By Geoff Giordano
ORLANDO, FL, November 6, 2013 – Ultrafast lasers are allowing humans to “see” objects around corners and facilitate the “printing” of human cells, attendees of the Laser Institute of America’s (LIA) 32nd International Congress on Applications of Lasers and Electro-Optics (ICALEO®) learned Oct. 6-10 in Miami.
About 100 first-time participants joined more than 400 of their peers at ICALEO 2013 to hear roughly 200 presentations detailing the latest research in laser-driven manufacturing, including the white-hot area of additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing (AM) was the focus of the closing slate of five addresses looking at fabrication in the micro and nano scales as well as the increasing use of AM to make parts for the automotive, aerospace and medical industries.
“New technology is first reported at ICALEO,” noted Executive Director Peter Baker, who was honored at a reception celebrating his 25th year at the helm of LIA. “As it matures we feature it in workshops aimed at helping engineers to use it. Then at LME, we show manufacturers what the technology can do for them and how they can bring it to their manufacturing operations.”
As a first, Prof. Dr. Ursula Keller of Switzerland’s ETH Zurich became the initial female winner of the Arthur L. Schawlow Award. Keller, who accepted the award as her husband and two sons looked on, is acclaimed for inventing the semiconductor saturable absorber mirror, or SESAM. SESAM has allowed researchers to generate tens of millions of pulses every second in mode-locked lasers.
“I was born just before the laser was invented,” she noted. “I love lasers. I love to build them, I love to use them, I love to work with them.” In conferring the award, Past LIA President Reinhart Poprawe noted that Keller bridged the gap from the fundamentals of physics to the creation of real devices and products.
After a day of short courses and a collegial welcoming reception Sunday, ICALEO 2013 formally got under way with three eye-opening presentations addressing femto photography to see around corners; laser-driven nanofabrication of 3D scaffolds to assist the growth of bone, cartilage, skin and fat; and China’s significant advances in additive manufacturing of durable large metal components, particularly for the aviation sector and the new C919 airliner.
After those opening plenaries, presentations addressed a range of studies, including explorations of multibeam welding and additive manufacturing and a “green” method of laser lithography using a damage-resistant holographic photomask that can reduce water use and waste materials in electronics processing. From analyses of fiber and diode lasers to the processing of metals and carbon fiber reinforced polymers to the monitoring of laser processes, ICALEO’s proceedings lived up to their billing as the guidebook of current laser research.
The laser industry is “an anchor point of production for the future,” said LIA President Klaus Loeffler of TRUMPF. “We are here to share our research, to discuss it with other colleagues from other areas in the world, and we will hopefully come back to our research labs with new ideas and new directions.”
While the applications research presented at ICALEO fuels advanced manufacturing techniques around the world, this year’s panel discussion How to Turn Your Laser Idea Into a Sustainable Business provided insights into how to translate the advantages of laser processing into profit. The session opened with LIA past President David Belforte noting prime laser manufacturing opportunities including car making, medical devices, wind turbines and aircraft turbine engines, and smart phones. After his report, five industry insiders gave their perspectives on having started a variety of businesses, from job shops to systems integration to consulting, and how, despite recent economic difficulties, lasers remain a lucrative pursuit.
“There are a lot of things you can learn here so that you can exchange a lot and prepare the next steps for the next project (and) for the next products,” noted ICALEO General Chair Stefan Kaierle of Germany’s Laser Zentrum Hannover. Kaierle, in his first year leading ICALEO’s planning, will reprise the role next year when ICALEO is held in San Diego from Oct. 19-23. For more information, visit www.icaleo.org.
Laser Institute of America (LIA) is the professional society for laser applications and safety serving the industrial, educational, medical, research and government communities throughout the world since 1968. www.lia.org, 13501 Ingenuity Drive, Ste 128, Orlando, FL 32826, +1.407.380.1553.