New readers may not be aware that ILS is truly an international publication focused on the use of lasers in material processing operations in manufacturing. About a third of our subscribers are located in 150 countries worldwide. And these readers tell us they value ILS editorial as a source on information on advances in laser material processing in North America. What's more, 51% of page views on our website come from outside the US.
A small but significant percentage of these readers are in emerging nations, many of which will likely represent the next wave of manufacturing outsourcing solutions—that is, certain African nations are already stepping into the gap left by a decreasing low-labor-rate resource in China. Two years ago in this column, I wrote on the possibility of a sea change in outsourcing. Maybe my timetable was off a bit from the prediction I made in 2011.
ILS editorial is a two-way street—about half of it is generated by contributors from nations where lasers for materials processing are already established in the manufacturing sector, as examples in this issue show.
Profs. X. Tang and X. Zhu from Huazhong University in China describe the development of the laser material processing industry in Wuhan, China's optical valley, and share with readers some interesting numbers not generally known. According to BLM Group's Giovanni Zacco, Tubilaser (Ponzano, Northern Italy), a supplier of structural steel tubing and laser-cut tubular components, won with their gamble that users were ready for laser tube cutting of large-diameter, heavy wall tube and pipe used in a number of outstanding public structures. And Nitin Shankar discusses the growth of the industrial laser micromachining market in Europe.
Two US laser manufacturers share with readers technology that enhances process productivity. Dahv Kliner and associates from nLIGHT report on new fiber lasers incorporating back-reflection isolation that have their customers demonstrating uninterrupted processing of highly reflective materials. And Francisco Villarreal Saucedo and his associates at TeraDiode show the benefits of high-power diodes over other lasers, outperforming fiber lasers in cutting speed in many thin materials and quality cutting thicker materials—the last realm of CO2 metal cutting systems.
Two in-process applications employing advanced laser technology are featured in this issue. CRP USA, a company manufacturing on-car and wind components for racing teams, also produces parts for the space, entertainment, and automotive industries. Francesca Cuoghi says the company has expertise in selective laser sintering technology. And Frank Gäbler from Coherent introduces a process that avoids carbide grain formation by optimizing the mix of cladding materials for a specific application, precisely depositing material in accordance with the calculated recipe.
This issue of ILS is an excellent example of the diversity of laser material processing technology applications brought to readers around the world. In the next issue, ILS will feature articles from Spain, France, Germany, and the US on glass marking, polymer joining, micro-ablation, auto exhaust system welding, and 2μm fiber laser processing.
David A. Belforte