The Laser Institute of America’s ICALEO conference in Miami ended last week on a very positive note for those of us in the laser industry. The conference started with a selection of short courses held on Sunday, then the opening night welcome celebration featuring the Beer’s Law Band (see photo), a collection of physicists and engineers who also Rock on the side. This year, in addition to myself (at far right), we had Henrikki Pantsar from Finland on the bass [also a conference organizer and Laser Institute of America (LIA) board member], Steve Weiss from Minnesota on the electronics drums (also aLIA board member), and Matt Henry from London returning on the guitar after a hiatus of several years.
The conference featured many different kinds of materials processing and applications, but in keeping with recent trends, most of the buzz was in the areas of additive manufacturing and Ultra Short Pulse laser technology. Of particular interest to me were the discussions on processing of glass and other brittle materials as well as using USP lasers for additive or joining applications.
The business forum was well attended and David Belforte, Industrial Laser Solutions editor-in-chief, gave a very well-received talk about the status of the laser industry, including forecasts. (Read David's article on ICALEO "Enthusiasm high at laser applications conference.") All of the invited speakers had different takes on how to do business in the laser community, but all shared the same message – we are truly blessed to be involved in such a cool industry. Some interesting history was shared by several of the members, including financing issues, many nights of sleeping on couches (or floors) while growing a business, and issues with employees and business partners. However, the most valuable insight to those considering starting their own business seemed to be this – make sure your spouse is on board!
The Tuesday night vendor reception featured spectacular food and a casual atmosphere in which to discuss applications with commercial laser and electro-optics vendors. Unlike many other conferences, the ICALEO show does not revolve around the vendor reception, but vendors are able to show off their goods during a few hours of time on Tuesday night. This display does not interfere with the main purpose of the meeting: the excellent technical talks.
This conference is truly international, with more than half of the attendees coming from outside the US (which, unfortunately, is a bit embarrassing for those of us from the US). The conference is heavily supported by large delegations from Germany, China, Japan, Finland, the UK, and others. It is a great place to meet the movers and shakers in the industry and to make contacts that may not be possible to make at other venues. Make sure to put next year's event on your calendar (San Diego, Oct. 19 to 24).
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