LME-2014_logo_blkBy Geoff Giordano

More than four years ago, consensus began building in the United States on the need for a “laser only” show focused solely on the benefits of industrial laser materials processing.

Now in its fourth year, the Laser Institute of America’s one-of-a-kind Lasers for Manufacturing Event® (LME®) will build on its momentum and value with the addition of a one-day Lasers for Manufacturing Summit. The summit, to be held Sept. 22, precedes LME 2014 on Sept. 23-24 at the Schaumburg Convention Center in Schaumburg, IL.

LME has made believers of companies that want to talk directly to established or potential customers and attendees who need to learn the nuts and bolts of using lasers efficiently and profitably. With its range of educational levels and opportunities for vendors to present to attendees at the Laser Technology Showcase Theater, LME provides one-stop shopping for companies interested in integrating laser technology into their production. With the addition of a summit to give executives an intensive introduction to what lasers can do in big-ticket industries, LIA is offering another critical level of insight into the power of photonics.

“We want to help executives by giving them an overview and a perspective about how lasers are already affecting various manufacturing markets, then give them a top-level view of the major technologies and where they’re being applied,” says LIA Executive Director Peter Baker. “The purpose is to help them plan to incorporate lasers into their production line so they remain competitive and don’t get left behind.”

After those decision makers learn “how widely lasers are used and how many industrial processes are better done with lasers — cutting, welding, drilling and so forth — they should be able to say, ‘Oh now I get it; this is what we need to do’ and then turn their people loose to attend the next two days of LME.”

On Tap at LME 2014

Once again, LME will guide attendees through all phases of laser based manufacturing, beginning with four courses on the essentials.

On Sept. 23:

  • Main Laser Types Used for Manufacturing – Key Properties and Key Applications by Tom Kugler of Laser Mechanisms.
  • Overview of Laser Welding by Geoff Shannon of Miyachi America.

And on Sept. 24:

  • Laser Safety for Industrial Laser Systems by LIA Education Director Gus Anibarro.
  • Cost Advantages of Laser Processing by Patrick Grace of TRUMPF Inc.

In addition to those basic courses, on each day there will be a 90-minute tutorial delving deeper into pressing laser manufacturing issues. On Tuesday, David Havrilla of TRUMPF, Inc. will teach Principles of High Power Laser Welding. On Wednesday, Paul Denney of Lincoln Electric will give an Overview of Laser Additive Manufacturing Systems.

Each day, after those basic courses and tutorials, LME will feature a pair of 30-minute keynote presentations on the exhibit floor at the always popular (and often standing-room-only) Laser Technology Showcase Theater.

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Opening Tuesday’s keynote addresses at 11:15 am will be LIA Past President David Belforte, who always draws one of the day’s biggest crowds for his address on global markets for industrial lasers and applications. Later, at 2:15 pm, attendees will hear about laser cutting applications in the modern manufacturing environment by first-time attendee Mitchell Van Zuiden, a cutting products specialist for Bystronic.

“LME is a great way to educate those who may not be very familiar with lasers used in manufacturing,” Van Zuiden stresses. “It is also a great way to learn about and research new technologies and the ways they are being used to increase productivity and efficiencies in manufacturing. I really hope to learn from this experience as well. I’m looking forward to meeting with other professionals from around the industry, as well as those who are new to it.”

On the final day of LME 2014, additive manufacturing expert Tim Biermann will deliver the 11:15 am keynote on laser additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing.

Biermann’s keynote address will highlight how LMD and SLM currently work, the latest advancements in the AM industry, and the potential it has for future developments. He will also cover some of the dos and don’ts of AM as well as ROI for the company – even at the smaller job shop level.

The closing keynote spot on Wednesday belongs to Ronald Schaeffer, CEO of PhotoMachining in Pelham, NH, who will address the continuing advances being realized with ultrafast lasers.

“I have gotten business out of LME that I probably would not otherwise have gotten,” Schaeffer notes. “I do not do a booth, but I have given talks, served at the Ask the Experts panel, played guitar and otherwise met new folks and done good business. LIA makes things very easy as far as customer access. This is a very intimate conference — that is one of its benefits.” LfMSummit-stacked-Logo2014_KH

Summit Extends LME’s Appeal

LME has come a long way in a short time, notes Belforte. “Prior to its inaugural year, there was a strong undercurrent in the US for a laser-only trade show along the lines of the benchmark Laser World of Photonics in Munich,” he recalls. “A lively debate on the pros and cons resulted in the LIA undertaking LME. The major concern was: Will industry in the US support a show of this type with strong attendance? Once the idea caught on, exhibitors and attendees increased. The exhibitors report quality inquiries because the attendees are there because it is a laser-only show, so that prequalifies them.”

