ICALEO 2013: The Premier Conference for Industry-Leading Laser Research

By Geoff Giordano


With a new general chairman and the first female recipient of the Arthur L. Schawlow award, the 32nd International Congress on Applications of Lasers & Electro-Optics (ICALEO®) Oct. 6-10 in Miami, FL promises to yet again raise the bar on the laser industry’s premier research conference.

Stefan Kaierle, who for the past two years has served as chair of the Laser Materials Processing Conference, takes the helm of the Laser Institute of America’s signature event this year.

“My main concern was, as always, to put together a strong program of high interest for many participants,” said Kaierle, head of the materials and processes department for Laser Zentrum Hannover. “We needed to have presentations and papers on the latest results and emerging applications. A good mixture from macro via micro to nano is important for ICALEO as we want to cover the whole range of laser manufacturing applications.”

Planning for ICALEO 2013 began not long after the curtain fell on the 2012 conference in Anaheim, CA.

“We started right after the last ICALEO with the first meeting of the new conference board and met again during Photonics West,” Kaierle explained. “These two meetings were primarily dedicated to the overall approach, to discuss what was good and where we wanted to set a new focus.”

Of course, planning has involved “tons of emails” and even discussions via Skype. “I always found slots in my daily schedule to deal with the ICALEO issues. As I was in the fortunate position this year to select the people in the committees, I was sure to have colleagues around who are highly active and creative. We had lots of fruitful discussions about the program but always easily came to a good conclusion. It had never been easy to put together a good program, but from the experience of the former years I knew how important it is to have a dynamic committee — which we definitely have, and they all did an excellent job!”

Powerful Plenaries

ICALEO 2013 features another slate of information-packed opening and closing plenary sessions showcasing speakers with a wealth of expertise.

On Oct. 7, the first plenary talks focus on Photonic Applications in All Dimensions and get under way at 9 am. Ramesh Raskar of the MIT Media Lab will address Femto-Photography: Trillion Frames per Second Imaging to See Around Corners, while Boris Chichkov of Laser Zentrum Hannover will speak to Laser-Based Nanotechnologies for Photonics and Biomedicine and Huaming Wang of the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics details Laser Additive Manufacturing for High Performance Large and Complex Metallic Structural Components: Challenges and Progresses.

Opening Plenary Session
Opening Plenary Session

“All our three (opening) plenary speakers have a high reputation in their domains,” Kaierle noted. “The diversity of the talks owes to the fact that we want to address issues of interest for all attendees. While we are listening to different areas, we may have the opportunity to learn new things we even didn’t think about and could be possible to transfer into our own research and development work. It is always fruitful to hear about different domains in the laser field — for example, about short-pulsed lasers, which are still rather hard to find in industrial applications but might become a tool for large-scale applications in the near future.”

ICALEO 2013 will conclude on Oct. 10 with a six-speaker plenary session, the theme of which is Digital Photonic Production Across All Scales. Beginning at 1:30 pm, the slate of invited experts will update attendees on topics like laser nano component buildup, additive manufacturing in micro scale, and AM in aerospace and other applications.

“Laser-based additive manufacturing represents one of the biggest potentials of all laser applications,” Kaierle asserted. “We can see that, for example, in the repair of turbine blades for aero engines or in the repair and manufacture of individual (metallic) parts in many industries, like dentistry or automotive. The progress of these applications is amazing. That makes me proud and happy to be part of this community.”

More Than 300 Talks

Between the opening and closing plenary sessions are the traditional Laser Materials Processing, Laser Microprocessing and Nanomanufacturing Conferences. Silke Pflueger of DirectPhotonics takes a new role, switching from leading the Laser Solutions Short Courses to overseeing the materials processing sessions. Kerstin Kowalick of Ruhr University Bochum takes over the short courses. Henrikki Pantsar of Cencorp retains leadership of the microprocessing track, while Yongfeng Lu of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Xianfan Xu of Purdue once again spearhead the nanomanufacturing program.

Pantsar will be attending his 13th consecutive ICALEO. He has chaired microprocessing sessions since 2007 and is in his third year heading up the full microfabrication program.

“I am looking forward to the micro and nano joint plenary session with two invited presentations on additive manufacturing,” Pantsar said. “Novel optics and laser sources always give a good indication on what are the hot topics in future equipment development and surface engineering has been a popular topic for many years.”

That joint session is slated for Oct. 7 at 1:30 pm and features presentations by Konrad Wisenbach of Fraunhofer ILT (Micro Scale Laser Based Additive Manufacturing for Metals) and Philippe Delaporte of Aix-Marseille Universite (Laser Printing for Micro and Nanomanufacturing).

Keeping laser professionals in touch with key industry developments is job No. 1 for ICALEO.

“The laser industry is moving fast,” Pantsar said. “A lot of innovation is happening in areas such as health care and in micromachining in general. The energy sector has been slower since 2009, but I am expecting a new boom in the field, especially as solar companies seem to begin a new round of investment. Laser micromachining has been and will be a fast-moving area due to its nature as a set of enabling technologies instead of only technologies that are replacing previous manufacturing methods.”

