It was very much an honour, and to be truthful, a great surprise, to be nominated as the AILU Vice-President last year and subsequently being appointed the AILU President for this year. I was at the time, and remain, extremely proud, as I rate AILU as one of the top-ranking associations of its type anywhere in the world. And by "of its type" I mean a true membership organisation, run by its members, for the benefit of its members, actively supporting its membership and providing real value to all of its members. The fact that it operates in the exciting and vibrant area of industrial lasers, is a real bonus. I find it amazing, still, that whenever I mention the word "laser", people are interested, they want to know what a laser is and what it does. We all know that the laser is a tremendous industrial tool – a workhorse; one which, nowadays, is extremely reliable and versatile. However, "laser" remains a very sexy word as far as the general public is concerned.
The coming year will see two initiatives which will assist AILU to become even more successful in representing the industrial laser user in the UK. The first of these is something which may not seem, at first glance, to be that earth-shattering – a new web site. However, this will concentrate on the theme of Design for Laser Manufacture and will enable members to access a wider variety of useful data on designing products specifically for laser manufacture. This will not only be valuable to existing laser users, but also to designers who, if they understand about laser manufacturing, will be able to produce improved designs. This will open up a bottleneck between the designers and laser component manufacturers which should see smarter designs being developed and therefore more use being made of laser processing.
The second is the imminent announcement of the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) in Photonics. The launch of the DTI's UK Photonics Strategy is (or was, depending on when you are reading this!) on the 13th July and, it is hoped, the Photonics KTN will be awarded before then. AILU is a full member of the Photonics KTN, in charge of the "Power Photonics" theme, and this involvement will enable AILU to expand and extend its activities in Knowledge Transfer - which is an ever important part of Government strategy. Our involvement in this KTN will be an opportunity for AILU to spread the word even more widely that industrial lasers are an essential tool in ensuring that manufacture survives and flourishes in the UK.
One last thought. One of my colleagues I worked with at Ferranti, started his career working on steam engines and eventually retired from Ferranti after working with lasers for the previous 10 years. There has been an amazing transformation in the industrial manufacturing environment in the last 50 years, who would have imagined then that you could actually cut thick steel using a beam of light? Or that in a city or large town, you are never more than a couple of miles from a laser system? And even in the depths of the countryside, often a laser system is not too far away. I am privileged to have worked with lasers for most of my working life and I look forward to the future with anticipation – it's never dull in the laser business!