News Feature | April 13, 2022

Bright Ideas — Hot Topics From DCS, What To Look For At LASER WORLD, And Booming Business For Synopsys, Jenoptik & ANSYS

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By Abby Proch, Editor

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SPIE saw another successful conference so far this year with the Orlando-based Defense + Commercial Sensing. The exhibition floor hosted a wide swath of optics, sensing, and imaging companies, some of which are well known prime military contractors and integrators and others that were looking to grab a slice of the ever-growing aerospace and defense pie (especially given the increased awareness given the global attention given to the crisis in Ukraine). In addition to a lively show floor, backed by well-attended industry talks and demonstrations, there were several plenary sessions of note, particularly the opening night address from Dr. Phil Perconti of Leonardo DRS, in which he presented ideas for integrated systems for military applications. The sentiment would be echoed throughout the conference, in addition to a unified desire from military and civilian presenters and attendees alike for government to more intently seek and better facilitate innovation from commercial partners.

In just a few weeks, LASER World of Photonics returns April 26 in Munich, Germany, from a two-year pandemic hiatus with renewed enthusiasm for old and new programs alike, including the debut of its new World of QUANTUM conference. This year, LASER World has dedicated an entire hall and a conference track to accommodate the growing interest in and importance of quantum technology. LASER World has also noted that nearly 50 percent of exhibitors are internationally located, with most making the trip from the U.S. and Canada. The conference will feature forums in quantum technology as well as laser materials processing, biophotonics/medical, and lasers and optics. There will also be opportunities to for fully guided tours of the Institute for Machine Tools and Industrial Management (IWB) and the Bavarian Laser Center (BLZ). LASER World reports that as many as 1,300 exhibitors will be present, including TRUMPF, Coherent Shared Services, IPG Laser, LASER COMPONENTS Germany, the Fraunhofer Society, JENOPTIK Optical Systems, Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT, and more.

For its part, Fraunhofer Institute is showcasing its laser-drilled microplastic filter that features 10 micrometer-wide holes capable of filtering tiny bits of plastic from wastewater. The technology to efficiently drill millions of holes, ultrashortpulse (USP) laser technology, is now being developed in the kW range and will be discussed the Institute’s booth.

In business news, Synopsys and Juniper have created an as-yet unnamed company aimed at providing an open silicon photonics platform to support telecom, datacom, lidar, AI, optical computing, and more. According to a joint press release, the platform will include “integrated lasers, optical amplifiers, and a full suite of photonic components.” The new company will be formed, in part, from Juniper’s integrated silicon photonics assets, developed alongside Tower Semiconductor. The company’s laser-on-a-chip open silicon photonics platform “will bring integrated photonics to a host of new applications and markets that were previously not thought possible.” Synopsys will be the majority owner.  

NASA is harnessing the engineering power of ANSYS — in a contract worth up to $39.1 million — for its multiciliary modeling and simulation tools, including those in photonics and semiconductors. Initiated April 7, the five-year partnership will allow NASA to easily purchase licenses, services, maintenance, and training.

A boon to the Scottish photonics industry, Alter Technology TUV Nord has opened its new Photonics Design Center at the Strathclyde Technology & Innovation Center in Glasgow. Established to drive the commercialization of photonic products for the quantum technology and space markets, the center is slated to open in May. It shares an address with the Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics.

German photonics manufacturer and supplier Jenoptik reports that it is on track to reach 20 percent sales growth over last fiscal year. According to CEO Stefan Traeger, Jenoptik is eyeing a group revenue of 1.2 billion euro by 2025. The continued growth and optimism comes even as the Russian war on Ukraine drags on. Continued financial success in attributed, in part, to a recent restructuring in which Jenoptik separated its photonics and non-photonics business.

In research news, a physics student at Brown University is developing a redesigned pulse oximeter to better measure the blood oxygen levels of people with darker skin tones. Using radially polarized light, Rutendo Jakachira hopes to achieve more accurate measurements that have until now been shown to produce an up to 10% variance in oxygen saturation among those with darker skin. Darker skin contains more melanin and therefore tends to absorb more light and deliver normal readings even when oxygen levels are dangerously low. Backed by an Optica Amplify Scholarship, Jakachira plans to expand her successful five-person study to a larger study group, then to clinical trials.

And calling all commercial space companies: The U.S. Space Force has launched a new organization to connect space companies with government buyers in the areas of weather data, imagery and other satellite intelligence. In a concerted effort to harness the growth and capability of the commercial sector, Space Force established its Commercial Space Futures Office. The “commercial-first” approach is a step away from creating in-house solutions. While the opportunity has already proven fruitful to companies like Freedom Photonics, Anduril, and others, the CSFO is continually vetting interested parties, assessing the strength of their financial stability, technical know-how, and supply chain health.