AKL rocks again in Aachen, and other industry happenings

Once again, the biannual International Laser Technology Congress AKL was held in Aachen, Germany last week.

May 8th, 2018
Content Dam Lfw Bios O T Ron Schaeffer

Once again, the biannual International Laser Technology Congress AKL was held in Aachen, Germany last week. I have written about this biennial event for the past several years and I can't seem to find enough good things to say about it. So, I asked two first-time attendees, who are also colleagues and well-known figures in the laser industry, for feedback. What they say I think sums up the conference:

"As a laser industry veteran of more than 20 years, I've attended probably most of the major photonics-related technical conferences, shows, and exhibitions worldwide, but this year was my first time attending the AKL in Aachen, Germany and I have to say I was very impressed. The quality of the technical talks, content of the plenary and business sessions, and the contacts I made with customers and industry colleagues at the exhibition booths were first-class—it was nothing short of a "who's who" of the European laser industry. Then, to top it all, there was a lovely awards dinner in the ancient coronation hall in the city center, which was absolutely fabulous! I almost felt guilty having this much fun at a business event. I will definitely try to be back next time."—Dave Clark, IPG Photonics

"AKL was everything I expected and more. The level of technical content superlative, the venue with its European history and elegance—to top it off with the Fraunhofer ILT tour and networking event couldn't have been better. I look forward to returning in 2020 and being revitalized by the most relevant content and advancements in our industry."—Neil Ball, Directed Light

Once again, I had the honor of presenting an invited talk in the business session on the laser market in America—a session that also included talks by my esteemed colleagues Klaus Loffler (Europe), Dr. Bo Gu (China), and Dr. Kunihiko Washio (Japan). The senior author on this presentation was Industrial Laser Solutions Editor-in-Chief David Belforte and included an update on information previously presented at venues like SPIE Photonics West and LME. As of the end of Q1 2018, the laser industry appears very strong and all signs point to a great 2018. I was supposed to meet up with Dr. Washio in Japan at the OPIC Conference, but my plans were changed at the last minute—however, we did get to talk in Germany and I was very interested that he told me that excimer lasers are such a big part of the laser market in Japan. Coherent relies to a very large degree on their excimer laser sales to the display industry, and I wonder if companies like Gigaphoton are going to be able to take a bite of the market. A strong push worked in the lithography market.

I also had the opportunity to attend press conferences and talk with the three finalists for the European Laser Innovation Award. This award was presented at the Grand Reception on Wednesday evening. The third-place winner was the Talens Systems team from Spain led by Alejandro Barcena for a High Flexibility Dynamic Beam Control System for Laser Heat Treatment and Related High Power Applications. The second-place winner was the Saueressig GmbH team led by Dr. Gerald Jenke for Multi Parallel Ultrafast Laser Ablation for Large Scale Ultraprecision Manufacturing. And the first-place winner was the Laserline GmbH team led by Dr. Axel Luft for Multi Spot Modules to Improve Joining Processes due to Tailored Spot Geometries.

I noted that all three finalists were recognized for their manipulation of the lasers rather than for innovations in the laser itself. I asked the question of whether we had reached the limits of real innovation in lasers, or what is on the horizon? For instance, I could see a clear progression 30 years ago from nanosecond, to picosecond, to femtosecond … and into the UV. Now we are there, so now that temporal space has been really well investigated and engineered, what is next? Fraunhofer ILT's Dr. Reinhard Poprawe suggested that a really desirable laser would be one that is completely wavelength-tunable so that the precise wavelength could be dialed in for any individual process. This could be especially useful in medical applications like cell manipulation.

And speaking of stocks and market forecasts, semiconductor and laser company nLight (LASR) shares surged almost 50% in its public debut on Nasdaq a few weeks ago. As of yesterday, it was at about $29 per share. Is this another company on a rapid rise?

There are so many more things to say about happenings in the laser industry, so stay tuned.

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 rschaeffer072657@gmail.com.

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