Big business and big machinery

Once again, the Fabtech show marks the end of a busy fall conference schedule with winter approaching.  

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Once again, the Fabtech show marks the end of a busy fall conference schedule with winter approaching (at least in New England) and planning for a busy spring schedule beginning.

The Fabtech show in Chicago was lively as usual. This show is mostly about metal processing, including welding and additive manufacturing. So, what interest is there for someone like me who is more immersed in the micromachining market? While it is true that well over 90% of the activities are more related to macro-processing—with most not even involving lasers—there are always some attendees who are looking to put a small hole in polyimide, make features in glass, or something else involving what I call "high-precision" lasers, including UV wavelengths and ultrafast lasers.

One of the companies that is involved in many aspects of laser material processing, both macro- and micro-, is Jenoptik. The company has been developing femtosecond lasers since 2006 with major attention paid to high reliability in 24/7 operation, simple system integration, and high availability for industrial and medical applications.

Recently, Jenoptik has started utilizing femtosecond pulses in the automotive and consumer sector for structuring and perforation of leather; e.g., interior lining airbag covers in premium cars. The advantage of this technology is that—in contrast to conventional, mostly mechanical methods—there are no visible material changes on the visible side of the leather. The company has a patent on the leather-scribing process with a femtosecond laser, and its latest femtosecond laser generation enables customers to perforate leather that is 1–2mm thick, penetrating deep into the cover but not all the way through using precise sensor-controlled ablation so that there is a defined break line. Processing leather with a femtosecond laser allows for a very high process speed in contrast to using conventional mechanical tools, and can meet the demanding requirements of the automotive industry and premium products in the consumer industry.

A great way to get involved in the show and to make the most of the available contacts is to work directly with SME, one of the organizations that sponsors Fabtech. SME is always looking for members that are willing to work in the main booth and it is a great venue for meeting new people. In particular, the Industrial Laser Community is one of the strongest Technical Communities in the SME network and we have conference calls on mostly a monthly basis. If anyone is interested in becoming a part of the Industrial Laser Community, I would suggest you contact me or our community leader, Dr. Geoff Shannon from Amada Miyachi America. By the way, there are local SME chapters all over the US and they are a great resource for finding young and eager students.

Here is to a great holiday season and a great 2016.

I am always interested in hearing your thoughts concerning laser micromachining, the laser industry, comments on entrepreneurial endeavors, etc. AND … we are always looking for fresh, publishable material. Please feel free to contact me at

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