On 5 October, Oxford Lasers celebrated 45 years in business with a party at their Didcot, UK headquarters.
Around 70 past and present employees of the company met to share memories of the growth of the company, enjoy afternoon tea together, and wish Andrew Kearsley well on his retirement.
Alan Ferguson hosted the event (Martyn Knowles the CEO, still testing positive for COVID, watched on over Teams from home) and welcomed the visitors. Alan introduced Colin Webb, who led a laser research team at Oxford University in the 1970s and founded the company with a small team including Andrew Kearsley who was a PhD student under him. Andrew invented the “automatic pre-ionisation” technique used in rare gas halide lasers, while still at Oxford University. This invention enabled the early laser technology to be exploited, initially in research labs. Colin shared anecdotes on the first decade of the company and Andrew described the period of re-focus in the company in the 1990s when they introduced micromachining as a new pillar of the business.
One of the key insights was the history of the development of the trepanning head which was able to drill perfectly circular holes (a huge improvement on the XY motion system in use at the time) by the novel method of rotating a wedge optic. Andrew worked on this innovative concept and the first prototype was assembled using cardboard tube, the bearing from a trolley and his fingers to rotate the wedge slowly and verify the results.
After the speeches, Andrew cut the celebration cake (design inspired by a 1970s excimer laser) and was presented with a plaque to commemorate the occasion which included a piece of copper from the last ever Copper Vapour laser built by Oxford Lasers.
The event ended with a gift for attendees and the option to tour the factory, where a visit to the latest inspection and micromachining labs gave an insight into some of the applications in micromachining and laser imaging of droplets.
Oxford Lasers were one of the founding members of AILU and Colin Webb received the prestigious AILU Award in 2003 and Andrew Kearsley received it in 2017.
Image: Andrew Kersley cuts the celebration cake in the shape of a 1970s excimer laser.
Contact: Martyn Knowles