A pair of Nobel-winning honorees were among the many highlights of the Laser Institute of America’s 29th International Congress on Applications of Lasers and Electro-Optics (ICALEO®) held Sept. 26-30 in Anaheim, Calif.

Nearly 500 laser users and researchers representing 27 countries and 294 companies converged on the conference, viewed by the laser industry as the premier source of technical information for laser-driven manufacturing. The session featured presentations detailing up-to-the-minute advances in materials processing, microprocessing and nanomanufacturing.

ICALEO 2010 “went exceptionally well,” says LIA Executive Director Peter Baker. “Attendance was the same as last year, which, considering the economy is a very good sign. There was good international attendance, and the quality of the papers was very good. A couple of people who are usually pretty hard critics came and said, ‘I want to tell you the quality is even better than last year.’”

The Business Forum & Panel held Sept. 28 — titled “50 Years of Lasers: What Does the Future Hold?” — provided attendees with an exclusive opportunity to listen to and interact with industry experts, business leaders and decision makers on significant issues facing the laser and photonics industry. Session co-chairs Neil Ball of Directed Light Inc. in San Jose, Calif., and Sri Venkat of Coherent Inc. in Bloomfield, Conn., presided over a lively discussion looking back at key accomplishments over the 50 years of the laser’s existence. The diode laser was the greatest industry advance according to panelists Dr. Bill O’Neill, director of the Centre of Industrial Photonics at the University of Cambridge, and William Lawson, president of New Tech Development in Somerset, Wis. The move of the laser from lab to industrial use was cited as the most significant moment in the laser’s evolution by Paul Crosby, vice president of marketing for Coherent Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif.

In projecting the laser’s future, panelists postulated that such items as laser welders or sewing machines might be made available to the general public — but they cautioned that continued reduction in costs associated with lasers is necessary. China will begin to make more of its own high-end lasers, Crosby said, and fiber and disk lasers will continue to displace diode-pumped solid-state units.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu (left) and LIA's Lifetime Achievement Award winner Dr. Charles Townes (right) pictured with LIA Executive Director Peter Baker.

Later, at the Sept. 29 awards luncheon, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu earned LIA’s 2010 Arthur L. Schawlow Award, while laser pioneer Dr. Charles Hard Townes, 95, was presented with the organization’s first Lifetime Achievement Award. Both received standing ovations after their presentations.

The conference gained critical support from “gold level” sponsors like IPG Photonics, Trumpf, Northrop Grumman, CLAIM, SPI Lasers and LASAG Industrial Lasers; nearly 60 firms exhibited at the conference.

“The Conference was excellent,” said Jie Zhang with Panasonic Boston Laboratory.

LIA, the trusted and respected advocate of cutting-edge applications of laser technology since 1968, will hold its 30th ICALEO in hometown of Orlando, Fla., on Oct. 23-27, 2011.