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Held in the Hilton located in the Walt Disney World® Resort, the 28th International Congress on Applications of Lasers and Electro-Optics (ICALEO®) once again brought together many of the best and brightest of laser and optics professionals and scientists to network and review the state-of-the-art in laser materials processing and predict where the future will lead. For four full days, plus the pre-conference Welcome Celebration held poolside at the Hilton Hotel, ICALEO 2009 provided a platform for the current issues on the forefront of laser materials processing.

Attendance

ICALEO 2009 brought 483 participants representing over 25 countries who filled the rooms for 233 presentations including scientific papers, short courses and panel discussions. Of course none of this would have taken place without our 68 vendors and sponsors lending their patronage and support.

Plenary Session

The ICALEO 2009 Plenary Session, “Frontiers and Challenges for the Green Economy,” was presented to a full complement of attendees, many of which were attending ICALEO for the first time. The plenary session began with a keynote presentation by Dr. John Turner from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Although Dr. Turner covered the current energy carriers in use, photovoltaic and wind, his primary focus was on the potential of converting to a “Hydrogen Economy.”  The implications for the laser industry are similar to the successes found in the photovoltaic (solar-cell) production. Developing production techniques for hydrogen delivery and conversion systems such as fuel-cells, electrolysis and biomass may open new avenues of opportunity as we follow the path forward.

The well attended Plenary Session provided attendees with information on alternative energy sources.

The well attended Plenary Session provided attendees with information on alternative energy sources.

David Clark of Newport Corporation presented the second presentation, “Lasers- An Enabling Technology in the Photovoltaics Revolution.” This discussion covered an overview of the current turbulence facing the industrial laser industry and specifically the shake-up and consolidation in the photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing and line equipment makers. However, market disruption creates opportunities for innovation. Addressing the theme of the Plenary Session Mr. Clark discussed his perspective of how solid-state lasers can improve PV production costs and the associated environmental impact by reducing the number of steps while additionally reducing water and chemical use. He also described exciting new laser processes that may revolutionize PV manufacturing to enable higher efficiencies such as a process that uses continuous-wave green lasers for laser doping and electroplating to improve efficiency by 2% as well as speed-reliability improvements to make these approaches commercially viable.

Magdi Azer, currently the Lab Manager for the Laser and Metrology Systems Lab at GE Global Research, delivered a presentation about meeting the growth of global energy demand. He began by describing some of the factors and policy drivers influencing the current energy landscape. It is a long list that includes among other items: nuclear power generation, population, consumption, security, environment and water regulation.  Next, he covered the role wind energy plays in the current and future global power generation landscape providing current figures on energy production and investment. Dr. Azer concluded with possible solutions to some of the challenges facing wind energy including the removal of trade barriers that preclude global co-ops, innovation and finance.

Dr. Yongfeng Lu, of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln closed the opening Plenary Session with his presentation; “Laser-assisted Deposition of Good Carbon – From Diamond Films to Nanotubes.” The problem Dr. Lu addressed is, “How do you improve efficiency?” The research involved the use and investigation of both thermal and photolytic effects employing lasers to assist in two different processes. One is the combustion synthesis of diamond film by resonance excitation of precursor molecules and the other involved chemical vapor deposition to promote the growth of carbon nanotubes. This research concluded that: a) selective excitation of precursor molecules improves flame intensity and can result in increased diamond film growth rates as well as improved quality, purity and increased facet size; and b) a laser-assisted chemical vapor deposition results in controllable growth and precise integration of carbon nanotubes.

Laser Materials Processing Conference

There were so many exciting papers presented at the Laser Materials Processing Conference that it is hard to choose just one example, but Janette Matthews’ (Loughborough University, Loughborough, Great Britain) paper, “Three Dimensional Texturing and Patterning of Woven Textiles using Purpose Designed Fabric Structures” demonstrates an exciting new way to process fabric with lasers. As it is not possible to weld decorations on cotton or wool, this new process involves “purpose designed fabric structure” where polymers are introduced into the fabric weave. This allows for not only 3D textile structure manipulation using lasers, but also permits the introduction of color to the structure by laser etching. The resulting benefits of this new process are not only to increase fabric manipulability, but also a reduction of water and chemical use now prevalent in chemical fabric manipulation.