This year, PennWell Publishing approached LIA with the idea for a one-day summit in advance of LME — a concept that has worked well in the past, says Belforte, who serves as editor-in-chief of PennWell’s Industrial Laser Solutions magazine.

“Inviting management-level attendees and exposing them to the benefits of industrial laser material processing so they will be knowledgeable when internal requests for this technology are made is a concept that works,” he says. The summit will feature a panel discussion led by Belforte and featuring experts who “will be encouraged to speak to the economic and technical benefits that can result from incorporating this technology. And then they can walk the exhibit floor and see working examples of this technology.”

In addition to the panel discussion, the Lasers for Manufacturing Summit will feature two keynote presentations on overviews of the laser manufacturing and laser additive manufacturing markets and two presentations covering key applications: 3D printing/additive manufacturing and ultrafast lasers. The day will conclude with a VIP reception.

The one-day summit “will provide a deeper insight into additive manufacturing, its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats,” Kelbassa says. “Hence, this summit will provide a SWOT analysis of AM, discussing the opportunities and deficits of these technologies very honestly. This analysis is a helpful basis for CEOs, CTOs and others in management positions to decide whether or not they want to use AM for manufacturing and repair of products. Generally, deeper insight and knowledge decreases the risk of incorrect decisions. Therefore, one can call the summit a risk-minimizer by provision of know-how.”

Mark Taggart, president of Laser Mechanisms and longtime supporter of LME, echoes the idea that LME is a “one-stop trade show experience, with all the suppliers and technology in one room.” The summit provides “the additional draw of decision makers to the event; it will provide a forum for the interactive exchange of ideas between suppliers and end users. The common theme is that there is a steady flow of customers who want to utilize lasers in their manufacturing or processing.”

A Marketplace for Lasers

Despite its growth, Taggart says “LME has only scratched the surface on its draw to the potential exhibitor and attendee base.”

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Thanks to its format, LME allows attendees to soak in the educational track and still have plenty of time for networking on the exhibit floor, which expanded at LME 2013. They can also take advantage of the in-depth knowledge offered at the Ask the Expert booth, chaired once again by consultant Rob Mueller and a rotating cast of experts from vendors on the show floor. This year, experts scheduled to be at the booth include:  Neil Ball, Directed Light; Craig Bratt, Fraunhofer USA; Charlie Bridge, IPG Photonics; Wes Buckley, Miyachi America; Daniel Capostagno, SPI Lasers; Chris Dackson, Rofin-Sinar; Joel DeKock, Preco, Inc.; Jason Hillenbrand, Amada America; Steffen Mueller, Fraunhofer USA, Edward Rea, Coherent; Stan Ream, EWI; Tracey Ryba, TRUMPF; Eric Stiles, IPG Photonics; Geoff Shannon, Miyachi America; and Havrilla, Kugler and Schaeffer.

To those skeptical about embracing the technology, Schaeffer cautions against thinking that just because you might not have been satisfied with the results of trying one type of laser that you’ve tried them all. “People tell me all the time, ‘We tried lasers years ago and they don’t work for us.’ Well, there are lots of different types of lasers, and not all can be fit into a tight little box.”

Of course, it’s not just attendees who benefit from LME. TRUMPF’s Grace found LME 2013 to be “a really good show (at) a really good venue. We got a lot of good leads and a lot of good projects. There’s a value here; this is going to lead to selling lasers.” When he saw an acquaintance from Universal Laser who wondered if he should exhibit at LME, Grace was emphatic: “Yes, definitely, you should be here!”

Exhibitor_ImageUnlike other shows, LME offers a concentrated experience “where you can walk through and go right from the people doing advanced development and R&D — people like Fraunhofer and EWI — then see every ingredient you need to put a laser into manufacturing, including the robots, the chillers and the coordinate machines,” explains Bill Shiner, vice president of industrial market sales at IPG Photonics in Oxford, MA. “You can go through and in a very short period of time understand not only what you need but get an opportunity to talk to people about applications and see what the equipment looks like.”

All in all, “LME hasn’t reached its full potential by far yet — neither from a client’s nor from a laser manufacturing community’s member perspective,” Kelbassa asserts. “The biggest portion of those who address manufacturing from the product and production point of view don’t know too much about, for example, AM or its process chain from the raw material and design all the way through the finished end good and the entire supply chain. The entire industry is seeking turn-key solutions, tailored materials, new design opportunities and primarily, a new generation of mechanical, design and manufacturing engineers who can think additively. Hence, the potential is enormous, if one can provide solution approaches — either from the systems engineering or from the process and process chain know-how.”

To learn more or to register for LME 2014 or its Lasers for Manufacturing Summit, visit www.laserevent.org.