OSA LIDAR Sessions: Is 2020 the Year?
Bringing "LIDAR 2.0" to driverless cars is an engineering challenge, not requiring significant scientific breakthroughs, but the time scale is long. There are SAE Level 4 demo vehicles on roads today, gathering data, with production of fleet vehicles coming soon, perhaps by 2020-2021. But there are dozens of companies developing LIDAR products, and they won't all survive. Expect to see some company acquisitions at low valuations by 2020, with more shaking out by 2022, either because the technology isn't up to the task or the companies simply run out of money. Meanwhile, LIDAR companies are looking into other applications, such as border security.
These were some of the points from five sessions on LIDAR and autonomous vehicles in the automotive theme at OSA's annual Frontiers in Optics event, on 17-18 September in Washington DC. OIDA hosted a reception for attendees following the event. The sessions continue a discussion started at the OIDA Executive Forum on Sensing, held 14 May.
Keynote speaker Jan-Erik Kallhammer of Veoneer, a spinoff from Tier 1 supplier Autoliv, emphasized the auto industry principle of "TTT"—Things Take Time. Design tolerances and processes may not scale well to volume manufacturing. Specifications for reliability, such as for vibration and EMI (electromagnetic interference), are hard to maintain. Automakers allow suppliers to make only single digit profit margins, and reduce prices 3-5% per year. It's often preferable to license technology to an established partner than to become an automotive supplier yourself.
The current market for LIDAR 2.0 is to supply to Level 3-5 demonstration vehicles from companies like Waymo and Ford Argo. This is an R&D market. Coming next are fleet vehicles for robotaxis and "Mobility as a Service" or MaaS, with the component cost per vehicle falling accordingly, and LIDAR systems priced at a few thousand dollars, as shown in the figure. Driverless cars for personal ownership will come later, requiring LIDAR systems in the range of a few hundred dollars each, or less.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is also looking for driverless fleet vehicles to reduce labor and mortality (which are also reasons for the commercial market). It also has many of the same challenges, particularly regarding weather conditions, which spans fog, rain, snow, sand, dust, flat light, splash from rain, and exhaust plumes. Moreover, there are many types of dust, fog, rain, and snow. There can be deep mud, rubble, roadblocks, roadside explosive devices, and "GPS-denied" situations like tunnels, multipath interference, and deliberate jamming.
DOD has unique requirements too. It uses the sensors not only for navigation, but also to identify threats. LIDAR alerts adversaries to its position, so the military prefers passive imaging, or at least longer wavelength LIDAR. The military may have minimal or no detail on the landscape, while Waymo relies on previously gathered datasets and maps. On the other hand, the military can use airborne drones as scouts, and custom vehicle-to-vehicle communication. And the qualification for the auto industry is harder: "there are more lawyers involved."
In the U.S., state governments issue licenses, but what happens when software becomes the driver? The federal government's role may be to harmonize a patchwork of state and local regulations to minimize market fragmentation, and to clean up obsolete language in the federal rules. Federal law doesn't pre-approve vehicle designs, leaving it to automakers to self-certify their models. But U.S. regulators can issue a safety recall, and limit the number of exemptions issued for demonstration vehicles. That only applies to the U.S. market, however. There is a patchwork of regulations around the world governing driverless cars, which threatens to fragment the emerging market for automakers and their suppliers.
U.S. National Academies Asks for Input on Optical Science
We will always need to study the optical behavior of materials, whether to invent or improve products (such as for quantum sensors or nanophotonics) or to find substitutes for scarce minerals and toxic chemicals. With that in mind, how might the U.S. realize the full potential of atomic, molecular and optical (AMO) science? What are the most compelling scientific questions in AMO for the next decade? To answer these questions, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine is conducting a decadal assessment on AMO science with support from the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. Members of the community shared their thoughts during a 19 September town hall meeting at OSA's annual Frontiers in Optics event in Washington, D.C.
A common lament repeated at the town hall event was that there are too few 2- and 4-year college graduates with the necessary optics and STEM skills to fill jobs in the U.S. optics industry, leaving employers to train new employees in-house. The obvious solution is for federal and state governments to increase funding for optical science and technology to make its study more attractive to prospective students. This includes funding not just for PhD-level research, but also supporting courses at the 2- and 4-year level. To advocate for this support, the tech community needs to frame the need around jobs, national security and competitiveness, not just as science for the sake of science.
