When the Laser Institute of America brings its premier photonics research event back to Anaheim this year, attendees will hear about “green” photonics, advancing the role of lasers in a “non-laser” world and how various nations are sharing their technical expertise.

The 2012 International Congress on Applications of Lasers & Electro–Optics, or ICALEO®, will feature a full slate of cutting-edge explorations of, among other things, adding value and efficiency with laser-based manufacturing. As the technology gains a firmer foothold in the processes of many industries early in the 21st century, ICALEO is staying ahead of the curve with a program of forward-looking plenaries and expert presentations to ensure that this pre-eminent laser event continues to strengthen the foundation of scholarship vital to laser progress.

“The most important trends in the use of lasers for manufacturing would be development of lasers and laser materials processing technologies toward flexible and energy-efficient production of high-precision, highly value-added components and systems with more affordable prices,” asserted Congress General Chair Kunihiko Washio of Paradigm Laser Research. “The key laser drivers would be high-brightness, high-power lasers having flexible beam-delivery fibers in macro-processing, such as for welding and cutting, and high average power, picosecond or femtosecond, ultrashort-pulsed lasers in micro-processing, such as for high-precision patterning and surface structuring.”

PLENARIES AND BUSINESS FORUM
Ultimately, the contribution of lasers to manufacturing efficiency and profitability is the primary concept ICALEO promotes with the research it spotlights. To that end, the Business Forum and Panel Discussion chaired by Ken Dzurko of SPI Lasers will focus on “Increasing the Role of Lasers in a Non-Laser World.”

As president of Paradigm, Washio is of course familiar with the bottom-line issues facing the further adoption of laser-based manufacturing and other applications.

“Equipment cost, maintenance cost and productivity issues of lasers have been the primary concern in advancing laser applications in many fields to replace conventional processes,” he noted. “Due to the evolution of highly reliable and higher-power advance laser sources, there seem to be significant advances such as in ultrashort-pulse laser materials processing. There are a lot of opportunities for lasers in materials processing, such as for material removal, joining, modification, etc. However, in the real laser application market, metal sheet cutting is the largest market.”

 The vigorous exploration of such opportunities also informed the creation of the opening plenary session, “Green Photonics and Recent Progress in Laser-Based Light Sources and Their Applications in Materials Processing.”

The Plenary Session at ICALEO 2012 will kick off four information-packed days.

“For this year, the topics of the opening plenary are more industrial application-oriented and will visualize how lasers can bring benefits for a more eco-friendly, greener society,” Washio explained. The slate of four presentations includes:

  • Keynote speaker Thomas Baer of Stanford University discussing “Recent Status and Future Prospects of Global Research on Green Photonics.”
  • “High-Power Laser Materials Processing” by Eckhard Beyer, Fraunhofer IWS, who is also general chair of LIA’s new Laser Welding & Joining Workshop in October.
  • “Laser-Based Microprocessing Equipment for Electronics Industries” by Haibin Zhang of ESI in Portland, OR.
  • “LPP-EUV Light Source Development for High Volume Manufacturing Lithography” by Hakaru Mizoguchi of Gigaphoton in Oyama, Japan.

MATERIALS PROCESSING CONFERENCE
Dovetailing with the LIA’s added emphasis on laser additive manufacturing at its LAM 2012 conference in Houston, the Materials Processing Conference will also lean heavily on sharing advances in the ground-breaking field.

“Laser Metal Deposition”, “Laser Processing of CFRP”, “Process Monitoring and Control”, “High Brightness Lasers & Systems” and “Processing of Dissimilar Materials” will be the featured areas of focus. “These are all cutting-edge technologies with a lot of new achievements,” said returning Chair Stefan Kaierle of Laser Zentrum Hannover.

In his second year at the helm of the Materials Processing Conference, Kaierle asserted that “the number and quality of contributions has constantly increased due to our selection procedure.”

Echoing Washio’s sentiments, he sees ultrashort-pulsed lasers on the rise. “Due to their high average powers achievable today, they can now go into processing of large-scale parts and applications.”

While keeping an eye on developments in micro and nano processing, Kaierle said that, ultimately, it is vital that “laser machines must be usable like standard manufacturing equipment today in industry — with the same level of easy applicability and safety. The laser machine manufacturers have recognized this and design their machines more and more in that direction. The use of laser technology and their great benefits must be transported into the non-laser world, mainly into the whole manufacturing market.”

