Last week I was invited by Amada America Inc. to give a presentation on the history and the current status of laser sheet metal cutting in North America. Last week I was invited by Amada America Inc. to give a presentation on the history and the current status of laser sheet metal cutting in North America. Thirty-five years earlier I had the audacity to present this technology, as reality, to a disbelieving audience at the first National Modern Machining Processes Conference in Chicago. At this meeting not a single attendee knew what I was talking about.
At the Amada event when I asked how many in the audience were familiar with laser cutting, I was pleased that about half raised their hands. In more than three decades laser cutting has grown from a non-conventional fabricating process to become a key operation in thousands of plants across this country, with more than 11,000 units installed, many operating profitably in small job shops and major corporation assembly plants.
Four years after my introduction of laser sheet metal cutting, the first industrial unit (adapted to a turret punching system) was sold by Strippit and two years later Amada introduced the first standalone laser cutter. Progress in North America was with Japan and Europe leading in annual installations. About the mid-1990s, the U.S. fabricating industry began to appreciate the process and before long all of North America became a good market for the technology.
I don’t lay claim to being a Johnny Appleseed--sowing the knowledge of laser cutting across this land on fertile but untouched ground--but I believe I played a role in its early days, and the eventual success is very self-satisfying. It’s not too common for an individual to see the fruits of their early labor payoff so spectacularly. When it does, it makes thoughts of all those frustrating early years vanish.
I told my hosts at the Amada event that the research for my presentation was a walk down the memory trail; bringing back memories of all those individual and equipment suppliers who worked so hard to make laser cutting the largest revenue industrial laser system application today.