GoPhotonics interviewed Elad Volfin, the Vice President of Sales and Business Development at Monocrom. He started in Radiofrequency and Telecommunication and about 12 years ago, he made a shift to the Photonics arena, assisting companies grow and develop their business as a local sales consultant to Israel. Soon after, Elad established a start-up in signal processing, developing solutions for analysing and deciphering intercepted signals, for different platforms. Elad has been part of Monocrom for more than 6 years, in which he was able to grow the business, establish relationship to the industry and promote new and different ways to address applications, always striving to innovate and think “outside of the box”.
Q. Can you tell us about Monocrom? When was the company founded? Where are you located? And what is your objective?
Elad Volfin: Monocrom was founded in 1993 in Vilanova I la Geltrú, 30 km south of Barcelona, Spain. In its very beginning the company was a small workshop for laser devices with only few employees. Today, the company operates worldwide, has almost 50 employees and global representatives in 12 countries.
At Monocrom, we provide laser technology that allows to solve challenges in areas and sectors where other technologies find their limits in terms of precision, efficiency and sustainability. We manufacture lasers of the highest quality using innovation, cutting-edge technologies and CSR practices.
Q. What types of laser products do you develop?
Elad Volfin: We develop diode-based laser components and systems, from single emitters, laser bar stacks and arrays, direct diode lasers, pump heads, diode-pumped solid-state lasers and high energy SSL systems. We also manufacture the electronics for our laser solutions to assure the best performance of our products.
Q. What differentiates your Laser Products from other manufacturers?
Elad Volfin: Well, we are very proud of our products, they are in a way special and different of what can be found in the market. All our products are built with solder-free laser bar mounting technology. This technique has been developed by Monocrom in the early 1999 and after being patented, it has been kept for exclusive use of the company. This technology, called Clamping is unique of its kind and has been proved to increase diode lifetime, as well as increase brightness, reduce maintenance costs and avoid the “smile“ effect caused by the CTE mismatch event when soldering is used.
Q. What laser product line is your largest business segment? What is the % Break up of each of these segments in terms of revenue? Which is the fastest growing segment for you?
Elad Volfin: Our best sellers are the laser diode packages: single bar laser mounts, vertical and horizontal diode laser stacks. We offer these products in a full range of wavelength, starting at 405 nm and scaling up to 2900 nm. Laser diode arrays represent 80% of the total revenue. The rest 20% are shared between diode-pumped solid-state laser solutions (15%), single emitters and pump heads (5%). The fastest growing segment for us is the one of the laser diode arrays where Monocrom is highly competitive and offers products with unique characteristics and performance.
Q. What Industries and Applications are Monocrom Laser products used by? Which is the largest Industry for you at the moment? Which Industry/Application do you feel will grow the most to become significant in the next few years?
Elad Volfin: Monocrom laser products are used in Medicine, Industry, Research and Defense. The largest industry for us at the moment is the Medical one being responsible for 70% of the total revenue. In this industry we provide lasers for the Dermatology and Aesthetics field, as well as, for Ophthalmology, Urology and Cancer Treatment. The second area in terms of volume is the industrial with 20% of our products serving applications in Material Processing, Optical Pumping, Car building, Construction, Sensing, Metrology, Agriculture. We also supply lasers for use in Scientific research and Defense applications. In the Research area, our most exciting project in the last years has been a laser development for Raman Spectroscopy on Mars for the ExoMars programme of the European Space Agency (ESA).
The Industrial applications have been experiencing the major growth in the last years. We have seen an increase in inquiries and customers looking for laser solutions for efficient manufacturing in modern production lines. It looks like, this industry will continue growing in the same pace in the few coming years.
Q. Do you offer a standard set of laser products or can you customize products based on a requirement?
Elad Volfin: We are an OEM manufacturer, so almost every single laser that we sell will be custom-fit to customers’ requirements to a certain point. Some minor modifications are always necessary in order to meet the requested parameters, so we cannot really speak about standards here. In fact, we cannot find too many standards in the laser industry.
Q. Monocrom recently joined the Mid-IR Alliance. What made you decide to join this alliance? What is your view on Mid IR Technologies?
Elad Volfin: We have just finalized the development of semiconductor for the Mid IR, allowing us to use our Clamping technology and standard laser bar mounts. This initiative is aiming to some medical applications, such as Lithotripsy, and other illumination applications. We also see the benefit of using our devices in clear-to-clear polymer welding. As a company, we always strive to simplify solutions to the same applications and by using our devices, fiber coupled or direct diodes, we trust that it can be a very good, efficient alternative to the exists solutions out there. We are doing baby steps, which we are confidant will lead to great opportunities and great results.
Q. Who are your customers? Where are they located? What is the % Geographical breakup?
Elad Volfin: Our customers are laser machine builders, research centers and institutions, universities as well as governments and ministries when talking about laser solutions for Defense. Most of our customers, 43% are located in Spain, followed by Italy with 16%, Russia with 8%, India and Israel with 6% each. These 5 countries represent almost 80% of our clients’ portfolio. The rest 20% are spread globally in different corners of the Earth.
Q. How do you sell to international customers? Do you have direct sales channels or have you appointed distributors?
Elad Volfin: We have local sales representatives in many geographical areas, such as Germany, Scandinavia, Turkey, Japan, China, Korea, Australia, Israel, Russia, India. For these areas, the local support is very helpful, especially in countries that are culturally and economically different from Spain. In addition to our distributors network, we also use direct sales channels managed by our headquarters in Spain.
Q. How has 2020/2021 been for Monocrom from a business point of view? Did COVID impact your business in any way?
Elad Volfin: Covid had a great impact on our company. We had to reduce our capacity to 30% for more than 6 months. This was in order to tackle the fact that the market simply stopped by the middle of March 2020. This basically means that we lost a quarter in revenue and in the long run, we saw how all of the sectors we are active in, become much more conservative in behaviour, taking things much slower than before the pandemic. From the other hand, more positively, we have been able to use the time down to optimize our machinery, clear the internal procedure and re-define others, which we always use to do “on the go”. We are more focused and more efficient now, and this would have not be possible unless this artificial halt would have happened.