The good old summertime

by David Belforte

Sorry folks, but it's vacation time, and I would rather be relaxing on a lake than hovering over a keyboard.

If I was working, however, I might be writing about the phenomenon known as 3D printing, which seems to have caught the attention of editors around the world. The news reads like everyone from manufacturing engineers to high school robot wizzes have latched on to this technology, which can be accomplished with equipment available from your local Staples store. Since I'm not working, let me just leave you with one thought: With many years of commenting on industrial laser technology, I can truly say that no laser application has attracted such levels of attention by the world's technical and laymen's press. It's not all about lasers, but if I could paraphrase public relations jargon: "As long as they are talking about lasers, it's good for us." This is the best PR that I have seen for lasers in manufacturing.

If I was writing, I might speculate on another phenomena, ultra-fast pulse lasers, which have made market advances at a pace similar to, but not on the same scale as, fiber lasers did a few years ago. The technology is the hot subject at most laser conferences this year and rightly so as it has the potential of delivering the long awaited "cold processing" manufacturing applications to offset the residual heating which, with some materials, has hindered the advancement of laser processing.

Speaking of fiber lasers, I could be writing about the continuing saga of this technology that is outperforming the rest of the laser market, not as a fad, but as a maturing technology that is finding new and exciting markets in microprocessing applications. One of these applications happens to be the one addressed in the preceding paragraph: ultra-fast pulse processing.

I'm getting so worked up over these editorial possibilities that I almost spilled that delightful liquid in my glass and started paddling toward shore. Restraining myself, and remembering I am on vacation, I settle back and contemplate the editorial content in the issue you are now reading. Good friend and Editorial Advisor Ron Schaeffer (USA) has done a good deed by summarizing what equipment is available today for ultra-fast pulse processing (p. 14). When he set out to do this with a survey, I wished him good luck because retrieving survey results is at times difficult to do. However, by sheer hard work and a great personality, he did it.

Over the years, Gary Geller (USA), a long-time laser job shopper, has been too busy to talk about what he has accomplished, but when I gave him the opportunity to brag about his laser-cut stainless steel cabinets, he rose to the occasion in my interview (p. 32). Axel Luft (Germany) changed jobs after agreeing to write on high-power diode lasers in auto body processing, but once he settled-in at the new job, he delivered (p. 29).

Two distaff members of the laser community, Annette Klotzbach (p. 26) and Sibylle Glaser (p. 22), both from Germany, each delivered educational articles on non-metal applications. And Juan Pou and his associates in Spain and Mexico tickled my fancy with a slightly humorous introduction to laser removal of graffiti (p. 18). And finally, Mark Barry, in an almost 11th hour performance, delivered his piece on laser drilling aerospace components (p. 10). When you're busy shipping equipment, it's tough to meet publishing schedules.

Coupled with three Updates (p. 4) on cutting thin foils (Germany), handling sheet metal scrap (USA), and rapid prototyping in Chevies, we bring our global readership another issue packed with diverse laser applications contributed by an outstanding panel of international laser technologists. So don't you agree my vacation is well deserved?

David A. Belforte
belforte@pennwell.com

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