Laser Microprocessing Conference

Micro-welding, micromachining and ultrafast processing are always hot topics, but with the growing market of health-related products and services lasers can find new and innovative processes to expand the reach of laser microprocessing beyond biomedical applications. “Zirconia Ceramic Dental Restorations: Laser Machining and Optical Testing,” presented by Duncan Hand describes one of those innovative uses. The process concept involves using lasers for high-speed profile cutting and picosecond short pulse fine scale machining on “one off” dental restoration billets composed of extremely brittle ceramics. Conventional mechanical processes take hours to complete and may introduce cracking that can weaken the structure. The new laser process involves a novel mid-infrared transmission technique for flaw detection. This non-destructive method, combined with the laser “milling,” reduces the cost by taking advantage of shorter work times and less structural damage to the pieces.

Nanomanufacturing Conference

The Nanomaufacturing Conference, now an integral part of ICALEO, began with an invited paper by Liang Pan of the NSF Nano-scale Science and Engineering Center, Berkley, California, “Flying Plasmonic Lens at Near Field for High Speed Nano-lithography.” This presentation addressed one of the grand challenges confronting the commercialization of nanotechnology: developing nanofabrication tools that allow quick and easy design changes. The slow scanning nature of the common maskless nanolithography methods provide only limited throughput. To overcome this and other limitations, a “Flying Plasmonic Lens” riding on an air-bearing spindle is used to focus the laser spot to a sub 100nm area of a photo-resist coated recording disk spinning at extremely high speed. This allows for the exposure of sub-wavelength details on the target and throughputs two to five orders of magnitude higher than other maskless techniques.

Business Forum & Panel Discussion

This exciting half-day event provided valuable insight from a business standpoint regarding the timely subject of green energy. Expanding on the topics first presented in the Opening Plenary Session of ICALEO, Dave Clark expounded on the PV marketspace including comparisons of market expansion by the United States, China and India. He also expanded on his Opening Plenary Session presentation and talked about the reduction of venture capital investment to 2007 levels and how consolidation has changed the face of laser manufacturing of PV products. Those companies that remain in play are beginning to dominate the market via takeovers and vertical expansion.

Following Mr. Clark, Dr. Magdi Azer continued his previous discussion of wind energy and provided an abject look at the scale involved with the utilization of wind energy, including video presentations of windmill construction and on-site visits of the pre-construction of windmill components. He also expounded on the impact on the industry by other countries, including the potential negative effect of China’s explosive growth. For example, in 2007 China consumed 23% of the world’s total concrete production.

Dr. Tony Hoult of IPG Photonics began his presentation, “Can Industrial Lasers be a part of a Sustainable Economy?” with a Friedrich Schumacher quote, “Small is Beautiful.” He then covered a wide range of areas where lasers can save energy by simplifying processes, making equipment smaller and increasing throughput. Returning to the main theme of the Opening Plenary Session, Dr. Hoult reminded the audience about the 3Rs – Recovery, Recycling and Reuse, and how lasers can help in the “greening” of manufacturing using laser cleaning techniques. Lasers can be used for engraving, de-painting, decommissioning nuclear facilities, CRT lead recovery and by adding value to waste, as is the case in the European Union legislation. He concluded with the thought that “efficiency pays-or will soon” and the challenge, “Let’s think about how we can expand this role further.”

Ron Schaeffer of PhotoMachining, Inc. concluded the presentation part of the Business forum with, “Jumping on the Bandwagon – Lasers and Green Energy.” He started by defining, “What is a boom?” and giving an overview of the energy/green basics. The basic green energy lifecycle is: make, store, transport and use. Lasers can be used to produce or aid in all four aspects of this lifecycle. Just consider LEDs for lighting, laser welding for Lithium-ion battery case production and PV manufacturing. Schaeffer concluded by announcing that the “Holy Grail” is grid parity where the cost and efficiency of PV energy production vs. oil, coal and nuclear energy production are on a par with each other. “The major advancements will be from entrepreneurs.”-Schaeffer.

(from left to right) LIA President Rajesh Patel, Valentin Gapontsev (Schawlow Award Winner) and LIA Executive Director Peter Baker

(from left to right) LIA President Rajesh Patel, Valentin Gapontsev (Schawlow Award Winner) and LIA Executive Director Peter Baker

Schawlow Award

This year’s Schawlow Award, named after 1981 Nobel Prize Laureate Arthur L. Schawlow and founding father of LIA, was bestowed upon Dr. Valentin P. Gapontsev, of IPG Photonics Corporation.  At the ceremony, Gapontsev was recognized as “the father of the fiber-laser industry as it is known today, who has pioneered the field in five decades of academic work and as the founder and CEO of a global technology company that continues to transform the laser industry.” Dr. Gapontsev joins the world-renowned list of recipients including Arthur Schawlow, Arthur Guenther and Theodor Hänsch.

