One day in 1986 I was having lunch with then Laser Focus World publisher Moe Levitt and the conversation turned to some remarks I had picked up while attending a laser conference in Duseldorf, Germany. At this meeting, several young—recently graduated—engineers asked me why there was no publication focusing on industrial laser materials processing.
Moe asked the same question, for which I didn't have an answer. As an individual who has never let a PhD in physics get in the way of a business opportunity, he asked, "Why don't you do it?" "Do what," I asked, hoping that he was just in a mellow mood after enjoying his favorite Italian red. "Write a newsletter on industrial laser processing and I'll publish it," he said—dead serious. Never one to turn down a challenge, I set out to do just that.
Before the first issue was ready for publication, fate stepped in, in the form of a potential advertiser. Now, newsletters rarely accept advertising, relying on paid subscriptions to survive. But Moe, always ready to increase company revenues, and sensing that maybe this venture was for real, suggested that PennWell and I go into partnership on a new publication, which we named Industrial Laser Review.
A trial issue was prepared and introduced at a tools show in Philadelphia, in June 1986. From the newsletter concept, a hybrid evolved. Not quite a magazine and definitely not a newsletter, what with several pages of advertisements.
From these humble beginnings arose the first, and still only, monthly, international publication focused on the industrial laser materials processing market. Along the way the publication grew, occasionally changing format, until it's rebirth as Industrial Laser Solutions For Manufacturing, a full-blown magazine, in January 1999. Now it's read throughout the North American manufacturing sector and in 33 countries around the world. And those young German engineers who inadvertently planted the seed are now established in high-level management positions at leading European manufacturing companies.
In the first edition Industrial Laser Review reported on a laser outperforming EDM in steel cutting and electron beam in welding micro-electronic packages, lasers replacing reflow soldering, laser welding of aerosol cans and laser surface roughening replacing shot blasting. In the fist Opinion column, July 1986, I railed against trade barriers, supported the National Center for Manufacturing, admired the Fraunhofer Institute and championed closer academic/industry ties to promote laser opportunities. Some of this sounds familiar, because they are themes we continue to promote.
The pre-introduction shift from a newsletter to a magazine format happened because Industrial Laser Review attracted some supplier advertising. And I'm proud to say that three of the first five advertisers, Spectra Physics, Laser Power Optics and II-VI Incorporated, are still with Industrial Laser Solutions. The other two no longer exist as corporate entities. And in that first publishing year, three others who continue to routinely support Industrial Laser Solutions appeared: Laser Mechanisms, Control Laser and Lumonics. Thanks guys.
An actual count of editorial pages would be an arduous task. A ballpark estimate of 2500–2800 pages might be reasonable. We have been privileged to publish technical information, data, news and user stories written by a host of knowledgeable people working in this technology, many of who are repeat authors. They have never stinted in sharing their experience and knowledge with readers.
And finally an acknowledgement of the many PennWell people who have worked on this publication. They are a dedicated group of professionals without whom all this would not have happened.
David A. Belforte