Every year the Association of Laser Users (AILU) presents an award to recognise ‘an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the industrial use of lasers in the UK’. The winner of the 2009 Award is Brooke Ward of Europtics Partnership in Goring, in recognition of his pioneering work on measurement standards and optics for laser beam propagation and his outstanding contribution to the industrial use of CO2 lasers in the UK.
Pioneering the industrial use of lasers
Brooke helped found one of the first laser application’s groups in the UK and one of the first industrial laser user’s clubs, in 1968 at Culham Laboratory in Abingdon. A passionate believer in industrial laser applications, Brooke contributed to the field in several ways. Highlights included: the successful design and manufacture of a laser garment cutter for made-to-measure suits in 1973, cutting the cloth at 1 m/sec; a high speed cut-and-weld system that produced ~4,000 high density polyeurathane bags/hour; and a paper printing system to produce eight logos across a web travelling at 40 mph. In 1975 he established: a diamond machining system for manufacturing copper mirrors for CO2 lasers, including spherical and high speed polygonal scanning mirrors; pioneered work on gas flow from CO2 laser cutting nozzles, establishing the major influence of supersonic Prandtle waves on laser cutting performance.
Especially during the 1980s Brooke was one of the UKs most active enthusiasts of industrial laser materials processing, travelling around the UK spreading the word on the CO2 laser’s capability for cutting, welding and cladding. He was an early champion of laser welded steel sandwich panels for everything from light-weight heat-exchangers to blast panels and ship-building.
Leading work in laser beam characterisation
Since 1976 Brooke has been a leading figure in the development of laser beam measuring systems and, in working within the British Standards Institute and the International Standards Organisation, produced a standard (BS/EN 11146) for the measurement of beam diameter and propagation parameters. Through collaboration with the National Physical Laboratory he extended this work to cover complex and poor quality beams and helped Oxford Framestore Applications to devise and test second-moment beam diameter measurements with CCD cameras.
Brooke is presently acting as a Project Monitor for the Technology Strategy Board. One programme involved the development of a fibre system to determine the temperature and strain in a fibre that can monitor and locate the potential threat to oil and gas pipelines and electricity grid cable over a range of 200 km with a single instrument. The latest project is a motor industry investigation at Warwick University into high-power fibre lasers for robotic ‘body-in-white’ welding.
The presentation of the AILU Award will be made during the Association’s first Industrial Laser Applications Symposium, which will take place at TWI Cambridge on 7 & 8 July.