Why We’re All About Photonics: A Look at the Industry’s Booming Trend


The world of photonics, encompassing the science and technology of light, is experiencing a transformative boom. From developing cutting-edge lasers for medical applications to creating ultra-fast fiber optic networks, the industry is rapidly changing the way we live, work, and communicate. That’s why a couple weeks ago, we brought our innovative robotic solutions to the biggest stage in photonics and optics: Photonics West 2024. The event presented a fantastic opportunity to showcase how Mecademic robots address the industry’s key manufacturing and scaling challenges – dealing with small and delicate parts, light reflections and space restrictions. Our goal is to expand the potential of this industry through more efficient and affordable automation solutions tailored specifically for it, establishing ourselves as key innovators in the field.



Why Photonics? The Future is Bright!

The photonics industry demonstrates a remarkable market magnitude, with one estimate showing a value of USD 900 billion in 2023. Its influence extends across a wide array of applications and sectors.

Here are five key trends that are shaping the future of the photonics industry:


1. The rise of data center communications: The demand for data is exploding, and this is driving the need for faster and more efficient data center communications. Photonics is playing a key role in this trend, as it offers a number of advantages over traditional electronic communications, such as higher bandwidth and lower latency.


2. The emergence of LiDAR: LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging. It’s a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure variable distances to the Earth. These light pulses—combined with other data recorded by the airborne system—generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the Earth and its surface characteristics. It is becoming increasingly popular in a number of applications, notably the rise of autonomous vehicles, but also robotics. Photonics plays a crucial role in LiDAR technology because it involves the generation, manipulation, and detection of light. Specifically, LiDAR systems use lasers to emit light pulses, and photonics is used to manage these pulses and capture the reflected light to create detailed maps or images of the target area.


3. The growth of biophotonics: Biophotonics is the science and technology that deals with the interaction between biological tissues and photons, which are particles of light. It involves the generation, detection, manipulation, and application of light in biological systems, used in a wide range of applications including imaging, diagnostics, therapeutics, and monitoring biological processes. The rapidly aging population in developed countries will continue to drive a need for this technology due to the rising incidences of chronic diseases.


4. The increasing demand for high-performance computing: High-performance computing (HPC) is used for a variety of demanding tasks, such as scientific simulations and weather forecasting.  The recent surge in technologies like artificial intelligence has led to an explosion in data volumes, requiring powerful IT infrastructure. Photonics offers the speed and bandwidth that is needed for these applications.


5. The emergence of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): Photonics plays a vital role in enabling the core functionalities of AR and VR by manipulating light to create displays, guide information, and interact with the environment, paving the way for the development of increasingly sophisticated and immersive experiences. The popular introduction of the Metaverse and the recent Apple Vision Pro signal a new era in media consumption, highlighting the growing trend of AR and VR experiences.


This increasing demand for photonics technology across industries presents a significant opportunity for us to integrate into the manufacturing automation of these devices by tackling industry-specific challenges. Mecademic focuses on and has proven experience in the following product categories:

– Industrial: Precision and scientific lasers

– Automotive (LIDAR, HUDs)

– Medical devices: Laser surgery tools

– Aerospace & Defence: Satellite communications, optical sensors

– Consumer electronics: Displays, VR Glasses/headsets

– Machines: Laser cutting, laser marking machinery


Common Challenges in the Photonics Industry: Where Automation Stumbles

Despite its exciting prospects, the photonics industry faces significant hurdles:


  • High up-front costs: Investing in photonics innovation can be financially daunting, with intricate processes and sophisticated equipment driving up costs, according to GlobalNewswire. Hexapods, the current common automation choice in the industry for high-precision positioning, are bulky, expensive, and inflexible, limiting their suitability in dynamic environments and taking up precious floorspace. These high upfront costs can be massive deterrents for investors and small to medium businesses looking to leverage this booming economy.


  • Delicate Operations: Automating the manufacturing of photonics technology is not only expensive, but also very technologically challenging. The handling of sensitive optical components requires robots with exceptional dexterity and minimal vibration, something traditional solutions often lack. While hexapods are common for these applications, there are no other current market offerings designed for them, limiting the flexibility and possibilities for automation.


  • Light Reflection: The photonics industry often deals with delicate laser operations and measurements which can be negatively affected by unwanted light reflections. 


These challenges often translate to slow and error-prone processes; manual alignment and handling can be time-consuming and prone to human error, impacting production efficiency and quality. Inflexible automation solutions and high costs further hinder the industry’s ability to scale production and meet growing demand. Our robots are designed to address these challenges, breaking down the barriers to efficient automation solutions.

Mecademic’s Solutions: Illuminating the Path Forward

This past January, we attended Photonics West 2024 thanks to Optonique and the Quebec Trade Office.  At the event, we showcased an optical alignment demonstration, featuring the Optical Black Anodized Meca500 equipped with a Percipio Robotics tulip gripper and a Thorlabs laser. Our demo showcased the unique features that tackle these exact challenges faced by the industry head-on:


  • Handle delicate operations with unmatched precision: Mecademic robots boast unmatched precision with 5 micron repeatability and 1 micron resolution ensuring perfect alignment and handling of even the most delicate optical components.


  • Save on floorspace with a flexible and compact design: The small size and adaptability of our robots, including upside-down mounting capabilities, allow for easy integration into diverse setups, maximizing space utilization and production line flexibility where floor space is scarce.


  • Lower the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): The Meca500 is a more affordable option than its competitors because it has a lower base price and includes many features that are typically optional with other robots. These features include software agnostic controlling, unlimited firmware upgrades, several communication protocols and simple programming. Additionally, the Meca500 has a smaller footprint and lower power consumption than other robots, which can save on costs associated with space and energy usage.


  • Accelerate integration: Mecademic robots are software agnostic and come with an intuitive interface known as the MecaPortal. Users can control the robot without any prior robotics experience, reducing down time and the need for highly specialized talent. 


  • Reduce light reflections: Our new Optical Black Anodized Meca500 minimizes unwanted light reflection through its specialized 96.5% light-absorbing surface, eliminating interference and ensuring accurate laser operations. 


  • Decrease noise levels: Contrary to larger robots, our robots are fanless and surprisingly quiet.


  • Improve accuracy: Our new calibration service means our robots are not only the most precise in the world, but also the most accurate, reducing setup time, engineering effort and errors.



By showcasing these solutions at Photonics West 2024, we’ve presented industry leaders with the potential to:


  • Reduce production time and costs: Through our competitive pricing and money saving features, we’re helping to break down the barriers to automating in this complex industry. 


  • Improve product quality: The consistent precision and accuracy of our robots, along with the light absorbing option, ensure better product quality and reduces the risk of defects.


  • Unlock new applications: The flexibility and accuracy of our robots enable automation of tasks previously deemed impossible.

Looking Forward

Mecademic’s foray into the photonics industry is a strategic move driven by the immense potential for growth and innovation. By providing automation solutions that address the industry’s unique challenges, we are set to brighten the path towards a more efficient and precise future for the world of light.

Learn more about our solutions for the photonics industry.

Don’t let outdated automation hold you back. Embrace the future of light with Mecademic – Contact Us Now