The SPIE Photonics West 2020  technical conference and exhibition returns to The Moscone Center in San Francisco, February 1 through February 6, offering attendees the opportunity to explore the latest innovations in lasers, photonics, optics, optoelectronics, biophotonics, biomedical optics, 3D printing and more. As in the past, the event will once again kick off with BiOS, the world’s largest biomedical optics conference, before transitioning into the Photonics West conference and exhibition. Last year’s event hosted more than 22,000 attendees and put the products and services of over 1,400 exhibitors on display. More than 5,200 technical papers and 65 course and workshop options will be available to conference participants throughout the week.

Technical Conference

As in previous years, this year’s technical program consists of three separate conferences – BiOS, LASE and OPTO - designed to help attendees quickly and accurately access their areas of interest.

BiOS: BiOS, the world's largest biomedical optics conference, takes place on February 1 & 2 and gives attendees the opportunity to learn about the latest advancements in the areas of biomedical optics, diagnostics and therapeutics, biophotonics, new imaging modalities, optical coherence tomography, neurophotonics, optogenetics, and tissue optics. The conference, which features over 2,500 papers and presentations, is divided into six technical tracks and three application tracks:

Technical Tracks

  • Photonic Therapeutics and Diagnostics

  • Neurophotonics, Neurosurgery, and Optogenetics

  • Clinical Technologies and Systems

  • Tissue Optics, Laser-Tissue Interaction, and Tissue Engineering

  • Biomedical Spectroscopy, Microscopy, and Imaging

  • Nano/Biophotonics

The SPIE Photonics West entry foyer is a popular place to meet colleagues, compare notes, or just take a break from the show floor. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)

Applications Tracks

  • Brain

  • Translational Research

  • 3D Printing

LASE: LASE, also known as "the industrial laser, laser source, and laser application conference," offers attendees the opportunity to learn about the latest laser manufacturing; laser materials processing; micro-nano packaging; fiber, diode, and solid state lasers; laser resonators; ultrafast, semiconductor lasers and LEDs; and 3D fabrication technologies. The four conference tracks being offered by LASE are:

  • Laser Sources

  • Nonlinear Optics and Beam Guiding

  • Micro-/Nano Applications

  • Macro Applications

OPTO: OPTO is the Optoelectronics, Photonics Materials and Devices Conference, devoted to addressing the latest developments in a broad range of optoelectronic technologies. Attendees can expect to learn about the latest in silicon photonics, photonic crystals, optoelectronics, semiconductor lasers, and nanophotonics. OPTO is organized into nine conference program tracks:

  • Optoelectronic Materials and Devices

  • Photonic Integration

  • Nanotechnologies in Photonics

  • MOEMS-MEMS in Photonics

  • Advanced Quantum and Optoelectronic Applications

  • Semiconductor Lasers and LEDs

  • Displays and Holography

  • Optical Communications: Devices to Systems

  • 3D Printing

Applications Tracks

SPIE Brain: SPIE Brain 2020 will highlight papers from BiOS, LASE and OPTO that describe the development of innovative technologies to increase our understanding of brain function. Topics to be covered will include:

  • Clinical and Translational Neurophotonics

  • Optogenetics and Optical Manipulation

  • Clinical Technologies, Laser Tissue Interaction, and Tissue Engineering

  • Spectroscopy, Microscopy, Imaging, Nanobiophotonics and LASE

  • Neurotechnology, Plenary Speakers and Details

Translational Research: SPIE Translational Research 2020 will highlight papers from BiOS that showcase the latest photonics technologies, tools, and techniques with high potential to impact healthcare. Topic areas to be covered include:

  • Photonic Therapeutics and Diagnostics

  • Neurophotonics, Neurosurgery, and Optogenetics

  • Clinical Technologies and Systems

  • Tissue Optics, Laser-Tissue Interaction, and Tissue Engineering

  • Biomedical Spectroscopy, Microscopy, and Imaging

  • Nano/Biophotonics

3D Printing: SPIE Applications of 3D Printing 2020 will highlight papers from BiOS, LASE and OPTO that showcase innovative ways to apply this multidimensional/ multidisciplinary technology. Topics to be covered include:

  • Additive Manufacturing

  • Selective Laser Melting, Laser Sintering, Laser Photopolymerization

  • Novel Materials, Protean Materials, and Laser Interactions

  • Software that Increases Efficiencies and Speed

  • In-Situ Sensors or Probes to Verify and Quantify Additive Manufacturing Processes in Real Time

  • Conformal Photonics/Electronics

Augmented, Virtual, and Mixed Reality Conference 2020

The third annual AR VR MR Conference will feature presentations and demonstrations from some of the biggest names in consumer electronics and up-and-coming XR companies. This three-day event will feature a new technical program, invited industry talks, panel discussions, a student optical design challenge, courses, headset demonstrations, and an opportunity to network with industry thought leaders.

