Sluggish positivity

The flow of positive manufacturing news has definitely slowed, as a high percentage of our contacts are in a similar remote location position and company-publishable information is limited.

David Mask

As this is being written, manufacturing in the U.S. is struggling to return to some form of normalcy, while coping with sporadic surges of the novel coronavirus—and the residual effects are just beginning to be recognized. A big one, which is how we (that’s a collective we) are going to pay for the immense financial losses, is sobering, as the hit to the U.S. economy could last for a decade. In June 2020, the Congressional Budget Office projected the coronavirus pandemic could cost the U.S. economy $16 trillion over the next 10 years with a 3% loss in GDP through 2030. And Ian Bremmer in Time Magazine (August 17, 2020) posits, “We’re headed into a global depressiona period of economic misery that few living people have experienced.”

Many of us on voluntary social distancing, working from home, have begun to look ahead to ascertain what the future might look like. We can find numerous references and comments online, mostly all negative and many similar to the quote above. Isolated, we have more free time to contemplate this and we have to be careful not to become depressed.

The flow of positive manufacturing news has definitely slowed, as a high percentage of our contacts are in a similar remote location position and company-publishable information is limited. I’ve begun planning editorial for 2021 and, surprisingly, promptly received many commitments. I chalk this up to my contacts having the time to reply.

In this issue, a feature is contributed by the North American operation of the newest member of the Industrial Laser Solutions Billion-Dollar Club: AMADA Holdings Co. Ltd reported 2019 fiscal-year sales revenues for laser cutting machines comfortably above $1 billion. Welcome to this exclusive club, AMADA, and best wishes for good news in the company’s 2020 performance.

Even with the most recent negative financial news, all members of the Billion-Dollar Club remain in the billion-dollar revenue space.

This issues theme is laser cutting. In an excellent example, RGF Environmental describes how AMADA’s multifiber laser systems provide the highest-quality cuts in the thin and thick anodized aluminum and stainless steel products for which it is known. Dustin Diehl (AMADA North America, Inc.) explains how RGF became an industry leader whose superior reputation has won it multiple awards (see article).

Since the fiber laser is the main reason that laser cutting contributes more than 40% of all 2019 revenues, I asked laser job shop cutting pioneer John Powell (Laser Expert, Co.) to reflect on how the fiber laser changed the character of this marketplace (see article). And because quality cuts are an attribute of today’s laser cutting systems, Nikolaus Fecht comments on process developments at Fraunhofer ILT that ensure a burr-free cut edge (see article).

Automation is key to manufacturing and Brett Thompson (TRUMPF) shows that Active Speed Control and Smart Nozzle Automation improve system performance by reducing operator interaction (see article). In our cover feature, Dan Robinson (Weil Engineering) says that exhaust manufacturers search for a ‘better mousetrap,’ spurring development of an entirely new multistep laser cutting/welding process (see article).

And, on another subject, Anders Pennekendorf (Photonics Systems) presents an overview on innovative laser processing technologies in the electronics industry and what the laser markets could have in store for the coming years (see article).

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