AKL, the International Laser Technology Congress opened on a high note on May 7 as more than 600 attendees arrived in Aachen, Germany for the tenth convening of this rapidly expanding laser materials processing event. Now bursting at the seams, the session rooms were mostly full at all times, as concurrent sessions drew strong attendance. AKL will likely move to larger facilities in Aachen, in the near future, as that city experiences an expansion of photonics activities at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT) and the RWTH Aachen.
What was originally an ILT sponsored exposition of resident technology, of this important and growing laser technology center, became a full-fledged international conference several years ago and is now supported by growing exhibitor presence.
This year, laser and process developers gathered to showcase some of the latest industrial materials processing applications. The tone was set during the opening day Innovation Forum on Laser Additive Manufacturing (LAM) in Aeronautics with eye-opener presentations on activity at MTU Aero Engines, Airbus Operations GmbH and Avio Aero s.r.l... Later, Additive Manufacturing showed up again, this time in the auto industry in talks by BMW AG and Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand.
Ultra-Fast Pulse laser processing rivaled LAM for attendee attention with talks from RofIn-Baasel, TRUMPF, IPG Laser GmbH, Amphos GmbH, EdgeWave GmbH, Menlo Systesms GmbH, Coherent Laser Systems and Pulsar Photonics.Non-metal applications also drew large audiences with talks on cutting, welding and process CFRP, deburring rubber belts, and laser cutting glass and sapphire. The Business Forum was moved to a room double the size of 2012 and still too small for the crowd (see photo). I presented on the Laser Marketplace in the Americas, reporting for the first time on prospects in South America. Christian Schmitz from the VDMA overviewed international markets while yours truly covered the Americas, and Bo Gu shook up the audience with a look at the laser colossus in China.
All told, 63 presentations were spread over three days, and you didn’t need to guess what were the hot topics as crowds gathered in the rooms where Laser Additive Manufacturing and Ultra-Fast Pulse Laser micromachining were being presented. The same held true during the afternoon spent at ILS touring the laboratories where the students exhibited their projects. Both technologies drew the largest crowds.
I’ve been invited to AKL since the organizers started providing simultaneous translation services. Each event has surpassed the previous in terms of pertinent technology presented and the quality of the presenters. I also noticed that this year the adjacent exhibition of a few dozen product suppliers was more professional with working equipment on display. ILT cannily arranged breaks to be longer than normal so that exhibitors got sufficient time to meet with attendees, and I found most drew attentive and large audiences throughout the conference days.
ILT organizers provide a smooth running function, planning for all exigencies, such as the pesky rain which Aachen is noted for. As we departed, in crowds, to board the buses to travel to the ILT facility, each of us was handed an umbrella. A nice note prompted, no doubt, from the previous event when under the same routine, we all were soaked.