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By Geoff Giordano

Much like the laser-assisted femto photography that has allowed MIT researchers to see around corners, the 32nd International Congress on Applications of Lasers & Electro-Optics (ICALEO®) illuminated photonic research in everything from routine processing to more arcane applications like laser-assisted generation of human cells.

And, as did plenary speaker Boris Chichkov with his estimation that you could “print” a man’s cells — bone, fat, cartilage and skin — in two hours and 47 minutes, ICALEO 2013 offered extraordinary visions of new horizons being made achievable by the laser industry’s latest studies.

The finely regimented parade of cutting-edge research that is ICALEO never fails to produce memorable moments for its hundreds of attendees. Those who experienced this year’s conference on Oct. 6-10 — including a significant number of first-time attendees and presenters — were treated to another incomparable array of vital knowledge.

ICALEO famously connects the dots from theory to practice as lasers continually take various industries in new directions. Roughly 200 presentations covered the bases from macro to micro to nano applications. Particular focus was given to advances in additive manufacturing, welding, ultrashort and multibeam efforts, and processing of carbon fiber reinforced plastics.

“New technology is reported here,” noted Executive Director Peter Baker, who recently celebrated his 25th year at the helm of LIA. “(Applications) get birthed here. As they mature, we take them into workshops” that focus on the real-world results which are obtained by engineers who put the research into practice.

Returning to Miami for the first time since 2005, ICALEO 2013 featured:

  • Opening plenaries by Ramesh Raskar, Boris Chichkov and Xiaoyan Zeng that proved particularly memorable to attendees. Raskar, of the MIT Media Lab, offered to partner with the laser community on research issues that often struggle to find funding. Zeng revealed China’s eye-opening strides in funding and quality control to further that nation’s ability to additively produce large metallic structural components, particularly in aviation and for the new C919 airliner. He reported significant progress in the strength of laser-deposited titanium alloys when measured against forged counterparts. For example, China has achieved notch fatigue strength 32 percent to 53 percent higher via AM than with forged parts, and fatigue crack propagation with laser metal deposition one order lower than forged counterparts.
  • Five closing plenaries focused exclusively on various aspects of AM in all scales. As LIA President Klaus Löffler noted in his welcome remarks, “We are in the age of digital photonic production.” The laser industry is “an anchor point of production for the future.”
  • Topics running the gamut from femtosecond fabrication of gold nanoantennas that could be used in surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, to multibeam procedures for micro welding of aluminum or additive manufacturing, to the use of ultra-high brightness 2 kW direct diode lasers to cut stainless and low-carbon steel or aluminum.
  • A “green” laser lithography approach using a damage-resistant holographic photomask that can save billions of gallons of water and significant material costs during the manufacture of electronics, particularly flat-panel displays, that require a lot of clean-room space and equipment to process. Invited speaker Bill Parker, cofounder of Creative MicroSystems in Waitsfield, VT, based his assessment on a general requirement of 10 gallons of water to produce an integrated circuit.
  • A pair of surprise awards given during Wednesday’s awards luncheon. ICALEO General Chair Stefan Kaierle received the first honorary European Laser Institute Fellowship from new ELI Chairman Paul Hilton in recognition of 10 years of leading ELI. Löffler later conferred his president’s award upon LIA Treasurer Stephen Capp in honor of his three-tenet “Capp Doctrine,” intended to serve as a benchmark for ensuring the value of all LIA activities.
  • Incoming LIA President Yongfeng Lu announcing Robert Thomas of the USAF Research Laboratory as president-elect, while Lin Li will serve as secretary and Stephen Capp continues as treasurer.
  • Ursula Keller, the first female winner of the Arthur L. Schawlow Award, accepted her honor as her husband and two sons watched. According to LIA Past President Reinhart Poprawe, “She presents an outstanding scope from the very, very fundamentals of physics all the way to real devices and products.”
  • Newcomers being recognized with light-blue ribbons on their nametags. Baker acknowledged about 100 first-time attendees during his Monday welcoming address.
  • Two attendees earning useful prizes. Laurent Berthe of CNRS-Arts et Métiers/PIMM Laboratory won an iPad at the closing plenary session for writing the most ICALEO-related tweets during the conference. Beat Neuenschwander of Bern University of Applied Sciences won Fraunhofer ILT’s drawing in a vendor reception contest for a ticket to next year’s AKL show in Aachen, Germany.

