Global Trends in Optical Manufacturing

Jeff Ferry

After the telecom bubble burst in 2002, many North American optical companies outsourced production to Asia on a grand scale. A decade later, the global industry is rebalancing itself in interesting ways.


artificial retina recipientComponent manufacturing in China.

Photos by Juvetson (flickr)

It was around a decade ago that the majority of the production of optical components in North America was largely moved to Asia. Recently, however, some optical companies have begun planning to bring some portion of that manufacturing back to the United States. This should be encouraging news for the U.S. industry and U.S. jobs. However, for many executives, the growth of the industry that began in Asia more than 10 years ago is leading to another significant shift, with the presence of a large manufacturing base in Asia attracting other functions, including research and development (R&D) at both locally and internationally owned companies. If that trend accelerates, it would undoubtedly be good for the Asian industry, but perhaps not for the United States. One interesting change is that China seems to be losing some of its appeal as the world’s low-cost center for optical manufacturing.

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