In January of 1991 a provisional committee of industrial laser equipment suppliers met to identify and recommend the most appropriate organizational and funding approach to increase the growth of industrial laser installations in the United States.
The impetus for the committee's action stemmed from suppliers' concerns that the North American growth rate for acceptance of industrial lasers was seriously trailing that of Japan and Europe. The committee was bothered by the fact that this situation had occurred for the first time since industrial lasers had been introduced in 1966.
Prior to this meeting, some U.S. industrial laser equipment suppliers had joined the Lasers and Electro Optic Manufacturers Association (LEOMA), an industry trade group. They had affiliated with LEOMA in the late 1980s, when the Laser Institute of America (LIA) voted to disband its Industrial Laser Committee and move it to LEOMA. The reason behind this change was that the LIA enjoys taxation benefits as a non-profit organization, not engaging in any commercial lobbying activities, whereas LEOMA was just such an organization.
Historically, the LIA Industrial Laser Committee had formed in the mid-1980s—under the co-chairmanship of Bill Shiner and myself—as a vehicle to give voice to the needs of members who were engaged in the manufacture and sales of industrial laser equipment.
In its early days, Industrial Laser Solutions (at the time Industrial Laser Review) was playing a behind-the-scenes roll in the formation of a standalone trade group by hosting several meetings of industry leaders, which culminated in a 1990 session in Los Angeles where then Publisher Moe Levitt and myself as editor issued a challenge for these leaders to step forward to build an organization to promote this technology in North America. At that time, this magazine offered its support to any resulting organization.
In 1991 the provisional committee selected the AMT—the Association for Manufacturing Technology as the umbrella organization under which a new entity, the Laser Systems Product Group (LSPG), was established. The mission statement of the LSPG is quite simple—a forum for the industrial laser systems supplier community, acting cooperatively to increase the rate of growth of industrial laser products and systems in North America. This mission resonates with the objectives of this magazine—disseminating information to improve the profitability of industrial laser users—except our focus is global. So it's easy to see why ILS and the LSPG have had a strong relationship.
As further evidence of our support of the LSPG's activities, ILS recently offered LSPG the use of editorial pages in the magazine, where it can express periodically its views on any subject pertinent to the industrial laser market. The first such page appears in this issue, where an official report of the 2002 North American market is presented.
Any organization is only as strong as its participating membership. So ILS urges all qualified North American-based suppliers of industrial laser products to join the LSPG, to assist this group in growing laser technology.
I suggest that readers take advantage of the LSPG mission statement by contacting member companies for assessment and guidance in determining the potential of a possible laser application. Suppliers have a wealth of processing information that they willingly share. What's in it for them? If the use of lasers grows in the U.S., their business grows. As the saying goes, "a rising tide lifts all boats."
David A. Belforte