LASER WORLD OF PHOTONICS REVIEW
What was new at the
LASER trade fair?
With almost 1300 exhibitors and more than 32,000
visitors, LASER World of PHOTONICS 2017 in
Munich set new records. Hot topics ranged from new
high-power fiber lasers to lidar for autonomous driv-
ing or the prospects of quantum technology. After
all, the laser industry is prospering and so was the
trade fair (see Fig. 1).
Every other year, the German and global photonics community meets at LASER. This year, the business side was busy, as was the scientific community
with large conferences from several organizations, including OSA and SPIE. I expected to see “the same procedure
as every year,” but the organizers did a careful job to reach
out for new trends and ideas.
The opening plenary talk is the usual place to highlight cer-
tain hot topics. This year, it was quantum technologies. While
the topic might be well known for its theoretical beauty, it
was raised to another level of importance, as introduced by
Peter Leibinger, vice chair of TRUMPF (Ditzingen, Germany).
Leibinger showed how the sustained European approach
of substantial investments in R&D has led to a strong global position for European photonics companies (with produc-
tion technology being the strongest). The European agen-
da of governmental and industrial photonics funding from
the 1980s up to 2020 has led to many success stories, with
quantum technology expected to become the next big thing.
Substantial sales are expected not only from telecommunication and IT equipment, but also from quantum imaging
and sensing applications.
Lidar experts looking forward
More mature than quantum technology is lidar, the
light-based analog to radar technology. At the LASER
fair, we found several new sensors ready for a variety
of applications, from science to automotive or even to
man-machine interaction. The Fraunhofer Institute for
Laser Technology (Fraunhofer ILT; Aachen, Germany)
showed a large-scale model of the Ariane rocket to high-
light their lidar system that will be used in the European
Space Agency’s MERLIN mission to map the methane
concentration in the atmosphere. A 2D MEMS Scanning
lidar was shown by the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicon
Technology (Fraunhofer ISIT; Itzehoe, Germany). With
a 60 MHz voxel rate, it can acquire live 3D data with 1
But the most attractive system was running outside the
halls. Luminar Technologies (Portola Valley, CA) was offering a demo of its lidar system for autonomous driving on nearby roads (see Fig. 2). Working at 1550 nm, it is eye-safe and
sees objects even at 200 m distance and with a reflectivity as
low as 10%, according to founder and CEO Austin Russell.
“We wanted to build a completely different lidar platform
from scratch,” he said. Now, they have a running prototype
that is under testing at several car manufacturers. Luminar is
currently setting up production facilities in Orlando, FL, to
start their production with a 10,000-device target later this
year (see page 60 for more information). A video of our lidar
demo is available at https://goo.gl/QDURks.
Not an insider tip
booth party is
traditionally the best at
the LASER fair.
LASER World of PHOTONICS 2017
didn’t disappoint, with a record-breaking crowd and plenty of evidence
showing a thriving laser industry.