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  • Understanding the Power of Laser Technology: A Closer Look at LME
Jul 2011
By Geoff Giordano

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the May/June issue of LIA Today.

ORLANDO, Fla., July 13, 2011 — The Laser Institute of America has assembled a stellar roster of speakers and exhibitors for its first Lasers for Manufacturing Event (LME), a show that will focus exclusively on laser-based production applications and their potential for significant return on investment.

Dozens of renowned experts and companies have been lined up for the first-ever LME, to be held Sept. 27 to 28 in Schaumburg, Ill. Excitement over the show is building as industry insiders recognize the opportunity to showcase the production efficiencies and profits lasers can bring to operations large and small. System integrators, laser marking and robotics companies all are finding that LME is a forum for sharing their wealth of knowledge and to push laser manufacturing.

“I see value for the exhibitors as not being the needle in the haystack, as is often the case at the big shows in the US, where lasers are a side thought,” said Silke Pflueger, director of marketing and sales for Laserline. “I see value for the visitors in having all aspects of laser technology laid out for them in one place. We will show our latest products, even higher power and brightness fiber-coupled diode lasers.”

Laserline is one of the many cutting-edge exhibitors planning to feature their laser-manufacturing success stories, along with ABB, AppliCote Associates, Coherent, EMAG, Fraunhofer ILT, IPG Photonics, Laserage Technology, Laser Mechanisms, Miyachi Unitek, Preco, SPI Lasers, Trumpf and more.

“By bringing all of the major laser industry suppliers together and putting them under one roof, LME should attract the highest concentration of laser-specific attendees of any trade show in North America,” said Mark Taggart, president of Laser Mechanisms. “Laser Mechanisms will present to LME's targeted audience our broad spectrum of capabilities across multiple markets — many of which may not have been realized before.”

LME is designed to give designers and manufacturers everything they need to understand lasers and laser systems — and to employ them effectively and profitably — as US manufacturers modernize and upgrade their technology to remain competitive in the global economy.

“The laser industry has grown to be so diverse in vendors, suppliers and processes that it warrants an independent machine-tool and process show,” said GE Aviation consulting engineer Todd Rockstroh, who will address the impact of lasers on aerospace. “This will give the novice user the ability to not only seek competitive opinions on laser technologies, but gain less-biased opinions from fellow industrial users. Experienced users can evaluate competing technologies from suppliers who aren't currently in a given company's inventory in a compact setting.”

One of the main highlights of LME is the laser technology showcase. The show floor will be equipped with two theater areas, where more than 20 exhibitors will present slides and videos of their equipment and examples of parts manufacturing. Exhibitors will discuss the advantages of their approaches. Examples of laser-manufactured parts will also be on display at their booths.

The educational program will feature four free 30-minute presentations on the impact of laser technology on laser-additive manufacturing and the aerospace, automotive and medical device industries. Meanwhile, free one-hour refresher courses will keep attendees up-to-date on topics such as the main laser types used for manufacturing, laser systems, the advantages of laser-based vs. conventional approaches, and basic laser safety.

“Building up LME in less than a year since it was first proposed took intensive effort,” said Peter Baker, LIA executive director. “The charter exhibitor group were instrumental in reaching out to people we didn’t have personal contact with. For instance, Bill Shiner [vice president of industrial markets for IPG Photonics], who is the prime mover behind this, was able to reach out to system integrators he uses and some of the robotics experts he knows.”

Despite years of experience creating intensive workshops and its annual ICALEO conference, LIA has had to take a different direction with this unique event.

“[LME] is a horse of a different color because we’re dealing with end users — the people who want to take this stuff and make things,” Baker said. “With ICALEO we’re dealing with the guys who understand the science of it. The one-hour tutorials are aimed to be much more fundamental. Some of the people we want to come to the exhibit perhaps have not used a laser and aren’t familiar with the terminology. We think it’s a good mix; we think someone can come in knowing nothing, get an overview and then see parts just like the ones they’re working on made effectively with the laser.”

In his presentation, “Choosing the Low Cost Method for Manufacturing,” Dr. Robert Mueller said he will look at “several laser manufacturing methods — remote laser welding, laser cutting, hybrid laser welding — and compare their cost structure and productivity to traditional processing methods, [namely] resistance spot welding, press-blanking and MIG welding. I will show that the low-cost manufacturing method depends on the production volume, and that there is a range where the traditional method is most cost-effective and a range where the laser method is the low-cost solution.”

Detailed analysis of a firm’s needs is critical, said Mueller, who is senior laser solutions engineer for NuTech Engineering in Milton, Ontario, Canada. “Unless one does this kind of analysis, the break point between traditional and laser processes is not clear, and one could easily choose the high-cost process and then be stuck with it for the life of the product. The recent advances in laser technology, efficiency and cost have also moved these break points significantly, and laser processes that were technologically sound but not cost-effective have become cost-effective for many applications.”

Mueller expects LME will attract “people from outside the established laser-user community: engineers coming to see what lasers can do, what a system costs, how big these systems are, and what it takes to run one.”

For more information, visit:

Geoff Giordano is a freelance writer for LIA.

remote laser welding
A robotic process commonly employed by automakers that enables high-speed and flexible production throughput by using swiveling optics for precise beam positioning.
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