The Laser Institute of America (LIA)'s ICALEO conference was held in Orlando, FL last week and it was a very special occasion for a number of reasons. First, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of LIA in the headquarters town of Orlando, which is always a great destination, especially for the more than 50% international visitors. Second, this conference drew the second highest number of attendees and the highest vendor participation for the past few years! And third, recently appointed executive director Nat Quick and his new team had their first opportunity to organize the conference in accordance with a growth strategy for both membership and conference attendance.
As usual, the international attendance was fantastic and, again in accordance with recent years, there was a heavy concentration of German and Chinese attendees and laser companies. From among the major event sponsors, I counted four U.S. companies, five German companies (I am counting SPI as part of Trumpf, a German company!), three Chinese companies, two French companies, and one Lithuanian company. Or, think of it as eight European companies, four U.S. companies, and three Asian companies. Even the business session was heavily weighted towards German and Chinese engineering. Among the Chinese companies was Han's Laser, a well-known powerhouse in the industry, as well as YSL Photonics (USP lasers) and JCZ from Beijing, both companies that I was ignorant about until last week.
The opening Plenary Session speakers were Dr. Islam Salama from Intel, Dr. Jason Eichenholz from Luminar Technologies, and long-time industry icon Dr. Milton Chang, currently with Incubic Management in California. While all of the speakers had very interesting insights, I found Dr. Eichenholz's talk on achieving true autonomy in vehicles using light detection and ranging (lidar) to be fascinating and his visuals were quite extraordinary. There are so many factors involved—not just in the sensing, but in the data storage, processing, learning, etc. that it is a bit mind-boggling. Dr. Salama made a great point that Intel and LIA are both 50 years old this year and showed some of the steps along the way of both entities to get where they are now from where they started. Dr. Chang made many astute observations from his many years in business, including "a small success is better than a spectacular failure" and "recognizing a problem is the beginning of a solution." I will be reviewing these talks as well as the Business forum in more detail in the upcoming issue of LIA Today.
The week was filled with talks on topics ranging from welding, 3D printing, process control and monitoring, surface texturing and analysis, battery processing, and many other topics. My own personal arena, microprocessing with UV and, more recently, ultrashort-pulse lasers, was very active with several sessions devoted to this endeavor. Finally, the Schawlow Award winner this year was Dr. Don Scifres, who ran SDL and steered the company through some interesting growth times and finally sold it for billions, benefiting both himself and a large number of employees who worked there at the time of the sale—another great laser success story (see my follow-up piece in LIA Today).
With the steps in place to assure growth, next year the event should be even bigger and better.
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