Manufacturing in the USA is not dead. It is though highly speciﬁc to demands of customization. While thousands of manufacturing tasks have gone to Asia, there is still a niche market for customization of products and processes. Nanosecond lasers are still a useful tool for those developing technologies and materials that are outside the realm of high volume manufacturing.
In the past 25 years nearly all the silicon has left Silicon Valley. A combination of taxation on capital, unreliable power, and local politics added to the drivers of high labor and living costs to push away wafer fabrication. Marking semiconductor chips and packages went from being 90% of a job shop’s tasks to less than 5% currently. And yet there are still hundreds of local shops that require the application of photons for their products to succeed.
The major use for scan head guilder lasers is still general purpose marking. The materials being marked are far more diverse than even 10 years ago and vary from custom aluminum anodizations, steels, titanium, and exotic ceramics. Additionally, products now commonly marked are typically smaller and more specialized then routine machine tool part identiﬁcation. For example the marking of a ceramic knuckle joint requires care not to destroy the integrity of the ceramic surface while still providing high visual contrast . Such marking is performed using MOPA ﬁber lasers where both pulse width, and kHz can be adjusted independently of either the average power or the individual pulse energy. Thus a mark is basically tuned to match the need of the material being processed.