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In Praise of Efficiencies

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While jobs are very much in the news, another aspect of American manufacturing doesn’t get the attention that it deserves: the increase in productivity and wealth that advanced technology has enabled. In recent years, photonics has made a considerable contribution to this increase, with more to come.

Marcia StamellDocumenting the emergence of wealth-producing technologies is very much what Industrial Photonics is all about. In this issue, for example, we look at two new uses for lasers that hold great promise for increases in efficiency.

Our cover story looks at the role UV lasers are playing in strengthening the production of wearables — a market that is expected to grow by $100 million in the next four years. In “UV Lasers Aid Wearables Manufacturing,” Austin Huang of Electro Scientific Industries points out that UV lasers can process a range of materials used in the manufacture of wearables­ — cutting, drilling and marking at micron-scale precision, all at ultrafast speeds. And that’s just the beginning (read article).

Beda Espinoza, Taguhi Dallakyan and Phong Dinh of MKS Instruments examine a laser additive manufacturing method that promises easier and less expensive production of everything from common replacement parts to dental appliances. The authors of “Laser Microfabrication Techniques Move Rapid Prototyping to the Mainstream” name no less than six different rapid prototyping techniques that can benefit from the use of high-intensity femtosecond lasers that are both ultrafast and can minimize damage to materials (read article).

On the imaging side, Brad Finney of Teledyne Dalsa looks at the contemporary impact of improved CMOS line scan cameras on machine vision systems. CMOS can lower costs of web inspection by allowing for more flexibility in the choice of sensors, lenses and cameras without lessening image fidelity. The new cameras also can provide color imaging at an affordable price. The advances translate into better quality control of commodities for producers and more wholesome products for consumers. “CMOS, TDI in Line Scan Cameras Deliver More Accurate Web Inspection Systems” (read article).

And for our Picks column, Holger Schlüter, of Scanlab, outlines a multistep process for selecting an optimal scanning solution for your application. “How to select the right scan system for your application” (read article).

Finally, Daryoosh Saeedkia of TeTechS looks at how terahertz technology can improve quality control of plastic bottles and containers by offering a nondestructive technique for thickness measurement. Terahertz photoconductive antennas, he writes, allow for quick, noninvasive thickness measurements of monolayer and multilayer structures with layers thinner than a strand of hair. “Thickness Measurement Steps Up Its Game” discusses how the evolution of this technology into one sufficiently robust for industrial uses can minimize both waste and cost for the billion dollar packaging industry (read article).

Even more striking than the advances these photonics technologies represent are the economic ones, as step-by-step new technologies help build a more robust industrial sector for the 21st century. As history has shown, transitions such as the one the photonics industry is part of reach far beyond the impact of specific applications.
Apr 2017
EditorialMarcia Stamell

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