Lithuania is world famous for its exports of high-class lasers; however, they should be used more actively by various local enterprises as well. This would allow them to optimize their processes and produce even higher value-added, notices photonics industry experts.
Carlos Lee, Director General of the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC), says that photonics (which literally means the use of light) is becoming more and more widely applied and this provides great opportunities for countries that have strong laser producers.
“Photonics is definitely growing. I compare it with electronics 50 years ago, when people were not aware that electronics were in washing machines, cars, planes and everywhere else. Today, users also don’t know where photonics is being used, even though it is present in every industry. For example, let’s take the food industry. Using photonics, you can sort and cultivate plants, package goods and even peel potatoes industrially. I could talk about opportunities in every sector. Therefore, as a country with many laser companies, other local enterprises may be able to find a use for them,” says the photonics expert, who is currently visiting Lithuania.
Mr. Lee says that Lithuania is definitely visible in the global laser market. It is not a coincidence that this is his fourth visit to Lithuania, and he has visited the country more than other EPIC countries.
“You have strong universities and research and development centers,” Mr Lee said of Lithuania. “Moreover, you think globally. Lithuanian companies participate in exhibitions all over the world, and they are not oriented only towards the internal market. This gives them opportunities to be unbelievably successful”, Mr. Lee pointed out. “Last week I was in contact with 5 or 10 companies established over the last 3 years. Besides serious institutes and enterprises such as Altechna and Ekspla, there are also young companies showing their entrepreneurship and that wish to create new things. This means that we are not talking here about an outdated, static industry.”
The opinion of Mr. Lee is also shared by Jens Biesenbach, Chief Technology Officer of German laser company Dilas, who is participating at the International Photonics Conference in Vilnius. According to Mr. Biesenbach, Lithuanian laser companies are not large enough yet to be widely known, but their exceptional products make them recognizable.
“From a technological point of view, companies such as Ekspla or Šviesos Konversija are in the market, but they are not at the top due to their size. These are enterprises which do not belong to large groups; for example, we are a large laser group with more than 40 enterprises. However, with the resources available, these companies do incredibly great work. Obviously, it is not easy competing with companies as large as Trumpf or Rofin in Germany, but you concentrate on niche markets and are successful there. And I am seeing Lithuanian companies wherever I go in the world. For example, India is a very large market where we will soon see production breakthrough, like the one we have seen in China. You must be there from the very start, and that is exactly what Lithuanian laser companies are doing. No matter where I travel, I see Ekspla” says Mr. Biesenbach.
Untapped local market
Both experts can name one Lithuanian laser company after another, and they both believe there is still potential for development. There may be a lack of people in this field, but this is a phenomenon seen across Europe.
“Lasers give you great opportunities; there is good specialist training and the chance to communicate with the rest of Europe. You can lead in large markets such as China because you are innovation-intensive. Moreover, you do not have to constantly look for cheaper ways to produce lasers, you can improve them and implement new ideas”, Mr. Lee thinks.
However, according to Mr. Lee, almost all the production from Lithuanian laser producers is exported. Although this could be considered a positive factor, Mr. Lee says that the lasers produced locally should also be used more actively by local market members.
“Laser producers export probably about 90 per cent of their production, but they can be used by local enterprises as well. Companies operating in various sectors should come to the laser producers to discuss how they could change their production processes. I see great potential for that”, Mr. Lee concluded.
Mr. Biesenbach adds that this would help to produce much greater value-added, to optimize processes and to reduce pollution, as well as creating completely new products. He also proposes another options: lasers could be components of other products or larger parts, whose production would be carried out in Lithuania.
“Lithuania should use the resources it has available in the laser industry. If this allows another company in Lithuania to create a product and sell it on the global market, this will have a much more significant influence for the country. Lasers allow for the creation of much bigger objects, or other product components. Otherwise you end up producing a laser and selling it elsewhere, which is a harder task than selling a final product with a laser in it”, Mr. Biesenbach explains.
Regarding the areas that offer the greatest prospects for incorporating lasers, both specialists emphasize the wide scope of use lasers have. Having said this, they conclude that there is currently a great demand for industrial lasers. And in the future we should see an increase in both the potential of photonic equipment and in demand for it for mechanical and military industrial uses. Lasers are also important components of 3D printers. Both experts conclude that lasers are a “breakthrough technology” and promise great prospects for photonics in the future.
Source: Verslo žinios
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