So here's the idea, suggested to me by the editor of Laser Community, the laser magazine from TRUMPF, for whom I occasionally contribute editorial. I'll pick the Top Ten industrial laser applications developed in the first 50 years of laser technology, which will appear in their 50 year Highlight issue. So here's the idea, suggested to me by the editor of Laser Community, the laser magazine from TRUMPF, for whom I occasionally contribute editorial. I'll pick the Top Ten industrial laser applications developed in the first 50 years of laser technology, which will appear in their 50 year Highlight issue. Interesting idea. I'm not sure if I was chosen because of my long career in industrial laser technology (meaning I have outlasted all the other pioneers) or because of my 25 years of editing Industrial Laser Solutions, but this is an offer that is hard to resist albeit one fraught with potential controversy.
If I pick ten will my choices be accepted by others as a definitive list or will they nit pick me to death for my choices? My solution, set guidelines for how the choices are made. This seems a reasonable way to resolve future correspondence on why I passed on certain applications.
With that as my modus operandi, agreed to by the editor, I set out to revisit 50 years of laser technology and specifically 40 years of industrial laser activity, as I consider 1970 as the start of the industrial laser business.
The task was made easier for me by the criteria that I set; the application had to be innovative and a breakthrough in terms of it's utilization, it had to fill a need in industry as exemplified by its eventual widespread acceptance globally, it had to advance laser and system technology and in so doing create spin-off technology that continues the growth of industrial laser materials processing, it had to have longevity as determined by its continued use today, and finally the markets that used the application had to be measurable in terms of units sold and revenues produced. These criteria, if met, would cull out all those great applications we still talk about which are now forgotten, even though they were media news in their day.
I tapped all my resources, files of information in my possession, personal reminiscences of those who were the applications developers, and the pages of ILS. The result was a list of great applications that so intrigued me that I asked the Laser Community editor for permission to expand on his requirements for a full-blown review in ILS (it will appear only as a timeline reference in the winter issue of Laser Community). This longer piece will appear in the January issue of ILS, and until then my choices are known only to some of those who I tapped for background information.
This blog is first notice to those who are widely versed in industrial laser processing, meaning those who have been around for years and are qualified to comment on what transpired over 50 years. I will be committing the Top Ten list to perpetuity at the end of this month when the January article is in pre-production.
I have to say that a lot of great applications were recalled and their exclusion from my list was only because they did not fully meet the criteria I set. When the list is published you will note that it does not include any of the new crop of applications that may over time qualify, therefore most of those chosen date back to the early days of this technology. I think I will treat these and others that missed the cut in a general closing paragraph that at least gives them mention, sort of an honorable mentions list.
As an aside, at the recent successful gathering of advanced laser materials processing developers at ICALEO, Paul Denney of CCAT put forth an idea for future ICALEO meetings--a session devoted to the wildest, craziest, zaniest industrial laser applications. Among the candidates, cutting cheese, changing the sex of shrimp, and trimming cut asparagus spears. Several old-timers, myself included, could in a short time identify some of these misfits that never would have made my Top Ten list. As I dug through my reference for the list many of these occurred to me as examples of misguided efforts that an emerging technology engendered as it struggled to find its markets.
I look forward to the comments that my Top Ten list will produce and I promise, in one way or another, to share these better ones with you. If you want to have a little fun, make up your own list and send it along to me after December 1st. I'll compare these to mine and I'll acknowledge anyone who guesses right on my choices the week after the January issue of ILS appears.