Tech Briefing

After Monday morning’s plenaries, session chairs Henrikki Pantsar (microprocessing) and Yongfeng Lu (nanomanufacturing) kicked off a pair of post-lunch “sub-plenary” sessions on micro-scale laser-based AM for metals and laser printing for micro and nanomanufacturing.

“I haven’t seen a good definition of where micro starts and nano ends — and vice-versa,” noted Pantsar in explaining the use of this approach for the second consecutive year. Materials Processing Chair Silke Pflueger’s sessions covering A New Look at Welding ran concurrently until the afternoon break, when the traditional multitrack approach went into effect.

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Some of the many highlights included:

  • The joining of endless long fiber reinforced thermoplastics with 6000-series aluminum by using a 1 kW diode laser with a wavelength of 980 nm. The laser heats the metal, which transfers heat to the plastic to create the join.
  • The embedding of nickel-coated optical fiber sensors into stainless steel 316 using a powder sintering process with a diode laser at up to 200 W of power and a 940 nm wavelength.
  • The combination of pulsed lasers — diode (up to 100 W, wavelength about 808 nm) and Nd:YAG (1.75 kW, wavelength 1064 nm) — to join thin aluminum sheets (1.5 mm) with deeper weld penetration without spatter.
  • The cleaning of carbon deposits from combustion engines using an Nd:YAG laser at a wavelength of 1064 nm and pulses of 43 nanoseconds. The beam, delivered through an optical fiber, scanned the work piece — samples from a steel-based diesel piston — three to five times.
  • A study of a twin-beam additive manufacturing process that featured an experimental processing head employing two 200 W high-brightness diode laser modules and a compact powder nozzle. One laser was in a fixed position on the workpiece, while the other was capable of being moved, with the power of both beams being controlled separately.
  • Detailed overviews of the capabilities of and applications for two micron thulium fiber lasers and ultra-high brightness diode lasers.
  • A look at processing parameters for customized next-generation medical implants created with selective laser melting and using shape-memory magnesium and nitinol alloys.

Laser Ideas In Action

A significant part of LIA’s mission is to clearly demonstrate the bottom-line benefits lasers bring to those who embrace the technology. In creating this year’s business forum and panel discussion, Löffler brought together five experts with invaluable experience in the entrepreneurial aspects of the laser field.

LIA Past President David Belforte framed the narrative for Tuesday afternoon’s session, How to Turn Your Laser Idea Into a Sustainable Business, reprising and updating the global market perspective he presented during the third annual Lasers for Manufacturing Event® (LME®) in September. He noted prime laser manufacturing opportunities including automotive production, medical devices, wind turbines and aircraft turbine engines, and even smart phones.

After his report, the panel of industry insiders gave their perspectives on having started a variety of businesses, from job shops to systems integration to consulting, and how, despite great personal sacrifice and recent economic difficulties, lasers remain a lucrative pursuit.

Panelist Donald Begneaud, founder of BEGNEAUD Manufacturing in Lafayette, LA, noted how he grew from one employee in 1978 to 55 employees currently, expanding upon the laser-based services he offers since installing his first TRUMPF laser in the early ’90s. In a textbook testament to the sky’s-the-limit flexibility of lasers, his company has expanded from serving the oil and gas industries to earning business in the agriculture, aviation, automotive, advertising, energy, medical, architectural, marine, art, communications, hospitality and aerospace sectors.

LIA Operations

Baker updated attendees on not only LIA’s successful manufacturing workshops — LME and the fifth annual Laser Additive Manufacturing (LAM®) Workshop — but also detailed efforts toward facilitating the progress of the National Photonics Initiative.

“LIA took responsibility for producing an advanced manufacturing subcommittee and for producing a white paper saying, ‘This is what we have (and) this is what we need,’ ” Baker told attendees at Wednesday’s awards luncheon. “The whole idea is to raise the visibility of photonics in general but specifically within the Congress” and various US government agencies allocating research funds.

