first OCT
scanner to receive FDA 510(k) clearance for high-definition
skin imaging that can reveal sub-surface tissue structure in
the diagnosis, for example, of non-melanoma skin cancer.
In the sensing arena, Io T applications and smart gadgets
should keep laser manufacturers busy for decades to come. In
addition, laser sales are benefiting directly from the U.S. oil
and gas boom. Of the $585 million spent on distributed fi-
ber-optic sensors in 2013 (and forecast to reach $1.46 billion
in 2018), 70% of the sales are associated with the oil and gas
market segments, according to the July 2014 Photonic Sensor
Consortium survey published by Information Gatekeepers
(Boston, MA). In our forecast, the analytical, sensor, and life
science instrumentation markets are expected to grow 7.5% to
$662 million in 2015, easily surpassing the total laser sales for
the combined scientific research and military market segments.
Scientific research and military
“Although a fragile global economic environment and an ex-
change-rate depreciation slowed growth from last year, we still
saw a 30% increase in the sales of our DPSS and diode lasers
for R&D applications including LIBS, Raman-based detec-
tion, spectroscopy, and particle image velocimetry [PIV] ap-
plications,” says Tianhong Liu, sales manager at CNI Laser.
“Established in 1996, our first lasers were used for low-end ap-
plications. Now, integrated pulse modulation and customized
fiber-optic delivery options allow us to deliver lasers that meet
the needs of the scientific and research community.”
AdValue Photonics (Tucson, AZ) also sells primarily into sci-
entific R& D markets and plans to grow its revenues by 30–
50% in 2015. “While our continuous-wave fiber laser prod-
ucts are facing increased competition in this market, our pulsed
2 µm fiber laser offering was well received for applications in
nonlinear optics and materials studies,” says Katherine Liu,
AdValue business development director.
Laser–matter interaction studies continue to drive numerous R&D laser sales. In February 2013, Lasertel (Tucson, AZ)
was awarded a $5 million contract by Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory (Livermore, CA) to supply megawatt-class pump laser modules for the Extreme Light Infrastructure
(ELI) Beamlines facility.
An analysis of U.S. federal procurement data by the
Instrumentation & sensors
Includes lasers used within biomedical instruments; analytical
instruments (such as spectroscopy); wafer and mask inspection,
metrology, levelers, optical mice, gesture recognition, LIDAR,
barcode readers, and other sensors.
Laser instruments and sensors include a variety of applications
that have become increasingly important in recent years. From
lasers used in LIDAR for self-driving cars, to lasers for flow
cytometry and ultrafast spectroscopy for medical applications,
the increasing processing power of today’s microprocessors
increasingly needs better sensors to supply data to be processed.
When considering that laser revenue in this segment grew more
than 12% in 2014, consider also that lasers used in this segment
are also dropping fairly rapidly in price, which masks some of the
real segment growth.
While some applications within this segment are flat or
dropping in demand, such as lasers for barcode readers and
laser PC mice, many others, such as gesture recognition for
smartphones, are only in their infancy and could eventually
amount to applications consuming millions of dollars of lasers.
Overall, this is the segment to watch for some of the newest and
most innovative laser applications.
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