Auto industry sparks laser industry growth

It`s been said often enough that the laser is "a tool in search of an application," but that is clearly no longer the case. Today, the broad area of laser-based material processing--which we predict will grow to be almost 60% of the market in 1997 (see Laser Focus World, Jan. 1997, p. 72)--encompasses many applications. Of these, the automotive manufacturing industry continues to develo¥new processes that depend on laser radiation. High-power lasers are the cornerstone of a new process--tail

Auto industry sparks laser industry growth

Heather W. Messenger

Executive Editor

It`s been said often enough that the laser is "a tool in search of an application," but that is clearly no longer the case. Today, the broad area of laser-based material processing--which we predict will grow to be almost 60% of the market in 1997 (see Laser Focus World, Jan. 1997, p. 72)--encompasses many applications. Of these, the automotive manufacturing industry continues to develo¥new processes that depend on laser radiation. High-power lasers are the cornerstone of a new process--tailored blank welding--in which different types or thicknesses of steel are welded together so that the sum--a lighter, stronger piece--is greater than its parts (see cover and p. 15). Either high-power carbon dioxide or Nd:YAG lasers can be used to make the welds, and the technique promises to allow manufacturers to improve efficiency of new-model cars and trucks.

Other material-processing areas in which lasers perform light-based magical tasks include marking and engraving and microelectronics and flat-panel-display manufacturing. Laser marking is now possible on many more substrates and can be done at speeds that make it attractive for boosting productivity in applications that previously used more-traditional ink-based marking (see p. 105). The application of ultraviolet-emitting lasers to circuit-trimming and memory repair in the microelectronics industry is also an expanding area, as is the use of UV-emitting excimer lasers to anneal silicon in flat-panel displays. Excimer lasers are also the foundation for present-day and next-generation steppers for photolithography (see p. 89). These laser systems are dependent on stable and effective sources of "spark" radiation--ably described in this month`s Product Focus on laser power supplies (see p. 139).

Worldwide applications coverage

Other topics featured this month are scanning spectrometers for laboratory use (see p. 81), acousto-optic tunable-filter-based near-infrared spectrom eters for industry (see p. 119), optoelectronics integrated circuits (p. 99), diffractive optics (p. 113), and image sensors (p. 125). This month, the Laser 97 trade fair in Munich, Germany, will feature both products for and discussions of many of these lasers and applications (see p. 15). I`m certain that our coverage will spark discussions that will further contribute to the expansion of applications for lasers and electro-optics.

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD

Thomas Baer, Arcturus Engineering; Dirk Basting, Lambda Physik; Dan Botez, University of Wisconsin-Madison;

Phili¥Brierley, Pike Technologies; Jean Bulabois, Institute Polytechnique de Sevenans, France; H. John Caulfield, Alabama A&M in Normal; Thomas Giallorenzi, Naval Research Laboratory; David C. Hanna, Southampton University, England; Lewis M. Holmes, American Institute of Physics; Bruce S. Hudson, Syracuse University; Ralph R. Jacobs, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Anthony Johnson, New Jersey Institute of Technology; Chinlon Lin, Bellcore; Jan Melles, Photonics Investments, Duiven, the Netherlands; Gerard A. Mourou, University of Michigan; Masahiro Joe Nagasawa, TEM Co. Ltd., Tokyo, Japan; Dili¥K. Paul, Comsat Laboratories; Harvey Pollicove, University of Rochester; Leonard E. Ravich, Boxford, MA; Ralph A. Rotolante, Vicon Infrared; M. Ya. Schelev, General Physics Institute, Moscow, Russia; Robert R. Shannon, University of Arizona; James J. Snyder, Blue Sky Research; Toby Strite, IBM Zurich Research Laboratory, Switzerland; Orazio Svelto, Polytechnic Institute of Milan, Italy; Dinsheng Wang, Academia Sinica, Beijing, China; Colin E. Webb, Oxford University, England; Ahmed Zewail, California Institute of Technology; Joseph van Zwaren, Ministry of Science & Technology, Israel.

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