In addition to visits with lawmakers, Baker noted, a key part of LIA’s contribution to NPI is Laser U, the online education portal featuring numerous presentations from LIA’s conferences. “We believe these are a resource that can be used to help overcome some of the educational issues” suggested by the NPI white paper.

Extracurricular Activity

While ICALEO is an intense learning experience for its multinational attendees, the “family reunion” aspect of the five-day event is never far removed from the business at hand.

Right after Sunday’s short courses, the Beer’s Law Band provided its traditional accompaniment at the Welcome Celebration, fueling a spirited dancing session that broke the ice for newcomers and celebrated decades-long professional bonds.

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Monday night’s President’s Reception continued the good feelings after a hard day of work and study, this year featuring games, jugglers and a photo booth at which attendees could don props and post photos directly to Facebook. Tuesday’s presentations were bookended by the early-morning president’s run and an early-evening vendor reception.

The ICALEO awards luncheon on Wednesday always provides an opportunity to share a meal with new and old friends and engage in reminiscences often humorous or heartfelt.

In looking back at his quarter-century tenure at the helm, Baker recognized 25 years of LIA presidents. “We’ve been blessed by every single one,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from each and every one.”

In accepting the Schawlow award, Keller enthused that “I was born just before the laser was invented. I love lasers. I love to build them, I love to use them, I love to work with them.” She is acclaimed for inventing the semiconductor saturable absorbing mirror, or SESAM which has allowed researchers to generate tens of millions of pulses every second in mode-locked lasers. In a presentation detailing her road to creating the device, she drew laughs by recalling the difficulty in conceiving a marketable name for the invention.

All told, ICALEO 2013 went into the books as a highly successful and informative conference that won many converts.

“I certainly enjoyed ICALEO, and I’m looking forward to attending in the future,” enthused Tim Slingsby, a Ph.D. student at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. “I found that there were a number of presentations that were of great interest to me, particularly discussions involving high-speed cameras and thermal imaging technology. Additionally, networking with other people who work in the field of additive manufacturing from around the world was invaluable.”

First-timer Marcel Bachmann, a presenter from Berlin’s BAM Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, added “It’s a great conference (with) a lot of interesting topics that cover a broad range of interests.” Since he works in laser welding under the influence of electromagnetic fields, he found the wealth of talks on welding applications “really impressive.” And Begneaud said, “There are a lot of people I know in academia that I’m going to tell about (ICALEO).”

Ultimately, “there are a lot of things you can learn here so that you can exchange a lot (of information) and prepare the next steps for the next project (and) the next products,” Kaierle said. In his first year running the conference, Kaierle will reprise the role of general chair next year when ICALEOis held in San Diego from Oct. 19-23. For more information, visit www.icaleo.org.

ICALEO_Proceedings2013_finalOrder the ICALEO Proceedings

Whether you could not attend ICALEO 2013 or would like an invaluable reference to supplement your notes, you can purchase a compilation of all submitted conference manuscripts on CD for $180 ($155 for LIA members) at www.lia.org/store.

 

ICALEO 2013 Student Paper Award Winners
1st Place – Complete Heat and Fluid Flow Modeling of Keyhole Formation and Collapse During Spot Laser Welding (405), Mickael Courtois; Université de Bretagne Sud, Lorient, France

2nd Place – Extension of the Process Boundaries for the Soldering of Elongated Interconnectors with a Simultaneous Energy Deposition (M604), Simon Britten; RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany

3rd Place – The Full Spectrum Absorptance of Engineering Grade Metals with Diverse Surface Appearances (801), Heng Zhao; Beijing University of Technology, Beijing, People’s Republic of China

ICALEO 2013 Poster Winners
1st Place – Material Response of Semiconductors to Femtosecond Laser Excitation in the Infrared Spectral Range (P122), Mark Ramme, Townes Laser Institute, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL USA

2nd Place – Contribution to the Replacement of Cobalt-Free Hardfacing Coating by Laser Cladding in Fast Neutron Reactors (P113), Nadège Caron, CEA Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, France

3rd Place – Development of the Variable Pulsewidth Mode-Locked Femtosecond Laser Using Coherent Coupling (P158), Yasuhiro Nishiyama, Kinki University, Osaka, Japan