Prediction on the money!

It`s only the beginning of 1999, but you`ll be glad to know in advance that at least one of your predictions ("My ten fearless predictions for 1999," Laser Focus World, Jan. 1999, p. 228) is true, although your reasoning is wrong. Here`s the prediction, "The commercial application of ultrafast lasers (femtosecond pulses) will probably not occur in 1999, although work on all-solid-state amplified ultrashort-pulse laser systems appears to hold promise. Ultrafast systems have demonstrated their val

Mar 1st, 1999

Prediction on the money!

It`s only the beginning of 1999, but you`ll be glad to know in advance that at least one of your predictions ("My ten fearless predictions for 1999," Laser Focus World, Jan. 1999, p. 228) is true, although your reasoning is wrong. Here`s the prediction, "The commercial application of ultrafast lasers (femtosecond pulses) will probably not occur in 1999, although work on all-solid-state amplified ultrashort-pulse laser systems appears to hold promise. Ultrafast systems have demonstrated their value in the laboratory, but they still require too much care and feeding to be useful in an industrial setting."

In fact, commercialization of ultrafast lasers with pulsewidths less than 100 fs occurred at least two years ago. I began developing the specifications for such a system in collaboration with a very talented group at Coherent led by Murray Gibb, Colin Seaton, and John Lincoln in 1994. The laser system which eventually came from their work (Vitesse) was incorporated into a highly automated measurement instrument (MetaPULSE) by myself and an incredibly capable team at Rudolph Technologies, including, most notably, Chris Morath.

Since the first instrument was shipped in 1997, MetaPULSE has become a mainstay in the factories of virtually every major semiconductor producer in the world for characterizing metal-deposition processes. The instrument runs continuously 24 hours a day, has an extraordinary record for reliability, and can be operated by technicians who have no knowledge of optics. In fact, I daresay the majority of operators are only dimly aware that the system houses a laser at all. Dozens of such lasers are at present in service throughout the USA, Europe, and Japan.

There is no question that the engineers and scientists who have created MetaPULSE and Vitesse have done something important and, as you aptly predicted, very difficult. I would hate to see someone else getting credit for it in, say, 2000. I gave an invited talk about it a year ago at an SPIE conference in San Jose, CA. We`ve also written a number of articles for trade journals and semiconductor magazines and have published an extensive body of work in the scientific literature.

Robert Stoner

Brown University

Providence, RI

Cameras can fight crime

I was very impressed with the depth and breadth of the articles on forensic applications of imaging (Optoelectronics World supplement, Nov. 1998)! However, I was quite taken aback by several comments by Herbert Blitzer [executive director of the Institute of Forensic Imaging at Indiana University - Purdue University, Indianapolis, IN] suggesting that digital cameras are not yet appropriate for documenting crime scenes and that the admissibility of digital images in court is not established. Regarding the first issue, digital cameras do an excellent job of recording crime scenes and are used for this by agencies throughout the USA. Digital cameras are used to document crime scenes, accidents, and field interviews.

The issue of court acceptance has been answered several times on several cases. In court, it is the image that must be a fair representation of the subject--the method for creating the image is irrelevant. It is the integrity of the witness testifying to the subject of the photographs that matters--not the technology used to create the images.

The inaccurate comments by Mr. Blitzer provide your readers with a belief that they have no need to develop hardware and software for this market. Instead, we are desperate for innovative products. The forensics market will be an exciting one--if manufacturers and developers are aware that it exists without the hindrances suggested in the article.

George Reis

Free Radical Enterprises

www.free-radical.com

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