The year 2023 will definitely go down in books for Light Conversion, a world-class manufacturer of femtosecond laser products, as they welcomed their 500th employee this October. Just a couple of months short of their 30th anniversary, the company is stepping into the league of giants and increasing their focus on growing markets for ultrafast laser source applications. Keeping the latter in mind, the company is not only expanding in numbers, but also advancing on seeking out novel research, where their products may aid in achieving exclusive results. Hence, Light Conversion has one more splendid piece of news to share with the photonics community as Marco Arrigoni, an established professional in the field, is joining their team as the Vice President of Marketing. To highlight this exciting occasion, the CEO of Light Conversion, Martynas Barkauskas, has asked Marco to share the insights of his compelling journey through the world of photonics as well as some personal milestones of his outstanding career.
Could you let us know a bit about your background? What have been the key highlights of your career so far?
I received my master’s degree in engineering from Politecnico di Milano, where I studied lasers and optics. Then I worked for two years in Italy with defense and aerospace companies. During that time, it was fun to put together the first diode-pumped laser in Italy, when 200 mW laser diodes were still over 4,000 Euro each! After that, I was hired by Coherent to work on ion lasers, hence I moved to California. Seven years later, I decided to try working in sales as a position became available. That eventually led to managing all Coherent business in Asia and living in Japan for two years. When I came back in 2000, I became involved with lasers for scientific research, managing the business unit and then the strategic marketing – that is what I did until this fall. After 35 years at Coherent, I thought that it was time to work for an exceptional company, which is totally focused on ultrafast laser technology…and here I am at Light Conversion.
What excites you most about photonics and ultrafast laser applications? Could you share any of your personal achievements in this sector?
The famous 007 Goldfinger movie got me excited about lasers, although the specific application was rather gruesome (cutting James Bond in two halves). I carried that excitement with me when I started college and took all the possible classes in optics. I think that the diode-pumped laser I put together in Italy and an (unfortunately very unstable!) intracavity OPO, pumped by an ion laser, were two exciting developments. Designing ion lasers was a bit like black magic because every iteration required building a new expensive plasma tube with some trial-and-error change in its internal structure to increase power or lifetime. You can think about these plasma tubes as fluorescent tubes used for lighting, but with 50 kW of electricity flowing through them to produce only 10-20 watts of laser power – incredibly inefficient devices with a lot of heat to remove to keep them working. When I moved to marketing and sales, I realized that understanding a customer’s motivation or a market dynamic is as exciting and rewarding as engineering a laser.
Would you share what brought you to Light Conversion? How do you envision your future in the marketing team of a Lithuanian ultrafast laser manufacturer?
First of all, Light Conversion is recognized worldwide as a leader in ultrafast lasers. Competitors tried to emulate our technology and to achieve performances similar to what Light Conversion offers, however they have failed so far. In the scientific market, our lasers took most applications by storm in spectroscopy and in many cases replaced previous laser technology. Now it’s the time to expand the company’s horizon both in imaging for scientific research and fine material processing, using a combination of our proprietary technology and newly developed approaches. Let’s not forget that ultrafast applications still make up the most rapidly expanding laser market, together with quantum applications.
Would you be willing to share a hot tip? What will be the trending or niche markets to keep an eye on next year?
I am always excited by the interplay of laser technology and new optical methods in neuroscience research. Basically, our lasers can be used to stimulate and measure the activity of neurons in the brain – not in humans, but in animals like mice. This means that scientists can literally create the illusion of perception in a mouse shining laser light in its brain. The same lasers can also be used to “read” if a tissue has a certain type of cancer, making disease detection easier and faster. Progress in this area is slow because medical pathology is a conservative environment, but in a few years, it may be possible to see these lasers used in medical pathology laboratories.
Could you share any of your plans or goals for the upcoming weeks? Anything exciting ahead?
Talking about neuroscience, Washington DC will host the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in November. This event typically brings together 25,000 scientists. Even if only 5% of these use optical techniques, the conference and its exhibit are a unique occasion to showcase our newest products to over 1,000 potential customers. Further out, we will be exhibiting in BIOS and Photonics West in San Francisco at the end of January. This conference is a major event for applications in microscopy (although with more emphasis on cellular biology than neuroscience) and femtosecond material studies. Light Conversion will be presenting a total of 5 talks at the conference, which, I think, is a new record for us. There is a lot to be excited about regarding our presence and future!
Indeed, Marco could not have put it better, as there are some thrilling months ahead for Light Conversion. The company representatives and researchers are ready to meet the members of the ever-expanding global photonics community: