ICALEO: From modest beginnings to world-recognized conference

Editor-in-Chief David A. Belforte looks back 29 years to the origins of the ICALEO conference being held this week in Anaheim, Calif.

Anaheim, Calif. – Twenty-nine years ago at the Anaheim Marriott, I had the pleasure, as General Chairman, to call to order the first International Laser Processing Conference (ILPC). This event, the first of its kind, was the culmination of three years of planning and diplomatic negotiations between cooperating societies.

In 1978, as president of the Laser Institute of America, I conceived the idea of the LIA joining forces with the Japan Laser Processing Society and the Japan Society for Laser technology to bring together the best industrial laser materials technology in Japan and the United States. At that time, these two countries were at the forefront of process development and Europe had not yet made its mark.

Looking back, an international conference on a nascent technology was a brash idea, as it had not been done yet. And negotiating to get two, then-competing organizations in Japan, each led by a strong personality, to agree to co-sponsor, was an even brasher idea. Behind the scenes meetings in Japan resulted in a momentous, for the time, meeting at the Hilton Hotel in Tokyo, where the Japanese partners put aside their reticence and agreed to take an equal share with the LIA to make ILPC happen. At the time, I felt a little like the Secretary General of the United Nations, bargaining with strong personalities for the betterment of all participants.

With the strong support of a marketing team from my then-employer, Avco Everett Metalworking Lasers, we planned, organized, and conducted the first ILPC. Thirty-three papers by leading process developers in the two countries made up two days of technical sessions. The team produced a bound copy of the proceedings for handout at the meeting, a first for a technical conference. The registered attendees, many from Europe, filled the ballroom at the Marriott, and the consensus opinion was that ILPC was a great success and that it should go forward. The European attendees, mainly researchers from Germany, went on to be the highly visible drivers behind Germany’s growth as a power in industrial laser material processing.

The LIA recognized the need for an annual event and responded accordingly; the following year the first International Congress on Applications of Lasers and Electro-optics was held. This year marks the 29th anniversary of ICALEO, born from that modest joint US/Japan conference, with an audience five times larger than in 1981.

Looking at the proceedings of ILPC 30 years later is a little like looking at the history of industrial laser activity in manufacturing. Among the topics were: hermetic sealing of titanium, cutting stainless steel, high resolution mask repair, heat treating low carbon steel, machining ceramics, manufacturing blanking tools, surface alloying and laser marking, and serialization. And the list of presenters reads like a who’s who of laser process developers.

ICALEO has become THE international advanced laser material processing conference, recognized around the world as a window on applications for the future. And to think that it all traces back to that brash decision to hold ILPC.

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