28 and still counting

This issue of ILS, the first in Volume 29, marks the beginning of my 30th year of editing and writing on industrial laser materials processing under this masthead.

Ils Myview January
This issue of ILS, the first in Volume 29, marks the beginning of my 30th year of editing and writing on industrial laser materials processing under this masthead. When I review back issues, I can honestly say that we have chronicled the growth of this technology, and in some ways have contributed to and/or influenced the advance of the technology in the field of manufacturing. This is not an empty claim because we can document this from the magazine's archives.

We didn't do it alone, as there have been hundreds who graced the ranks of ILS contributors, writers who willingly shared with our readers their knowledge of laser material processing. By doing this, they helped us promote the technology in developing markets. As an example, in 2013, we published 24 features written by 49 authors, covering topics ranging from laser additive manufacturing to hybrid welding to aerospace component drilling to precision scoring of packaging materials.

When I look back at the early issues of Industrial Laser Review (the predecessor to Industrial Laser Solutions), I recall how it all got started. I was having lunch with the then-publisher of Laser Focus, and I mentioned that a group of young university post-docs attending a conference in Germany where I was an invited speaker peppered me with questions about laser materials processing developments. Later they continued asking about sources for more in-depth details, pointing out the dearth of detailed processing information in the open literature. This raised the question from my luncheon companion of how this information could get disseminated and from this followed the idea to produce a handbook containing this information. Thus was born, in 1986, the annual Industrial Laser Handbook, which that year was the only collection of detailed laser processing specifications and procedures.

The Handbook was a great success, but several of the students who had germinated the idea now asked for more current information rather than once a year. This prompted the idea of a monthly paid subscription newsletter called Industrial Laser Review that premiered at a trade show in 1986. This caused laser manufacturers to place ads, so ILR was born, the first publication focused on industrial laser material processing. ILR morphed into ILS in 1999, and we have never deviated from our stated mission of educating current and potential laser users to the benefits of the technology.

I think we can lay claim to defining and coining the term "industrial laser" to set the technology off from the other applications that today are grouped under the term "photonics". Many in that group of young university graduates continued to work in the technology, and today they hold highly visible and prestigious positions in industry and academia.

When we first reported on the laser market in 1989, the value of laser sales was $161 million, starting a trend that saw the CAGR through 2013 at 11.9%.

The first Opinion column, a precursor to My View, appeared in December of 1986, and the subject was a call for a finer classification of industrial lasers by power output, an idea the industry nixed -- so much for editorial clout.

The big news in 1986 was the formation of the European Union's BRITE program, which was designed to stimulate interaction between industry and academia, and the Eurolaser project, EEC, funded to expand the European laser industry. These two programs have had a major impact on the growth of industrial lasers in the global market. Out of these came volumes of technology information on which ILS has reported in the past 28 years, much of it the result of efforts by those former students.

David A. Belforte

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