Optical MEMS finding greater opportunities in non-telecom products

July 1, 2003
1 July 2003 Scottsdale, AZ Lightwave--Even though the bursting of the telecom bubble has greatly diminished commercial expectation for optical micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), the technology has found significant traction in a number of applications, from LASIK eye surgery to the Oscars. High-tech market research firm, In-Stat/MDR reports that sales of optical MEMS, into segments other than telecommunications, are forecast to grow at a CAGR of 15.8% over the next five years.

1 July 2003 Scottsdale, AZ Lightwave--Even though the bursting of the telecom bubble has greatly diminished commercial expectation for optical micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), the technology has found significant traction in an increasingly greater number of applications, from LASIK eye surgery to the Oscars. High-tech market research firm, In-Stat/MDR reports that optical MEMS are extremely well suited to products that demand high quality imaging or utilize lasers, and where their small form factor can open the door to new market opportunities. As a result, sales of optical MEMS, into segments other than telecommunications, are forecast to grow at a CAGR of 15.8% over the next five years.

"Over the course of the past year, many of those developing MEMS-based telecom solutions have made a last ditch effort to capture more immediate opportunities in other markets because optical networking applications have slipped beyond reach for the near future," says Marlene Bourne, a senior analyst with In-Stat/MDR. "However, as these companies quickly discovered, it is not as easy as it might seem at first glance."

Despite the fact that next-generation imaging systems and optical networking both use MEMS mirrors, the architectures required for displays are quite dissimilar from those used for optical switching. As such, the companies involved in optical MEMS (beyond telecommunications) are very different from those in optical networking.

In-Stat/MDR has also found that:

• The biggest application for optical MEMS is a variety of display subsystems including those that are portable, integrated, and wearable. Other areas benefiting from these devices include bar code scanning, adaptive optics systems, and commercial printing, to name just a few.

• Much of the real movement of optical MEMS into markets beyond telecom has occurred only very recently. While mirror arrays have made the biggest splash to date, deformable mirrors and micro lens arrays have been quietly moving into the market.

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