Obituary: Steve Llewellyn, industrial laser material processing trailblazer

May 11, 2020
The passing of Steven A. Llewellyn adds to the pantheon of respected and admired pioneers who contributed to the growth of industrial laser material processing.

The passing of Steven A. Llewellyn (December 12, 1941  April 30, 2020) adds to the pantheon of respected and admired pioneers who contributed to the growth of industrial laser material processing. It was very sad news for me, as Steve and I had a long and fruitful relationship. It was also another note to me in my 50th year in industrial laser material processing that time has moved on and that small, but oh-so-effective, group of laser processing zealots are getting along in years.

I first met Steve in the early 1970s when he was with Ebtec, the Agawam, MA electron beam job shop. Even though I was then involved with lasers, we had mutual interests and friends in the electron beam welding business. And, subsequently, Steve ‘saw the light’ (pardon the pun) and entered the laser industry. One's loss and another’s gain, because whatever Steve did, he did with sincerity, effectiveness, and great humor—the latter being a characteristic of his beloved Welsh heritage, and was one of his most distinguishing characteristics.

As he worked most of the rest of his career in laser processing, when forced to step aside for health reasons, he left a network of friends and business associates with whom he continued to interact. I was always pleased to receive a call from Steve to chat about industry news and sometimes just to pass a few minutes chatting with a good friend.

I’ll also miss the social times with Stevemost connected to an industry event. He was my go-to guy for clues to a good restaurant in some city new to me. Steve spent a portion of his career in the Midwest, living in Michigan. I traveled to Detroit frequently in that city’s glory days in automotive, so I had many occasions to have lunch or dinner with Steve and to tap his knowledge of the auto industry.

Steve was a continuous and admired speaker on behalf of industrial laser technology. We often followed one another on speaker panels and his distinct Welsh dialect left audiences with strong positive opinions of his subject. He always stepped forward when the call went out for volunteers because early in our relationship, when competitors, he introduced me to an aphorism attributed to President John F. Kennedy: “A rising tide lifts all boats.” All of his career, Steve was an outspoken advocate for a growing industrial laser business.

Steve also had a fair and balanced outlook so that serving together on various committees and panels in the Laser Institute of America (for whom he elected a Fellow) and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, I could l always count on his sage advice and a moderate outlook.

I and countless others will miss Steve, but cherish having known and worked with him: A'r sawl a fo orau gaiff gwrw (And the person who’s best will have beer).

About the Author

David Belforte | Contributing Editor

David Belforte (1932-2023) was an internationally recognized authority on industrial laser materials processing and had been actively involved in this technology for more than 50 years. His consulting business, Belforte Associates, served clients interested in advanced manufacturing applications. David held degrees in Chemistry and Production Technology from Northeastern University (Boston, MA). As a researcher, he conducted basic studies in material synthesis for high-temperature applications and held increasingly important positions with companies involved with high-technology materials processing. He co-founded a company that introduced several firsts in advanced welding technology and equipment. David's career in lasers started with the commercialization of the first industrial solid-state laser and a compact CO2 laser for sheet-metal cutting. For several years, he led the development of very high power CO2 lasers for welding and surface treating applications. In addition to consulting, David was the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Industrial Laser Solutions magazine (1986-2022) and contributed to other laser publications, including Laser Focus World. He retired from Laser Focus World in late June 2022.

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