Positive mood at Laser 97 mirrors industry strength

MUNICH, GERMANY--The trade fair Laser 97, held here June 16 to 20, appears to have pleased most exhibitors according to the organizers who report a 4% increase in visitors (to 14,500) and 9% increase in exhibiting companies (to 725) compared to Laser 95. They also note that more than half of the exhibitors and about a quarter of the visitors came from outside Germany--both higher than at previous Laser meetings.

Positive mood at Laser 97 mirrors industry strength

Stephen G. Anderson

MUNICH, GERMANY--The trade fair Laser 97, held here June 16 to 20, appears to have pleased most exhibitors according to the organizers who report a 4% increase in visitors (to 14,500) and 9% increase in exhibiting companies (to 725) compared to Laser 95. They also note that more than half of the exhibitors and about a quarter of the visitors came from outside Germany--both higher than at previous Laser meetings.

The size of the event and a real focus on applications make it unique among the world`s many laser-oriented meetings. This year industrial applications of lasers and electro-optics technologies were prevalent throughout the exhibit halls, while medically oriented exhibits seemed less obvious than in the past.

New product offerings were numerous and included new lasers as well as systems and processes. A new 600-W sealed carbon dioxide laser from Synrad (Mukilteo, WA), for example, kept its distributor`s booth (Optilas International; Evry, France) busy throughout the meeting. The Excalibur can be used for heavy-duty industrial applications--such as cutting of thick plastics and metals and die-board and flatbed cutting--as well as high-speed cutting of thin materials such as paper and cloth.

The company completed development of the laser in less than 12 months and says it was extremely well received in Munich. The Excalibur is designed with a single-tube laser head and consolidated power supply; production units will likely be available late this year.

Among the solid-state laser offerings, the first commercial diode-pumped ytterbium-doped YAG thin-disk laser was introduced by Advanced Photonic Systems (APS; Berlin, Germany). The technology for the device was originally developed at the University of Stuttgart under the Laser 2000 program (see p. 47) and subsequently licensed to APS.

The Puck-A laser emits u¥to 10 W of CW output power at 1030 nm and is targeted at industrial and medical applications, according to Wilfried Bauer, managing director of APS. Bauer notes that frequency doubling will produce output very close to the 514.5-nm emission of argon-ion lasers, which means the device could compete directly with such lasers in certain applications.

In principle, says Bauer, the technology can be scaled to higher powers and could result in diode-pumped solid-state lasers operating with kilowatt-level output while maintaining excellent beam quality. He notes that prototype 300-W devices are already operating in laboratories at the university.

Fast turnaround

Spindler and Hoyer (Göttingen) announced a new process, named "prompt," for the manufacture of prototype custom optics that enables the company to turn orders around in ten days--previously custom optics orders could take several weeks to fill. According to marketing director, Jürgen Keilholz, the ten-day turnaround is the shortest in the industry for special-order optics and results from streamlining all the production stages involved, but in particular the company has been able to shorten tooling lead times significantly. Among its other new offerings at the show, Spindler and Hoyer also introduced a revised catalog of optical and optomechanical components.

Also making news at the trade fair was Rofin Sinar (Plymouth, MI), which announced its intention to purchase 80% of Mainz-based high-power diode-laser-component producer, Dilas. The company was founded in 1994 and makes diode-laser arrays with multiple-kilowatt output power for material processing applications--the company claims to have produced the first such commercial multikilowatt systems. Dilas also supplies diode lasers for other applications, including medicine, inspection and measurement, and research.

In the fiscal year ending March 31, 1997, Dilas reported annual sales of DM 3.34 million (about $2 million). During the next 12 months, the company, which employs 11 people, expects to increase sales to about $3.8 million. Dilas will continue to operate as an independent company under the direction of its two founders, Marcel Marchiano and Bernhard DeOdorico.

Rofin Sinar`s decision to make this acquisition reflects the intense interest throughout the industry in applying high-power diode lasers to material processing. It plans to combine Dilas diode-laser production expertise with its ongoing semiconductor laser research program being conducted in conjunction with the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (Aachen). Rofin Sinar hopes the combination will speed u¥introduction of new diode-laser-based systems for material processing applications.

The prospect of two other major industrial shows in Germany this year, in Hannover and Essen, led several firms to rethink their presence at Laser 97. For this reason, according to David Belforte, editor of Industrial Laser Review, some firms decided not to invest their resources in Laser 97. Thus, Lumonics (Rugby, England) decided not to participate at Munich, and Electrox (Hitchin, England) was present only through its German distributor, Polytec. And although Rofin Sinar was at the show, the company did not have any fully operating industrial systems on its booth.

The next Laser meeting will be held at the newly built Munich Trade Fair Centre in Riem, just outside of Munich, June 14-18, 1999.

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