The SPIE Photonics West 2020  exhibition opened today in San Francisco’s spacious Moscone Center to good crowds.

The annual event features more than 1,400 exhibitors and attracts in excess of 20,000 attendees.

the entrance of the Photonics West 2020 show in San Francisco
The show entrance. (Image Credit: Bennett)

Power in a Box

One of the more interesting pieces of technology on display this year is Coherent’s Astrella/Astrella HE kHz One Box Femtosecond Amplifier, which can deliver >9 mj pulse energy at 1 kHz, or >10W average power at 5 kHz.

Two pulse width options are available: <35 fs and <100 fs. Instead of simply taking the lid off the box and displaying the guts, Coherent turned the lid into one big touchscreen display so attendees could guide themselves through an explanation of the technology even if a company rep wasn’t available. Pretty clever.

the Astrella/Astrella HE kHz One Box Femtosecond Amplifier from Coherent, displayed at Photonics West 2020 in San Francisco
The Astrella amplifier from Coherent (Image Credit: Bennett)
the ALO3 tactile seam tracking laser welding machine from Scansonic. The laser welder was displayed at Photonics West 2020
The ALO3 laser welder (Image Credit: Bennett)

Seam-Sensing Welder

Also in the Coherent booth was Scansonic’s new ALO3 tactile seam tracking laser welding machine.

I’d heard about this machine, but this was my first opportunity to actually see one up close.

What makes this laser welder so interesting?

The technology uses a movable wire guide module as a tactile joint position sensor, which it presses into a joint – or seam – so that it can guide the laser welding head along the seam with a high degree of precision.

One of its primary applications, as you can imagine, is the automotive industry where it’s used to weld car body panels together.

A Sign of the Times

At least one company was conspicuous by its absence. Laser manufacturer, Lumentum, simply had a sign in its spacious but empty booth that read: “Due to global and company imposed travel restrictions to help reduce the spread of the Coronavirus, we are unable to attend Photonics West. Apologies.”

Laser manufacturer Lumentum was unable to attend this year's exhibition. (Image Credit: Bennett)

Winging It

And on a lighter note, the press room at most trade shows these days offer free Wi-Fi to help us get the news out.

But for those rare occasions when technology fails, the well-equipped press rooms at Photonics West had a unique solution. Its own carrier pigeon. At least...we think it was a carrier pigeon.

The press room from SPIE Photonics West 2020 (Image Credit: Bennett)
Are you at SPIE Photonics West 2020? Share your comments and questions below.