Cautious normality

July 22, 2020
COVID-19 concerns continue to loom in the manufacturing sector.
David Mask

Here in the United States, the industrial sector is gradually returning to a semblance of normality. Other locations—China, for example—are ahead of us and full manufacturing is now the norm. Concerns with timing of company openings, and the consequences of precipitative action, are still unclear, but the die has been cast and the resultant burst of orders for industrial laser products has brightened corporate management’s outlook for the last half of 2020.

It’s too soon to talk about how we will foresee 2020 economically, as a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic could be the proverbial monkey wrench that brings manufacturing to a halt again. Or we may experience social distancing guideline changes relative to workplace environments that allow remote working to be a thing of the past for some.

Being remote here at Industrial Laser Solutions, only an increase in email traffic over the past three months has been a notable change in our daily routine. However, two changes of note have occurred. First, we lamentably announce that Dr. Kunihiko Washio, an immutable factor as an Editorial Advisor, has chosen to retire from this position as he winds down his career in industrial laser technology. It has been my pleasure to know and be associated with Kunihiko, who has been a valuable asset at Industrial Laser Solutions, as he has always promptly responded to my requests with alacrity and enthusiasm. Kunihiko departed Industrial Laser Solutions with another of his perceptive views on industrial laser processing in Japan appearing in the May/June 2020 issue.

Second, I am pleased to welcome Dr. Timothy Simpson, well known in the field of laser-based additive manufacturing, to the International Editorial Advisory Board; Simpson is the Paul Morrow Professor of Engineering Design & Manufacturing at Penn State University. It’s only a coincidence that Tim contributed a well-critiqued feature on this subject in the March/April 2020 issue. Tim readily accepted my invitation to be an Editorial Advisor on the subject of laser additive manufacturing and I will tap his experience early on as Industrial Laser Solutions expands coverage of this subject in 2021.

The theme of this issue is laser surface treatment, with three strong features led by Mike Poulter and Jack Gabzdyl (SPI Lasers), who show how fiber lasers are enhancing productivity while driving down costs in markets as diverse as battery and e-mobility to automotive and solar (see article). Our own Andreas Thoss with Andreas Brenner (Fraunhofer ILT) describe high-power ultrashort-pulse (USP) lasers taking over various tasks such as ablation, cleaning, or polishing (see article). And Barbara Stumpp (Sigma Laser) writes about medical implants and medical devices improved by combining stainless steel and titanium alloys with build-up welding using modulated laser pulses (see article).

In one of the best-written features on the subject, Jim Bovatsek, Jeff Kaiser, and Lisa Strugala (Newport/MKS Instruments) state that high-power USP lasers enable high-volume industrial precision micromachining processes with demanding quality, throughput, and cost requirements (see article). Further expounding on this subject, a team from Vilnius University reviews recent high-maturity level microprocessing developments ready to be directly installed by customers (see article).

On the more fundamental side, Kyle Smith (Lincoln Electric) contends in our cover story that laser hotwire welding is a flexible, forgiving process that can be implemented in many different manufacturing situations (see article). And Ursula Herrling-Tusch (Pallas GmbH) shares how a company repairs heavily worn circular knife tool-holding fixtures (see article).

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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