Community input is critical for the success of this decadal assessment. OIDA invites members of the optics community to share their input on the future of the field by submitting a white paper to the study webpage by 16 November 2018. Learn more about the study and how you can participate at nas.edu/amo.
Thoughts on the Past and Near-Future for U.S. Optics Manufacturing
Ever since the presidential campaign two years ago, there has been a lot of talk in the U.S. about manufacturing employment, tariffs, and trade agreements. With the complexity of global tech businesses today, though, it's hard to say how that is playing out for optics and photonics. OIDA estimates U.S. optics and photonics employment at 385,000—from systems to components—but accurate data to show a year-by-year trend is not available. Yet, we can understand a lot by looking across other sectors, which are likely behaving similarly. The figure below shows U.S. employment in the manufacturing of communication equipment, in red. The telecom bubble added tens of thousands of jobs starting around 1995, until the bubble collapsed around 2001-2002. What's striking is the background trend, in blue, of jobs moving abroad, particularly to Asia. Today the U.S. employment in this category is only 86,000, about 1/3 of the employment from 20 years ago.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2013).
The next figure shows U.S. manufacturing overall over the last two decades, in terms of employment and shipments, each compared to 1998. Overall manufacturing employment (red) also reset to a lower level as manufacturing jobs went offshore. It has just recovered to the level of December 2008, at 12.7 million. It may grow, but it's unlikely to return to historical highs.
Source: OIDA (2018) from U.S. government statistics.
On the other hand, U.S. manufacturing shipments, unadjusted for inflation (top, solid green), are currently at an all-time high at US$ 5.9 trillion (2018 annualized). It shows long-term growth, punctuated by recessions. When adjusted for inflation, manufacturing shipments appear approximately steady over the last 20 years, but still faring better than employment has.
Adjusted manufacturing shipments remained flat as foreign competition gained on U.S. manufacturers and the U.S. economy shifts more to trading in services. The U.S. economy has also been shifting to higher value products (such as microprocessors), while many lower value products (such as clothing) moved offshore. Factory automation is another factor.
Economists warn of signs that the economy could slow by 2020, or sooner. The trade war could hurt business confidence. Overextended government budgets and corporate debt could trigger another debt crisis. While it's hard to generalize across many companies and their respective customers, U.S. optics and photonics suppliers are faring well so far this year. Let's hope that some of the uncertainty lifts for smooth growth going forward.
Welcome New OIDA Members
OIDA Member Gooch & Housego Snaps Up Gould Fiber Optics
The Somerset, U.K.-based photonics firm, and OIDA Member, Gooch & Housego (G&H) announced that it has acquired the trade and assets of Gould Technology LLC, based in Baltimore, Md., USA, for a total of US $16.4 million. Learn more from OPN.
Materials Processing and Applications for High Power Lasers Take Center Stage at the OSA Laser Applications Conference, 5-7 November in Boston
Don't miss this unique opportunity to network and learn from leaders in applied industrial R&D.
Attend the region's most important laser applications event for networking, information on today's ever-changing technology, critical industry discussion and building new business relationships. The Laser Applications Conference (LAC) is an all-invited-speaker event for industry at the OSA Laser Congress.
Hear leading authorities, attend panel discussions and visit with your vendors and customers. Registration includes:
One registration gives you access to both conferences and the OIDA Executive Forum. Free Exhibit Only admission is also offered. Exhibit space is still available!
Join Industry Leaders at OIDA Executive Forum at the OSA Laser Congress
Attend OIDA Executive Forum on 8 November in Boston for an in-depth look at the opportunities, trends, and challenges facing the laser market. In one morning you'll get the information you need to propel your career and your business forward. This is your chance to learn and talk with the experts about your business and technology issues and meet the power players at an intimate networking lunch.
Don't miss out! Key topics to be discussed include:
- Where is the laser industry today as an investment, and where is it headed?
- How healthy is the growth of the laser market? Which segments are growing the most rapidly? What are the threats to market growth?
- Where are the opportunities in new mobile and innovative platforms for vehicles and robotics?
- What are the weak links in the laser supply chain that support these new platforms and end-products?
- How do small and medium-size companies navigate the market in the midst of billion dollar laser companies?
Networking Lunch Included! Come learn, collaborate and build lasting relationships. Meet speakers like:
Director, Adv. Engineering Body, Components, Light, Interior, Exterior, Daimler AG, Germany
Co-Founder, Needham & Company, USA
Free to paid Laser Applications Conference attendees. Learn more and register now.
