Fall 2015 conference review

Once the frost appears in New England, the fall travel and conference schedule will begin. 

Ron Head Shot Lia 2018 Best

I always try to stay around home as much as possible during the summer months, knowing that once the frost appears in New England, the fall travel and conference schedule will begin.

This year, it started during the past week with the local Design to Part Show, produced by the Job Shop Company and held in Marlboro, MA. These shows are held approximately every month in the spring and fall in various locations throughout the US, including Texas, Georgia, New Jersey, Illinois, California, North Carolina, Missouri, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Tennessee. They normally consist of a couple hundred exhibitors—mostly local machine shops and job shops—trying to access the local markets. In addition, there are a few companies who hit all of the shows and have a more national presence.

You won’t find many vendors specifically selling lasers or laser services, but many of the local job shops indeed do have lasers and a few only use lasers for material processing. This series of shows is small, easy to negotiate, and allows many people to attend the local event that may not be able to attend the larger shows such as Fabtech or IMTS. As is typical of these smaller shows, the vendors usually outnumber the actual participants, but in many cases the vendors ARE the customers, so these shows are easy, convenient, and usually relatively inexpensive to both attend and to display.

There are a number of other upcoming fall conferences that are larger and have a much greater laser presence. The first is the flagship conference for the Laser Institute of America, ICALEO. This year, it is being held in Atlanta, GA during the week of October 18-23, 2015. This is really a "must-attend" conference for anyone who is serious about lasers and materials processing. In addition to the Plenary events, there are conferences on Laser Materials Processing, Laser Microprocessing, Nanomanufacturing, and a Business Forum. The only unfortunate thing is that there is so much to discuss, all of these session are happening simultaneously, so one must, in many cases, choose which to attend in the event of a schedule conflict (Conference Proceedings are available in case any talks are missed). My particular interests are more in the Business Forum, where ILS editor-in-chief David Belforte will be presenting the current market situation, and the Microprocessing Conference, which devotes whole sessions to things like processing of CFRPs, glasses, transparent materials, and photovoltaics. As at previous conferences, picosecond and femtosecond lasers are featured prominently in the papers.

Two weeks later, there are two shows back to back—the first being the Medical Device Manufacturing show in Minneapolis (November 3-5, 2015), followed by this year’s Fabtech show in Chicago (November 8-12, 2015). The Minneapolis area is very strong in applied laser technology, especially used in the manufacturing of medical devices. This show always attracts engineers from places like Boston Scientific, St. Jude, and the Mayo Clinic, not to mention 3M and other suppliers to the industry. Here is an insider tip: get an invite to the Innovative Laser Technologies (ILT) in-house party on Tuesday night before the show—it is the hottest laser venue of the week! Fabtech, held the next week, is a much larger show that has applications that run the gamut from medical device manufacturing to automobiles, electronics, etc.

After a break for the holidays, the spring travel schedule will pick up again with the first big conference being SPIE Photonics West, where I have been teaching my course on laser micromanufacturing for over 20 years. I look forward to seeing everyone at these various venues as we continue to promote laser technology and applications.

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 rschaeffer@photomachining.com.

More in Ron's Report