As I sat down to draft this issue's My View column, the words flowing onto the screen began to seem familiar. In fact, they bore a distinct resemblance to the My View column appearing in the January/February 2016 issue, with the opening sentence being identical. Is there such a thing as personal plagiarism? Might readers have forgotten what I wrote last year so that I could rerun it and save myself the effort of rephrasing this year? And how in the world did this happen?
A confluence of world economic factors produced decreasing country gross domestic products (GDPs) that acted as a brake on manufacturing economies in developed, developing, and emerging countries. In the United States, it was a tumultuous presidential campaign, with uncertainty after the outcome. Europe, France and Italy—mired in immigrant-related problems—experienced equipment sales stagnation. In China, government meddling to sustain predicted annual growth targets disrupted business investment plans for the first half of the year. Brazil, expected to lead emerging economies, was in a steep decline through political uncertainty that caused production cuts. Russia was still in economic decline from a slide in crude oil prices and geopolitical activities that caused international sanctions. Even India's early economic growth promise stalled because of delayed infrastructure investments and more political uncertainty.
And here I sat, trying to find an explanation why—in a modest growth year for machine tool sales—2016 industrial laser product sales continued on a three-year sales growth curve. (Maybe I should ask ILS senior illustrator Chris Hipp to add a wrinkle to the caricature on the left of this page.) Instead, in this year's Annual Economic Review, I, using my collaborator's numbers, present a view of the market that should enable you to plan accordingly for the future (see p. 9).
In this year's report, we show an inordinate growth in microprocessing sales due in great part to the first substantive revenues from shipments of high-power excimer lasers for annealing organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays. Rainer Pätzel and Ralph Delmdahl of Coherent describe excimer-laser-based, low-temperature polysilicon annealing and how it is currently being implemented in display production (see p. 14).
An application made for precise laser processing, drilling holes in fuel injectors, has finally become a viable process. Mike Lerner of Microlution tells how ultrafast-pulse (UFP) lasers created a successful new manufacturing process, and also proves that UFP lasers could be exceptionally precise, fast, and reliable for industrial micromachining (see p. 21).
Jack Gabzdyl and Daniel Capostagno of SPI Lasers pick up on this, showing examples of UFP laser joining of metal combinations that enable design engineers to reevaluate metal pairings that they were told were impossible (see p. 24).
And our UFP laser advocate Ron Schaeffer chips in with an update on selecting these lasers for microprocessing applications, adding that the cost of these lasers is also dropping, making them much more affordable for manufacturing applications (see p. 18).
And finally, for some variety, Matthew Gilloon of Ford showcases how productivity has increased at least three times over resistance spot welding by applying remote laser welding in production of the new Ford Mustang (our cover story; see p. 28).
I sincerely hope that 2017 economic results match the projections made in the ILS Annual Economic Review, and factors inhibiting last year's growth in manufacturing will be resolved for the better.