Mariana Forrest perhaps knows ALAW® better than anyone. The president of laser consulting firm LASAP Inc., based in Troy Mich., has attended all 20 conferences. She was there back when it was called the Automotive Laser Applications Workshop, and in recent years, after the event was broadened and renamed (though conveniently keeping the same acronym) the Advanced Laser Applications Workshop.
During a brief presentation at this year’s event--organized by the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association Intl.® and held in Livonia, Mich., May 2-3--Forrest recalled all the years presenters from around the world, including Japan and Germany, came to Michigan to show advanced laser applications in automotive.
For many of those years North American automotive engineers were wary of the laser’s suitability for automotive applications, especially for body-in-white. Body panels had yet to be designed for laser processing. Unlike resistance spot welding, the laser needed to access a workpiece from just one side. But it also required precise fit-up. Then there were those ugly marks on coated material left by that pesky zinc outgassing.
What a difference two decades makes.