MICROPROCESSING CONFERENCE
Once again, the Microprocessing Conference is organized more by application or interest group rather than by the process, according to Chair Henrikki Pantsar of Cencorp. Pantsar — an ICALEO attendee since 2001, who has helped plan the conference for the past six years, and is in his second year chairing the Microprocessing Conference.

“Attendees will hopefully find interesting themes easier, instead of having to jump from one session to another,” he said. “The program committee found very good invited speakers to support emphasized topics.”

While of course catering to a broad array of interests, “my personal interests would be lasers in energy generation and storage, innovative laser optics, processing of brittle and transparent materials, monitoring and detection, and advances in laser sources,” Pantsar noted. “This selection would give a very broad look on the efficient use of novel lasers and optics in areas that I see extremely important in the future.” Over the past year, he’s kept his eye on trends in the use of different optical configurations to enhance productivity and quality.

NANOMANUFACTURING CONFERENCE
The role of lasers in nanoelectronics, photonic crystals, optoelectronics, sensors and plasmonic devices will be high on the order of business in the schedule of presentations overseen by Yongfeng Lu of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and Xianfan Xu of Purdue.

Attendees can expect to get caught up on two-photon lithography, 3-D micro/nanofabrication, laser synthesis and diagnostics of carbon nanomaterial, epitaxial growth of graphene for optoelectronics, nanolithography, nanoscale thermal imaging, plasmonics, surface nanostructuring, laser sintering and laser-assisted growth and epitaxy, Lu said.

“In applications such as laser writing and nanopatterning, some of the challenges include resolution, throughput and surface finish,” he noted. “However, much progress has been achieved to overcome these challenges, including near-field lithography, two-photon polymerization, optical trapping, ultrafast laser writing and parallel processing.” In terms of his own research, “We have achieved much progress in laser direct writing, laser nanomaterial interaction and nanofabrication using ultrafast lasers and laser-assisted growth of nanostructures.”

THE SHORT COURSES
As always, ICALEO also offers nuts-and-bolts introductions to various areas of laser materials processing. Silke Pflueger of ULO Optics has created another series of short courses for Sunday, Sept. 23. They are designed for those who would like to gain “a base in the given subjects, to better understand the new research being presented later in the week during the technical sessions, and also to give attendees who are relatively new to the laser field an overview of existing technologies.”

She notes that the courses, “being involved a lot with ‘heavy metal,’ ” hew to more traditional processing, but with new technologies — and will also explore microprocessing and beam characterization.

“To spice things up, we also have a very exciting talk from Larry Marshall, who has founded several laser companies and now funds new start-ups,” Pflueger noted. “We’ve decided to include this after last year’s very well-received ‘How to make money in the laser business’ talk from Ron Schaeffer.”

NETWORKING AND AWARDS

ICALEO’s traditional networking events, starting with the Sunday welcome celebration on Sept. 23, offers invaluable time for peers to share successes, questions, concerns and generally catch up with one another.

The Vendor Reception at ICALEO, featuring suppliers to the industry, is an excellent source of information and a great networking opportunity.

ICALEO “has always been the conference for networking,” Pantsar affirmed. “The president’s reception and the vendor reception are always must-see events.” This year, LIA President Reinhart Poprawe will preside over a reception at the Marconi Automotive Museum, a short trip from the ICALEO 2012 venue, the Anaheim Marriott.

Another traditional moment of celebration, the presentation of the Arthur L. Schawlow Award, will take place at the Sept. 26 luncheon during which this year’s winner, Isamu Miyamoto, will be honored. Miyamoto, founder and previous chairman of the Japan Laser Processing Society, will give a presentation on the “Origin and New Wave of Laser Welding.” Washio, serving as a board member of the JLPS, knows him and his work well.

The Awards Luncheon during ICALEO sees the presentation of the Schawlow Award.

“Conventional laser welding was limited to metals and some polymers and could not be applied to transparent ceramics and glasses,” Washio explained. “Professor Miyamoto has extensive experience in theoretical and experimental investigation of metal keyhole welding. He has recently pioneered the field of transparent glass welding by high-repetition ultrafast lasers.” Prior to Miyamoto’s work, the application of lasers in processing glass had been limited to cutting and scribing.

To register for ICALEO 2012 or for more information, visit www.icaleo.org.