Courses and Workshops

This year’s SPIE Photonics West will offer close to 70 courses and workshops in 25 program tracks designed to help you stay competitive and advance your career. You will have an opportunity to learn current approaches in lasers and applications, sensors, imaging, IR systems, optical & optomechanical engineering and more. Courses range from two-hour, half-day, full-day and two-day formats. This year’s event will feature 10 new courses on a variety of topics such as:

  • Mirror System Design and Freeform Surfaces

  • Problems in Autonomous Vehicle Imaging Systems

  • Photodetectors – A Practical Selection Guide

  • Meta-Lenses

  • Introduction to Magnetic Random Access Memory (MRAM)

These courses all have fees involved, so if you’re interested, it would be wise to register in advance.

Industry & Social Networking Events

You know what they say about all work and no play, so a variety of industry and social networking events are planned for this year’s SPIE Photonics West.

Starting with Sunday evening, February 2, there is a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon from 5:00 to 7:00 pm at the Park Central Hotel. Bring your laptop and help edit Wikipedia pages about inspiring women, ethnic or minority scientists.

On Monday morning, February 3, from 8:00 - 9:00 am at the Park Central Hotel there will be an Early Career Summit Kickoff Breakfast where young professionals and students can connect with their peers and the volunteer leadership of SPIE while enjoying a complimentary buffet breakfast. It is open to those with a paid registration badge, but seating is limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Later that day, from 5:00 - 6:30 pm, there will be an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Presentation and Reception at the Intercontinental Hotel hosted by award-winning British science journalist and broadcaster, Angela Saini, that will explore the ways in which bias and prejudice are perpetuated in science, and the historical backdrop to today’s inequality.

Finally, Monday wraps up with the always popular Photonics West Welcome Reception from 7:00 - 8:30 pm at the Marriott Marquis Hotel. The theme of this year's event is Blast From the Past. Conference badges are required.

On Tuesday, February 4, there is a LGBTQ+ Social from 6:30 - 7:30 pm at the Keystone Social House open to those with a paid registration badge.

Looking for a job? Be sure to check out the Job Fair where prospective employers do their best to attract top talent. Held on Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 am - 5 pm, this year’s Job Fair will feature over 30 recruiters from such blue-chip companies as Coherent, DRS Daylight Solutions, L3Harris Technologies, Lasertel, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, MKS Instruments, Phoiton Control, and Thorlabs.

And don’t forget the perennially popular SPIE Startup Challenge, a high-stakes global competition where entrepreneurs with light-enabled products have five minutes to pitch their businesses to a team of expert judges and compete for over $85,000 in cash, prizes and promotion. The program has been expanded for 2020 to include a full week of training, panels and networking events for entrepreneurs, VCs, and the startup community.

The Laser Components booth at SPIE Photonics West 2019 (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)


For many attendees, the high point of the event is the exhibits where they can see, feel and learn about the latest products and technology on display. As always, kicking off this year’s Photonics West week is the BiOS Expo where the products and technologies of more than 200 of the leading companies in the biomedical optics and photonics industries will be on display. The BiOS Expo will be open on Saturday, February 1 from 10 am to 5:00 pm and Sunday, February 2 from 10 am to 4:00 pm.

The main Photonics West exhibition opens on Tuesday, February 4 and will showcase the products and services of more than 1350 exhibitors who specialize in lasers, photonics, optics, fiber optics, imaging and sensing equipment, lenses and filters, metrology, and more. The Photonics West show floor will be open on Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 am to 5 pm, and Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm.

Coherent showed off its ORLAS CREATOR, a 3D metal printer powered by a 250W laser, at last year’s Photonics West. (Photo: Bruce A. Bennett)

After Hours

If you have any energy left after walking the exhibit hall for hours or attending workshops and seminars, get out and see some of San Francisco, arguably one of the world's most interesting cities.

Enjoy exercising? Forget going to the gym and try walking or running up and down some of the city's legendary hills or walk the Embarcadero down to see the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. History? Take a boat ride to Alcatraz Island, or research the Beat Generation at the City Lights bookstore. Architecture? Marvel at such iconic buildings as the Transamerica Pyramid; the green, triangular-shaped Columbus Tower (a.k.a. the Sentinel Building); or San Francisco's magnificent city hall. Ride a cable car; grab some fresh seafood on Fisherman's Wharf; or explore the diversity and character of San Francisco's colorful neighborhoods like Chinatown, North Beach, Haight-Ashbury, or the Castro.

Regardless of how you choose to spend your time in the City by the Bay, one thing is certain. Between SPIE Photonics West and all that San Francisco has to offer, you won’t get bored.

To download the complete SPIE Photonics West 2020 program and register for the event, go here .