We mentioned in the Sec. 1.1 the need to distinguish between two characteristic market segments: the mass market of consumer products dominated by Asian companies and the market for a smaller series of higher quality products made in Europe and the United States. In the case of consumer products, very specific process solutions are developed that prevent a profound understanding of the basic technologies. We therefore focus in this compendium on products for the latter market segment, where a large number of application fields exist. This leads to many optical variants and in consequence, to many different individually optimized process solutions. However, it allows us to get a deep insight into modern production methods and to understand the motivation drivers behind the optical technologies involved. Thus, in short, the market is divided as follows:
Asia: high volume, low cost, just good enough quality, small product range, large number of product variants, very special equipment and technology.
Europe and USA: small series, high price, and best possible quality, wide product range, highly flexible equipment (for economical reasons), wide range of technologies, high grade of automation.
Requirements for high quality and highly flexible equipment often lead to an intrinsic discrepancy: expenses for investment grow rapidly and sometimes limit the best possible result in quality and price. On the other hand, optical workshops need a certain variety of product range for sufficient utilization.
Another area of discrepancy lies in the conflict between flexibility and automation. Often the automation of processes leads to restrictions in flexibility.
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