Wandering through five exhibition halls filled with cutting-edge technology, you see a lot of lasers, optics, cameras, test & measurement systems, and production equipment. But just when you think you’ve seen it all, you occasionally come across something quite unusual and completely unexpected.

Take, for example, the all-electric Formula Student (aka Formula SAE in the US) race car on display in one of the Fraunhofer booths. Designed and built by students from RWTH Aachen University, the 200 kg (440 lb), 80 kw (107 hp) race car uses four conveyor belt motors — one on each wheel — to power the car. Whether its reason for being in the Fraunhofer booth was eye-candy to pull people in, or it was meant to showcase some of the company’s technology wasn’t clear, but it did attract a lot of attention.

The all-electric Formula Student race car on display in the Fraunhofer booth. (Photo Credit: Bruce A. Bennett)

TRUMPF also had an unusual automobile in their booth. The ILO SDV Prototype is a completely autonomous, self-driving vehicle being designed and built by ILO Mobility GmbH using a combination of conventional processing and additive manufacturing such as TRUMPF’s laser metal fusion (LMF) and laser metal deposition (LMD) systems.

ILO SDV Prototype autonomous self-driving vehicle on display in the TRUMPF BOOTH. (Photo Credit: Bruce A. Bennett)

Those with a sweet tooth could stop by the AMS Technologies booth, watch their Shot Mini 200SX Desktop Dispensing Robot apply fancy icing patterns to baked goods, and get a free cookie. Before you foodies try to order one for home use, be advised that the robot’s primary purpose is not decorating cookies; it’s the precision application of optical adhesives. But what would you rather get at a trade show — a freshly bonded optical component, or a freshly decorated cookie?

Desktop adhesives dispensing robot decorating cookies in the AMS Technologies booth. (Photo Credit: Bruce A. Bennett)

Last but certainly not least, Laser Components deserves some kind of creativity award for something they called “The Art of Photonics.” One entire corner of their gargantuan booth was a dark tunnel lined with mirrors and what looked like thousands of flashing colored LEDs. In reality it probably wasn’t that many; it was an optical illusion created by the mirrors. But had they thought to add music and a disco ball, they probably could’ve charged admission.

Inside “The Art of Photonics” display at the Laser Components booth. (Photo by Bruce A. Bennett)

Read more of Bruce's blog posts from LASER World of PHOTONICS.