Big Day for Short Courses

In chairing the short courses session for the first time, Kowalick had a tall order. Her “main motivation was to cover a broad spectrum of today’s laser topics from more traditional applications such as macro welding, which has not lost any of its relevance, to leading-edge technologies,” she said. “The selection of topics was driven by the idea to provide insight not only into laser and process technology but also system technology — in particular motion systems and laser beam shaping.”

For newcomers, “the talks will provide a good overview of the possibilities available and give enough information to understand and judge the different aspects that influence a laser process,” she explained. “For the more experienced, state-of-the-art technology in different focus topics will be presented.”

The short courses, held all day Sunday before the welcome celebration, last about 50 minutes each.

When she’s not chairing sessions or presenting, Kowalick will join other attendees in gleaning as much information as she can in areas outside her scope of research.

“Laser micro applications are my main interest, in particular laser micro welding,” she noted. “However, ICALEO offers the opportunity to get a glance into many different aspects of laser application processes and technology. It gives me the chance to see what else is out there and in which direction we, as the laser applications community, are heading.”

Business Tips from Experts

This year’s Business Forum and Panel Discussion, to be chaired on Tuesday by LIA President Klaus Löffler of TRUMPF, will instruct attendees on How to Turn Your Laser Idea into a Sustainable Business. He has chosen five businesses — Begneaud Manufacturing, Joining Tech, Innovative Laser Technology, AdValue Photonics and BOS Photonics — to share real-world challenges and successes. The panel’s experience runs from running a laser-based sheet metal job shop to application R&D, systems for manufacturing medical devices, developing lasers and components like 2 µm laser resonators, and business dealings in China.

“The main application with lasers is in 2D flat sheet cutting,” Loeffler Löffler said. “This market is close to being saturated. The fabrication companies need to move into 3D laser work like tube or formed parts and need to move into laser welding of sheet metal structures. Dollar-wise, this will be one of the largest and steady growth areas for lasers. Due to our life expectancy increasing, the global need for medical implants and others will grow — and with it laser demand. The real new kid on the block, ultrashort pulse lasers in different wavelengths, will mean the biggest change to engineering, products and our lives.”

Löffler also leads LIA’s Laser Running Club, which started four years ago. This year’s morning “Run with the President” is an official part of the program, “and all of us are very happy,” he enthused. “During the runs we talk about what is new in lasers” as well as more general topics. “We are all friends after one run and start working together to get lasers to the next level.”

A Schawlow First

Prof. Dr. Ursula Keller, this year’s recipient of the Arthur L. Schawlow Award, is the first woman to win the honor. Keller, a pioneer in ultrafast laser research, will be presented with the award during Wednesday’s awards luncheon.

“My fundamental mission is to explore and push the frontiers in ultrafast science and technology, using interdisciplinary understanding of the physics of lasers, semiconductors and measurement technologies,” Keller said of her work. “One of my current focuses is on high average power ultrafast lasers, where we push the performance frontier with SESAM mode-locked thin-disk lasers into the multi-100 W average output power regime.”

Löffler remembers hearing her speak about 10 years ago. “Listening to her talk, presented in such an energetic way, will always be in my memory. (She) has seen already, in a very early stage, the potential of disk laser-based resonators for ultrashort pulse lasers.”

Keller has also blazed a trail for female laser researchers. “Laser science and technology is traditionally a very male-dominated field, probably because it comes from electrical engineering and physics,” she explains. “I hope we can attract more women into these areas in the near future because we cannot afford to keep losing half of our young talent pool. I always loved lasers, and I very much have enjoyed building and improving them.”

Kowalick has noticed a change in industry attitudes: “Speaking for Germany, there clearly is a positive trend in research. Many programs in lasers and photonics are increasingly addressing women and actively seek to attract women to pursue related studies. There is also a positive tendency in the number of PhD students and in their representation at conferences. This year’s ICALEO is a very good example. It is striking that an increasing number of women have taken a prominent role, for example as session chairs.”

Laser Industry Vendor Reception
Laser Industry Vendor Reception

ICALEO Leads the Field

For the 32nd year, LIA’s industry-leading conference will bring together top minds from many areas of laser research, bridging the gap between traditional and cutting-edge practices.

That’s certainly clear in Pflueger’s Materials Processing Conference, during which about 40 percent of the presentations will focus on welding, 40 percent on additive manufacturing and 20 percent on other realms. In keeping with the idea of starting with a flourish, she’s put together an LMP plenary session on Monday at 1:30 pm “instead of the afternoon breaking up into four or five different tracks” from the get-go. The four talks in that time slot will range from Advanced Welding Techniques with Optimized Accessories for High Brightness 1 μm Lasers to Vertical-Down Hybrid Welding in Ship Building – The Next Innovation Step.

Taking on this new role has reiterated to Pflueger the eye-opening experience of ICALEO. “I saw that there were really exciting things going on in welding. There are many new things on diagnostics and welding and understanding how the weld works.” She’s mostly looking forward to Raskar’s opening presentation as a perfect example of how ICALEO can get attendees “looking outside our own material processing world.”

That said, ICALEO “continues to be the biggest and most important laser material processing conference,” she asserted. “It’s all because the speakers are motivated, and they can meet great people there and have good discussion.”

For more information or to register to attend, visit www.icaleo.org.