The SPIE Organization (Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers) is a very prominent organization in the Photonics Industry. KRI is a Corporate Sponsor for SPIE and attends as well as exhibits at several SPIE Conferences throughout the year. The SPIE Optics and Photonics Conference and Exhibit in mid-summer is always a good show for KRI and for the Optics and Photonics industry in general. The 2023 SPIE Optics and Photonics Conference was in San Diego CA from August 20th through August 22nd. The exhibit portion of the show which I (Ray Arent) excitedly represented KRI at, ran for three days from August 22nd through August 24th. Many end users of KRI equipment attend and also exhibit at this show. Names you may recognize as KRI’s end-user customers also exhibiting at the show include Andover Corp., Chroma Technology, LaCroix Precision Optics, NTFL, Optimax Systems, OptoSigma Corp., Perkin Elmer Inc., SALVO Technologies, SCHOTT N.A., and Teledyne to name a few.
This year’s show got off to a rocky start with the development of Hurricane Hilary in the Pacific Ocean. The 3-Day cone forecast had Hilary hitting San Diego pretty much head-on the day before the exhibition was set to begin. There were a multitude of warnings regarding potential cancellations, delays, or changes to scheduled events related to the show and travel to the show right up to the day the conference began. As it turned out, Hilary caught the coast of Mexico just before moving on north and quickly dissipated to a Tropical Storm before reaching California and the San Diego area. There was still a significant amount of rain and localized flooding but very little damage to buildings and the utility infrastructure. The biggest impact to the SPIE Conference was a last minute change to the exhibit hall location and several international companies scheduled to exhibit at the show unable to arrive in time due to travel disruptions. The city of San Diego designated part of the Convention Center as an emergency relief facility forcing the SPIE Exhibit to move elsewhere in the Convention Center. There were some slight alterations to the booth locations and a mirrored layout of the exhibit in general, but the impact was very minor. I am sure there was a lot of work that went on behind the scenes to pull all that off in such short notice. On the exhibit floor, it was notable that about 6-8 international companies scheduled to exhibit were unable to arrive in time to set-up their booths. All-in-all, for how things could have turned out, the show was still a great success. Aside from a drop in international attendance, for obvious reasons, the show attendance the first two days was very good. As is typical at most shows, day one was the busiest in both overall attendance and KRI booth traffic. Booth traffic on day two tapered off a bit but the quality and relevance of the conversations was high. Day three was fairly quiet. Very encouraging to see the post-COVID rebound in show attendance as this is a good indicator that money is being spent in the industry.
Over the two and a half days of the exhibition, I was able to chat with several of our end users and a couple of our key OEM’s either exhibiting at the show or just walking the show to meet with their customers (our end users). Mr. Phil Hatchet from Buhler Leybold Optics US spent quite a bit of time at the KRI booth even having meetings with his customer at our booth to have quick reference to KRI equipment and knowledge. Phil has a tremendous amount of sales experience in the Optics/Photonics industry and an exceptional understanding and insight to the companies and key contacts throughout the US. He is a KRI advocate and a great resource to have on our side.
In addition to meeting with companies and contacts we already know, I captured 12 new "Leads" at the show. Some of these leads were from familiar companies but new contacts within the organization. Lawrence Livermore National Lab, US Air Force Research Lab, NASA, Univ. of Maryland, and Omega Optical to name a few. I had a very fun and interesting conversation with Mr. Andrew Rakich from Kiwistar Optics out of New Zealand. He is interested in Ion Beam Figuring of optical mirrors and was directed by some colleagues to come talk to KRI.
It has become a very successful marketing tactic for KRI to hand out the "Applications...." (Blue Book) and "Operations....." (Gray Book) books at the tradeshows. The word is getting around within the industry and we have people come to the booth requesting the books. Not only is that helping get people to the booth, it is also putting a useful tool with the KRI name on it in front of them every time they use the book during their daily job. Much better than a company logo on one of a hundred pens or a trinket that ends up in the kids toy box back home that you can pick up at these shows.
Next up on the show agenda for KRI is SPIE OPTIFAB in Rochester NY from October 17th through the 19th which Mr. Hansen and Mr. Cunningham will be representing KRI. Next show up on my schedule is the MRS (Materials Research Society) Fall Conference and Exhibit in Boston the week following Thanksgiving. Let’s hope mother nature cooperates this time and doesn’t throw a Nor’easter at me!