RSVP to OIDA Funding Accelerator Speed Meetings: SBIR/STTR
OIDA Members are invited to participate in the OIDA Funding Accelerator Speed Meetings: SBIR/STTR focusing on optics and photonics funding, which will be held at OSA's headquarters in Washington, DC on 19 November 2018. This event will give Member U.S. companies with less than 500 employees an opportunity to meet one-on-one with program officers from multiple U.S. federal agencies, all in one place, in one day — minimizing your time investment and increasing your chances for new government funding. Agencies include:
- Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
- Department of Energy (DoE)
- National Eye Institute/National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- National Science Foundation (NSF)
This OIDA event will give you an insider perspective on what agencies are looking to fund; as well as provide you with up-to-date information on each agency's SBIR/STTR funding process, and how you can enhance your probability of success. In addition, the event will help government agencies better understand what OIDA Members can offer and how optics and photonics technologies can help them meet their goals. For more information and to secure your company's reservation, please e-mail OSA Director of Industry Programs, Sandra Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations European Southern Observatory Team — 2018 Paul F. Forman Team Engineering Excellence Award Winner
The Adaptive Optics Facility on the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory received the 2018 award for equipping one of the 8-m Unit Telescopes at ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile with an Adaptive Optics Laser Guide Star Facility, providing exquisite images to the unique 3-D spectrograph MUSE and near-infrared imager HAWK-I. Team members Robin Arsenault, Johann Kolb and Elise Vernet accepted the award on behalf of the 90-member team. View the full team list and learn more about the 2018 award.
Ian Walmsley, 2018 OSA President, with Robin Arsenault, Johann Kolb and Elise Vernet,
representing the winners of the 2018 Paul F. Forman Team Engineering Excellence Award.
Applied Optics Wants to See Your Lab Notebook
OSA's journal for applications-centered research, Applied Optics, seeks Engineering and Laboratory Notes (E&L Notes): short, 1-2 page papers that highlight laboratory techniques. In addition to getting your lab techniques published in a prominent venue, E&L Notes can potentially:
- Develop new business opportunities for your company
- Promote your company's new innovations by publishing its patent approvals and applications
- Gain recognition for your company and attract new customers
- Accelerate your career by having your article widely distributed through a high-quality journal that is well respected in the field
- Provide tips, best practices, and techniques to colleagues in industry and academia
Want to learn more about E&L Notes? Read the full description of this feature or view the library of published E&L Notes.
Submit an E&L Note today!
New Opportunities for Companies in Sensing, Advanced Sources, Biomedical, Optical Communications, Imaging and Advanced Optics
OSA has 10 meetings in 2019, which will create an intimate setting where exhibitors and sponsors can have substantive discussions about product needs with attendees. We have identified 6 hot topics for 2019. These are areas of high interest in the optics and photonics industry, where research and technology is advancing and defining the future of the industry. Find your match and secure your company's participation today.
Learn more in our 2019 OSA Congresses and Topical Meetings Exhibitor and Sponsorship Prospectus.
Grow sales, reach key buyers, and network with leaders. Reserve your space today.
Corporate Sponsorships at OFC are Still Available. Don't Miss Out!
Put your company in front of leaders in the optical networking world at OFC. It's one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways for you to:
- Acquire qualified and targeted leads.
- Raise brand awareness.
- Become a more recognized and respected brand.
- Make new product announcements
- Meet the right people, searching for solutions like yours.
- Position your company as a key player.
- Demonstrate your solutions in an impactful way.
Learn more and secure your sponsorship today. Exhibit space is also available. Learn more.
Invitation to Join the Optics and Photonics Industry LinkedIn Group
Join 3,000+ of your colleagues in our Optics & Photonics Industry Network LinkedIn Group. This one-of-a-kind Forum for Industry lets you participate in discussions about cutting-edge issues. Extend your professional network. Exchange information about problems, ideas and solutions. Collaborate with experts in your field. Now is the perfect time to build a relationship with fellow optics and photonics professionals!
Take advantage of your OIDA (OSA Industry Development Associates) Member Benefits
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Forward this message to your colleagues.
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OIDA (OSA Industry Development Associates) Council
Thank you to the volunteers who oversee the programs and services available to the Industry Community.
• Claudio Mazzali,
Corning, Inc., Chair
• Alex Fong,
TruTag Technologies, Inc.,
• John Dexheimer,
• Amy Eskilson,
• Christoph Harder,
Harder and Partner
• Fred Leonberger,
• Inge Kabert,
• Martin Seifert
• Debbie Wilson,