Oans, zwoa, drei … gsuffa*

An upbeat industrial laser market deserves a toast

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An upbeat industrial laser market deserves a toast

So here I am, on a 60-foot log raft, accompanied by a four-piece band, two kegs of beer, and 30 Germans, floating down the Isar River, in Germany, on a Sunday morning.

We enter a nature preserve where even the band stops playing, so as to not upset the ecological environment. It’s so peaceful I don’t even think about the real world, where the European Union seems to be falling apart as the 25 nations can’t agree on a constitution and even an operating budget to support the alliance. In Iraq the news remains bad, as CNN reminds me relentlessly each morning with a moving banner, at the bottom of the screen, showing the latest casualty figures.

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I’m in Munich, with Managing Editor Laureen Belleville, to attend the Laser 2005 show, to participate in the Lasers in Manufacturing (LIM-5) conference, and to present at the biennial International Laser Marketplace meeting.

LIM-5 kicks-off with a plenary session attended by several hundred people, followed by a panel discussion on the fiber and disc lasers that I moderate, or should I say keep the peace. LIM-5 presents more than 200 papers on laser material processing from 25 countries, proving that applications development is as strong as ever. At the marketplace seminar many among the 80 people attending query me about industrial laser activity in North America and China.

Laser 2005 sets attendance records over four days with more than 23,000 attendees, 50 percent of them coming from outside Germany. There is a very strong presence, 50 to 80 percent increase, of both exhibitors and attendees from the United States, China, and Japan. Exhibits are also up by 20 percent to 950, with 54 percent of these from outside Germany. As usual, the Production Engineering Hall is jam packed with exhibitors, and for three of the four days it is so crowded in the aisles that it is difficult to walk.

In fact there are so many exhibits showing products for manufacturing (~180) that Laureen and I are hard pressed to see everyone in the allocated time. For example we counted at least 37 companies offering laser marking/engraving equipment.

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And most notable is the presence of a sizeable Chinese delegation that we learned were in Munich to test the market waters and to look for possible European partners.

Laser 2005 was by all measures a great success. We spoke with many product suppliers who told us that visitor quality exceeded the last show and told us about hot prospects that had near-term sales potential.

As always we saw a substantial number of technology advances; this is what Laser 2005 is noted for. A four-module, 4kW disc laser, multi-wavelength markers, and a plethora of microprocessing lasers. The latter is interesting because it indicates that Europe, read that as Germany, is a hot bed for this technology.

So now four shows in a row-Photonics West, CLEO, Eastec, and Laser 2005-have produced very positive, upbeat results. We read this as a message that even with non-market news rather grim, our world, industrial lasers, is in great shape.

This thought made for a very pleasant eight-hour rafting trip down the Isar River, until the beer kegs were empty. Oh, and if you meet me somewhere, ask me about the IWC.

*For High German purists this Bavarian beer drinking ritual is “Eins, zwei, drei…gsuffa,” which is hard to translate but could mean “drink up.” The ILS team, including our European reps (second row), toast market success.

David A. Belforte

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