The industrial laser industry is getting very exciting these days. Almost from the start of the laser industry, CO2 lasers ruled the roost at high powers, but with flashlamp-pumped solid state lasers filling up the lower end of the average power market and taking up some specialized market niches.
Many companies are now offering training, either as part of a customer service commitment, or as an adjunct to the products and services they sell. Breault, for example, offers courses specifically for its ASAP optical analysis softwareMary Turner, director of training, says: ‘We offer a one-week introductory course with every purchase of the ASAP software, by way of a voucher included in the pack. The course provides engineers – who require some level of expertise in the first place – with all the knowledge they need to use the software for optical analysis.
Invented in a laboratory, lasers have found some of their most innovative applications in research. That continues today. In physics, chemistry, medicine, climate science, agriculture and astronomy, lasers are constantly finding new applications at the very forefront of research.
A research group from the University of Plymouth has used 25W CO2 lasers to engrave tiny serial numbers into the shells of live beetles. The research group, in conjunction with the Game Conservancy Trust and Rothamsted Research, used the technique to release and recapture potentially beneficial, predatory beetles in order to investigate their behaviour.
Consider laser eye surgery. What are the most important features of this delicate and precise procedure? A red diode laser beam maps out the contours of the eyeball. A detector sends the information to a computer, which will then precisely control a cool, ultraviolet beam of light from an excimer laser. But the layman may be forgiven for forgetting possibly the most essential components of all – the optics.
In the world of photonics as it is today, it is difficult to imagine a time when the landscape was almost barren of suppliers and, in particular, distributors. For an industry which, even now, is yet to celebrate its golden anniversary, the 1970s represented the tough teenage years as it struggled with its identity and attempted to find a foothold in the world.