Prism Awards Recognize Groundbreaking Light-Based Innovations

The winners, judges, and presenters of the 2019 SPIE Prism Awards (Source: SPIE)

On February 6, at an evening invitation-only event held during the Photonics West Symposium in San Francisco, the best new optics and photonics products on the market were honored with the annual Prism Awards. At a ceremony where long-established companies such as Leica shared the winners’ stage with disruptive startups like Double Helix – champion of the SPIE Startup Challenge in 2016 – all the winners and finalists at the 11th annual Prism Awards hold common ground: whether they are working in healthcare or security, transportation or scientific discovery, all the companies and products are dedicated to advancing technologies with optics and photonics.

With two new categories – Transportation and Vision Technologies – added to the award-lineup, the Prism Awards continue to reflect the exponential growth, exciting developments, and rich technical innovations across photonics and photonics-enabled industries. For consideration of this year’s Prism Awards, SPIE received 120 applications from 15 countries. Finalists and winners were selected by a panel of international judges that includes leaders from both the technology commercialization and funding sectors.

Presenters of the Prism Awards, drawn from across the photonics industries, include president of MKS Instruments John Lee; Ball Aerospace VP & general manager, Civil Space, Makenzie Lystrup; Coherent vice president of strategic marketing Magnus Bengtsson; Morf3D chief technology officer Melissa Orme; general manager of Osram Opto Semiconductors’ sensor line Markus Arzberger; Lumentum vice president of product line management Andre Wong; and Digilens founder, chairman & CTO Jonathan Waldern, among others.

nLight marcom manager Melissa Taylor (right) giving thumbs up for the Corona laser (Source: PhotonicsViews)

“SPIE proudly recognizes and honors our Prism winners, finalists, and applicants,” said SPIE CEO Kent Rochford. “Across various areas critical to our daily lives, these engineers and inventors are building, creating, and innovating products that will improve fields such as healthcare, transportation, consumer safety, and scientific research. The mission of SPIE, to partner with researchers, educators, and industry to advance light-based research and technologies for the betterment of the human condition, finds one of its most concrete embodiments in this industry-focused event: I’m delighted to celebrate our Prism Awards for Photonic Innovation.”

The 2019 Prism Award winner for Industrial Lasers went to the Corona fiber laser from nLight. “We are honored to receive the Prism award and appreciate the recognition from our peers of how Corona is enabling performance improvements for our customers and their end users,” states nLight’s CEO Scott Keeney. “We are further excited by the continued development of our programmable lasers and the new applications they will help make possible.”

Corona fiber lasers, as described in the very first technical article of PhotonicsViews Magazine, are representative of the innovative products that nLight continues to bring to the industrial laser market. Corona features real-time programmable beam quality enabled by all-fiber technology. This allows for rapid tuning of the laser to optimize machine tool performance across metal types, thicknesses, and applications.

Dr. Wilhelm Kaenders, founder of Toptica Photonics AG, with the Prism Award placed on the TOPO (Source: PhotonicsViews)

Toptica’s DLC TOPO, a mid-IR light source for molecular spectroscopy, won the Prism Awards 2019 for scientific lasers. Presenting the award, Prof. Ursula Keller, head of research of ETH Zürich and a pioneer in the field of ultrafast lasers, humorously challenged the perception that scientific lasers are “not good enough for industry” but rather emphasized that the definition should be “exactly the right number of buttons so that the scientist has fun.” The TOPO has four knobs and eight switches – just the right amount.

“We are proud to receive this award tonight for our contributions and innovation” says Mark A. Tolbert, president of Toptica Photonics, Inc. “To win this award means more than just being recognized, it means a group of leading industry experts support and believe we have created a valuable product. Contributing to the success of our customers is our goal as a company.”

Leica Geosystems, part of Hexagon, celebrated the award in the Imaging & Cameras category for its Leica BLK3D 3D imager. Designed to impact the work of professionals across a range of industries, including architecture, construction, public safety, and real estate, the compact handheld BLK3D improves productivity by enabling instant, precise 3D measurements from any image it captures.

“The Leica BLK3D is a clear example of how Leica Geosystems and Hexagon are leading the democratization of reality capture – it’s so easy to operate virtually anyone can use it,” said Tobias Heller, senior product manager of Hexagon’s geosystems division. “The BLK3D simplifies data collection and makes exclusive technologies available to a wide variety of professionals, helping to further digitalize traditionally manual industries. It represents a perfect fusion of robustness and simplicity with ergonomic and appealing design, and its multiple award wins are testament to this.”

Other winning comanies are CloudMinds, Double Helix, Smart Vision Lights, Modular Photonics, 4D Technology, Blackmore, and QD Laser. (Sources: SPIE / nLight / Toptica / Leica Geosystems)

Reference: D. A. V. Kliner & B. Victor: A Breakthrough for Fiber Lasers: Tunable beam quality enables optimized cutting of thin and thick metal, PhotonicsViews 16(1), p. 51, February 2018; DOI: 10.1002/phvs201900001

Links: Prism Awards at SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco, California

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