"I don’t buy lasers to save money; I buy lasers to make money!"
This pretty much tells it like it is! Lasers should be thought of as more of a "revolutionary" technology than an "evolutionary" one. In some cases, lasers can do things faster, better, cheaper, etc. than other technologies, but in the applications where there is no other way to do the job is where lasers "shine."
I stole the above quote from a presentation given by Dru Schwartz on Monday morning — the first day of the Fabtech show. I chaired the laser session, starting at 8 am, and even with scores of delayed travelers because of the tornadoes, there were still more than 35 people in attendance at this venue. The show started slowly on Monday and a good number of booths were empty at the beginning of the exposition, but things quickly picked up from there and total attendance, which was expected to be about 35,000, actually almost reached 41,000!
This show is big business, and the bigger companies try to outdo each other in the size of their booths and in the equipment being shown. The larger booths, like those of Amada and Trumpf, are front and center, cost well over $1 million (not counting travel, salaries, etc.) and take several weeks just to set up.
In addition to spending time in the Industrial Laser Solutions booth, I also spent time in the main SME booth. The SME is one of the organizing entities of Fabtech, and its booth is also front and center so that anyone entering the North Hall pretty much has to pass by it. The photo above shows one of the hardest working guys at the show: Dan Gold from LNA Laser in Rhode Island. Dan had a fiber laser marking system in the SME booth, and I do not recall a time when there was not a line of people waiting to have their name marked on an LED flashlight, bottle opener, or some other give away.
The SME has a periodical readership in excess of 100,000, so quite a large number of contacts can be reached by using their web and print media. Something of note is the Gene Haas Foundation. Gene Haas, founder and owner of Haas Automation, has graciously donated $1,000,000 to the SME educational fund for use by students interested in pursuing courses in manufacturing technology to enhance their careers in manufacturing. This money will be distributed in chunks of up to $2,500. Anyone interested can find more information at www.smeef.org. It is a great opportunity to help pay for courses and sharpen skill sets.
Finally, once again, I must marvel at the camaraderie in the laser community. In addition to the many receptions at the show, a "Laser Folks" dinner was organized on Tuesday evening at a local Brazilian restaurant. A total of 54 people showed up for the "Dutch" event featuring a great salad bar and chunks of meat on skewers. Many of these folks are competitors on the show floor, but comrades afterwards — in the mission that we are all on — to promote the use of lasers in industrial manufacturing.
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