AILU Handover - Q&A with Ric Allott, Neil Main, Mike Green, and Dave Maclellan

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It’s all change at the Association of Laser Users (AILU) following the election of Ric Allott as president, Lin Li as vice president, and Dave MacLellan as executive secretary. The handover means that Allott steps up from his role as vice president and Neil Main and Mike Green are stepping down as president and executive secretary. Laser Systems Europe spoke to Allott, MacLellan, Main, and Green about the AILU and the UK laser industry following the appointments

All change at AILU - Mike Green, Neil Main, and Ric Allott

From left: Mike Green, Neil Main, and Ric Allott

How did you become involved with AILU?

MG: ‘I was one of the founders of AILU and the initial drive from my point of view was for AILU to be a “node” within a European-wide laser materials processing network, through which information would be disseminated. This in turn was stimulated by the success of a Eureka programme EU643 Safety in the Industrial Use of Lasers, which ran from 1992-1996 and involved more than 100 organisations from around Europe working together, 20 of whom were in the UK.

DM: ‘I joined the laser industry in 1990 and had already met Mike Green at a Safety talk at Culham in about 1992. When AILU started, I was working at JK Lasers and would attend workshops and submit case study material about laser applications to share know-how.’ 

RA: ‘I first started attending AILU events in 2001 when I joined Exitech. In 2013 I was asked to join the committee and was put forward for election as vice-president. In 2015 I was elected president.’

NM: ‘I’ve been involved with lasers since I joined Micrometric in 1982 when we took delivery of our first laser, a 450W CO2. I went to AILU meetings quite early on but didn’t join the committee until around 2004. I became vice president in 2011 and president in 2013.’

How has the laser user industry changed since you have been involved?

NM: ‘Way back everything was an experiment. Lasers weren’t stable, machines were modified milling machines ill-suited to fast profiling, gases impure and sheet materials inconsistent. Large sheet metal cutting is now reliable, automated, long lasting and almost fool proof. That evolution to better, more useable products will continue.’

MG: ‘I believe that the two most important trends in laser materials processing scene since 1995 have been the amazing growth of solid state lasers – principally by the arrival of high brightness fibre lasers and high average power ultrashort pulse lasers – and applications that build on these laser source developments; this includes additive manufacturing, micro processing, and laser surface modification.’

RA: ‘The biggest change has been the proliferation of fibre lasers and diode pumped laser systems. These devices have revolutionised the laser processing industry by bringing unique and exciting parameters coupled with robust and stable performance. There are an increasing number of applications that can be addressed by lasers, although the majority of end users are abroad so UK companies receive the majority of their business through exports.’

DM: ‘Three distinct trends have emerged since I joined the laser industry – beam quality has improved, efficiency has increased dramatically and cost per watt has reduced – all due to improvements in direct diode and fibre lasers.

All change at AILU - Mike Green and Dave MacLellan

Mike Green (left) and Dave MacLellan (right)

What can we expect from AILU under its new guidance?

RA: ‘We have a plan to increase the membership across all sectors in AILU and with a particular focus on end users. There will be greater collaboration with Europe and the rest of the world. We will continue to deliver on our mission to inform, educate, connect and support our members and the wider laser communities.’

DM: ‘We are also looking to network more effectively via social media and engage with members more to deliver more benefits to members and include more non-UK members. The starting point will be a survey to gain feedback from our members.’

NM: ‘My hope is that AILU attracts and involves more end users of lasers as well as job shops and laser manufacturers.’  

MG: ‘I am sure that Dave MacLellan, in his role as executive secretary, will put his many years of working in the UK laser industry and his marketing skills to good effect. Backed by a new committee with a strong academic and industrial makeup and support from the KTN, I expect to see a healthy growth in AILU membership and with it a significant growth of laser use in manufacturing industry.’

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