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2016 Was a Good Year for Lasers; 2017 Looks Even Better

Strong 2016 earnings among top industrial laser providers, continued brisk adoption of fiber lasers, cheaper ultrafast lasers, and a host of novel applications and notable corporate acquisitions signal a big year ahead for photonics-based manufacturing.

Lasers on the Cutting Edge

In the last seven to eight years, solid-state lasers have come to dominate laser welding and cutting,” said Tom Bailey, product specialist for Trumpf Inc. (Farmington, CT). While Trumpf still produces CO2 lasers, for most applications solid-state lasers literally outshine them.

Detroit Tigers: Reverse-Engineered World Series Trophy Honors ’68 Tigers

Technology came to the aid of Detroit Tigers management when they hoped to recapture some of the magic of the 1968 Detroit Tigers’ World Series-winning season. The 50-year anniversary celebration, held September 7-9, 2018, included on-field festivities in which the 16 surviving members of the 1968 team were presented with replicas of the World Series’ trophy.

From Multispot Welding to Limiting Soot: Tips for Optimal Laser Joins

In our May webinar titled “Lasers in Manufacturing: State of the Art in 2018,” we noted the emergence of some novel technologies to produce the “holy grail” of laser welding: spatter-free joins with no porosity and, when required, highly aesthetic outcomes.

IMTS 2018 Showcases New Manufacturing Technology Trends

To stay current with technology and peer into the future of manufacturing, take a look at our preview of IMTS—The International Manufacturing Technology Show, to be held at McCormick Place in Chicago from Sept. 10 through Sept. 15. In the following pages, ME provides in-depth examinations of each pavilion at IMTS, as well as previews of the products you will be able to see displayed at exhibitors’ booths.

Adding it Up at IMTS 2018

Additive manufacturing (AM) pioneer Charles Hull introduced the first commercial 3D printer, the SLA-1, in 1987. Jaws dropped, machinists wondered about their next career, pundits said it spelled the death of traditional manufacturing. None of that happened, thankfully; in fact, some said 3D printing was a bunch of hype, good for little more than investment casting patterns and proof of concept prototypes.

Medical Machining Shifts Into High Gear—With a Laser Assist

Constant refinement of medical machining from tooling design to finished product requires not only the ability to handle a broad range of plastic and metal materials but also to achieve predictable results—particularly in the face of strict regulations.

Optical Metrology in Three Dimensions

Basic trends in modern manufacturing are driving growth in 3D optical metrology. “One is the highly complex and high-tech material that manufacturers are using today. For example, in the aerospace turbine blade market, they simply cannot touch the part like they used to—the surface finish of the material is too readily affected by any kind of contact metrology."

Innovations Enable Faster Beam Delivery, On-the-Fly Welding

For ABB, robotic welding comes down to a never-ending process of ensuring parts are suitable for laser joining and developing the appropriate processes. To that end, ABB is refining a recent innovation to improve beam delivery speeds and has developed software for on-the-fly welding in tandem with Trumpf’s Intelligent Programmable Focusing Optic (IPFO).

Laser Scanners Demand Attention as Technology Improves

Metrology-grade laser scanners are expanding their range of applications. New users are finding the main attractions of laser scanners—speed and ease of use. What prevented more widespread use in the past were laser scanners’ perceived tradeoffs. Using one usually meant sacrificing accuracy or working with noisy data.