Blast from the past

With optimism in slightly greater supply this year than last, it's a good bet that manufacturing and R&D facilities will finally produce more than echoes and dust in 2004. This issue of WDM Solutions celebrates this change by reintroducing a pair of concepts with which you and certainly your bosses may no longer be familiar: capital equipment purchasing and new-product design.

In the area of capital equipment, our cover story (page 2) presents a brief tutorial on how to determine the right alignment system for your application. Yes, points out Samuel Miller of Newport Corp., everyone likes a bargain. But just as your company's salespeople are telling carriers that capital spending now can save operating expenditures later, the same holds true for the production equipment you may be considering. Features that improve process yield and cycle time considerations are usually worth the extra investment, provided you know which embodiments of these features apply to your particular requirements. Miller says that motion control, mechanical design, and thermal load management represent the three main areas you should examine when evaluating an alignment system.

Meanwhile, the trend toward outsourcing and off-the-shelf components has saved many companies money and time-to-market. However, it potentially closes the door on the opportunities that electronics engineers have exploited in the area of system-on-a-chip (SoC), particularly outside of optical communications. On page 6, Scott T. Wilkinson of startup Parama Networks describes how design engineers might apply SoC concepts to optical communications—and why they'd want to. Of course, most SoC development has usually required an in-house ASIC team. Don't have one? Scott has an answer for that.

Such articles might have seemed little more than nostalgic a year ago. However, the time has come to discuss the consequences of another nearly forgotten concept: revenue. While the outlandish spending on resources during the bubble should never be repeated, vendors do need to ensure that they are ready to meet customer requirements when spending picks up in the next 18–24 months—if not sooner. A rising tide may float all boats, but not if your company's boat springs a leak from disuse.

Stephen Hardy
Editorial Director/Associate Publisher
stephenh@pennwell.com

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