Philippe Bado, Clark-MXR, Dexter, Mich.
While several thousand femtosecond lasers can be found in research and development laboratories around the world, and hundreds of potential applications have been proposed, no ultrafast sources were used regularly in the industrial or medical world before 1997. This is because early ultrafast lasers were room-sized behemoths that required the attention of "laser jocks" to keep them aligned, tuned and running smoothly.
This sad state of affairs is finally changing. While some suppliers are still producing shorter pulse widths and higher energy for research users, others are beginning to provide compact, reliable and much simpler ultrafast systems for commercial applications such as drilling and micromachining.