About Dr. Valentin Gapontsev
Valentin P. Gapontsev, Ph.D., founded IPG in 1990 and has been Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of IPG’s Board of Directors since the Company’s inception. Prior to that time, he served as senior scientist in laser material physics and head of the laboratory at the Soviet Academy of Science’s Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics in Moscow. He has over 30 years of academic research experience in the fields of solid state laser materials, laser spectroscopy and non-radiative energy transfer between rare earth ions and is the author of many scientific publications and several international patents. Dr. Gapontsev holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. In 2006, he was awarded the Ernst & Young® Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Industrial Products and Services in New England.

Laser Industry Vendor Reception

The Vendor Reception puts users and manufactuers together for a valuable networking opportunity.

The Vendor Reception puts users and manufactuers together for a valuable networking opportunity.

The Vendor Reception, sponsored by Multiwave, showcased the products and services offered by the many sponsors and vendors. Dozens of tables were covered with everything from lasers and various facilitating tools to information about services, societies and research facilities.

Filling the entire Hilton Palm Ballroom, the reception put vendors and end users together to share product ideas and uses for some of the many new cutting edge laser tools and services available. The relaxed yet inviting setting created a conducive ambiance for attendees and vendors alike to network and form relationships for future projects and alliances.

Closing Plenary Session

New for 2009 was the Closing Plenary Session, a joint session of the Laser Materials Processing & Laser Microprocessing, “Microprocessing Applications in Automotive and Aerospace Industries.” The topics engaged a wide range of laser applications and techniques. The first presentation, an invited paper presented by Friedrich Dausinger, involved using powerful disk lasers for the micro machining of macro workpieces. One example mentioned is One World Center (Freedom Tower) in New York, where the external panels are laser machined to refract light in specified patterns.

The other presentations included: “Picosecond Laser Machining of Shaped Holes in Thermal Barrier Coated Turbine Blades,” presented by Carl Druffner of Mound Laser & Photonics Center, Inc.; “Advanced Fibre Lasers for Advanced Laser Marking Applications,” and “Understanding Laser Marking,” presented by Tony Hoult of IPG Photonics Corporation; “Dual Mode High Brightness Fiber Laser for Ablation and Drilling of Aerospace Superalloys,” presented by Mohammed Naeem of the GSI Group, Inc.; “Advanced Beam Steering Helical Drilling,” presented by Henrikki Panstar of Fraunhofer USA, Inc. and Ultra Short Pulse Laser Generated Surface Textures for Anti-ice Applications in Aviation,” presented by Gert-willem Römer of the University of Twente, Enschende, Netherlands.

Student Paper Awards

LIA would like to extend congratulations to the ICALEO Student Paper Award Winners who receive a cash award, a certificate of achievement, and whose manuscripts will enter the Peer Review Process for publication in the LIA’s Journal of Laser Applications®.

1st Place

Optical Properties of Laser-induced Plume during High Power Laser Welding (708)
Shinpei Oiwa, Osaka University, Osaka, Japan

2nd Place

An Image-based “Click & Weld” – Method for Laser Beam Positioning in Micro Welding Applications (705)
Nicolaj Stache, Institute of Imaging & Computer Vision, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany

3rd Place

Smart Tools with Embedded Optical Fiber Sensors: Laser Based Layered Manufacturing Procedures (M805)
Hamidreza Alemohammad, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Poster Presentation Contest Winners

The Poster Presentation Gallery was another example of the variety of laser research prevalent today. The ICALEO 2009 Poster Presentation Contest winners are:

1st Place

High Speed Laser Micro-texturing of Si Wafer for Improved Light Trapping for Photovoltaic Application (Lin Li, University of Manchester)

2nd Place

Fibre Laser Welding of Zn-Coated Steel on Al Alloy for Next Generation Lightweight Vehicles (Andrew Pinkerton, University of Manchester)

3rd Place

Acoustical and Optical Sensing for Monitoring of Blind Laser Drilling Geometrical Features  (John Pandremenos, University of Patras, Patras, Greece)

Conclusion

ICALEO was not just the pinnacle laser conference for 2009; it was also a looking glass to the future of laser manufacturing and processing. The attendees were treated to some of the best Orlando has to offer while pursuing their passion for lasers and optics. The papers presented and the insights, innovations and breakthroughs explored during the event show how the efficient and eco-friendly use of lasers is at the forefront of global technology. By staying at the forefront of the laser and electro-optics research and business activities worldwide, the Laser Institute of America and ICALEO are yet again leading the way by example.