Laser Micromachining Manufacturing Unveiled

As you add electronic sensing and control and networking to machinery, you can take a process to the next level. I’ve been impressed with the growing development of tighter tolerances and then better variety of materials for 3D printing (additive manufacturing). Here is an example of expanding the use of automated “subtractive” manufacturing—micro machining.

6-D Laser LLC was formed in 2018 as an affiliate of leading nanometer-level motion control specialist ALIO Industries, with the mission of integrating ultrafast laser processing with precision multi-axis motion systems. 6-D Laser offers Hybrid Hexapod-based laser micromachining systems for wide-range taper angle control, 5-Axis Laser Gimbal-based systems for laser processing 3D substrates, and unlimited field of view scanning solutions for laser processing large-format substrates.

Coming out of stealth mode and coinciding with its official launch in 2020, 6-D Laser has launched its website (, and has also announced that the company will be showcasing its radical new approach to laser micro processing at the SPIE Photonics West event, booth 2149, 4-6 February in San Francisco, CA.

6D Laser’s central mission addresses limitations of existing laser processing systems which are largely due to sub-optimal positioning systems used by most system integrators. 6-D Laser tackles this problem by integrating ultra-fast laser material processing with the 6-D nanometer-level precision motion control solutions in which ALIO Industries specializes.

At the heart of 6-D Laser’s integrated ultrafast laser micromachining system is ALIO Industries’ Hybrid Hexapod, which takes a different approach to traditional 6 Degree of Freedom (6-DOF) positioning devices, and exhibits much higher performance at extremely competitive prices. Rather than 6 independent legs (and 12 connection joints) ALIO’s approach combines a precision XY monolithic stage, tripod, and continuous rotation theta-Z axis to provide superior overall performance.

The combination of serial and parallel kinematics at the heart of ALIO’s 6-D Nano Precision® is characterized by orders-of-magnitude improvements (when compared to traditional hexapods) in precision, path performance, speed, and stiffness. The Hybrid Hexapod® also has a larger work envelope than traditional hexapods with virtually unlimited XY travel and fully programmable tool center point locations. The Hybrid Hexapod® has less than 100 nm Point Precision® repeatability, in 3-dimensional space.

​6D Laser vertically integrates all of the sub-systems required for precision laser micro-processing, and it does this by forming strategic partnerships with key component and subsystem suppliers that are required to achieve the goals of demanding precision applications. In addition to its association with ALIO, 6-D Laser has also partnered with SCANLAB GmbH, which together with ACS Motion Control, has developed an unlimited field-of-view (UFOV) scanning solution for coordinate motion control of the galvo scanner and positioning stages called XLSCAN. 6-D Laser has also partnered with NextScanTechnology to provide high-throughput scanning systems that take advantage of the high rep-rates in currently available in ultrafast lasers, and Amplitude Laser, a key supplier of ultrafast laser systems for industrial applications.

Dr. Stephen R. Uhlhorn, CTO at 6-D Laser says, “Introducing an integrated ultrafast laser micromachining system that combines the positioning capabilities of the Hybrid Hexapod®, with high-speed optical scanning leads to a system that can process hard, transparent materials with wide-range taper angle control for the creation of high aspect ratio features in thick substrates, without limitations on the feature or field size.”

Ultrafast laser ablative processes, which remove material in a layer-by-layer process, result in machined features that have a significant side wall taper. For example, a desired cylindrical hole will have a conical profile. Taper formation is difficult to avoid in laser micromachining processes that are creating deep features (> 100 microns). Precision scanheads can create features with near-zero angle side walls, but they are limited to small angles of incidence (AOI) and small field sizes by the optics in the beamline.

Uhlhorn continues, “6-D Laser’s micromachining system controls the AOI and resulting wall taper angle through the Hybrid Hexapod® motion system, and the programmable tool center point allows for the control of the AOI over the entire galvo scan field, enabling the processing of large features.”

About 6-D Laser LLC
6D Laser, LLC, an affiliate of ALIO Industries, Inc, was founded in 2018 by C. William Hennessey and Dr. Stephen R. Uhlhorn. ALIO Industries is an industry-leading motion system supplier, specializing in nano-precision multi-axis solutions. 6D Laser was formed with the mission of integrating ultrafast laser processing with precision multi-axis motion systems, including ALIO’s Patented Hybrid Hexapod. The integration of ALIO True Nano motion systems with key sub-system suppliers, through strategic partnerships with Amplitude Laser, SCANLAB, and ACS Motion Control, enables a new level of precision and capability for advanced manufacturing. ​​​​​

Automation Industry Innovation  and Meeting News

Automation Industry Innovation and Meeting News

The Automation Industry (if you wish to call it an industry) has some interesting news of innovation. The ARC Advisory Group Industry Forum is coming up in a couple of weeks. I will be there. If you’re coming, let me know. Maybe we can chat over a coffee or something.

Automation Competition

Meanwhile, the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) has announced a call for startup companies in robotics, machine vision and motion control to enter the Automate Launch Pad Competition. The competition is a chance for the industry’s most innovative young companies to vie for the spotlight at the Automate 2017 Exhibition and Conference—the industry’s largest gathering in North America, taking place in Chicago, Illinois April 3-6, 2017—as well as a $10,000 cash award. The Automate Launch Pad Startup Competition seeks out startup companies looking to generate awareness of their technology and find new sources of funding.

“Investment in the automation and robotics market is rising sharply, with a record 128 companies receiving funding of $1.95 billion in 2016—which is a 50% increase over the previous record-breaking year,” noted Jeff Burnstein, president of A3. “The Automate Launch Pad Competition is a great opportunity for innovative young companies to gain some extra funding and garner the attention of key players in the automation industry.”

Call for submissions and application form for the Launch Pad Competition are now open. Eligible companies include those in the automation space (robotics, vision, motion control, etc.) who were founded in the last five years; raised less than US $2 million since creation; and are not affiliated with a larger group. Eight semi-finalist companies will be invited to participate in the competition at Automate on April 3, where they will have three minutes to pitch their technology to a panel of investors and automation experts. All semi-finalists will also be provided booth space on the Automate show floor, putting them in front of an expected audience of over 20,000 automation professionals, investors, scientists and journalists. The Automate Launch Pad Competition is sponsored by GE and the event is co-produced with Silicon Valley Robotics.

Systems Integrators To Meet

In other news, The Control Systems Integrators Association (CSIA) has announced its spring meeting information.

It is expecting more than 500 control system integrators and industry suppliers from around the globe in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, May 2 – 5 for the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) 2017 Executive Conference. Themed From best practices to transformative business models, the conference will include over a dozen educational sessions, including several presented as part of two separate tracks.

  • Track 1: Small Company SIs and Best Practices
    CSIA’s Best Practices have helped hundreds of system integrators grow from younger, smaller companies into the well-established ones they are today. Attendees will learn how they, too, can use CSIA Best Practices for growth.
  • Track 2: Transformative Business Models
    Technology is creating a very exciting future filled with opportunity for SIs — opportunities that will require a shift away from traditional SI business models. Through a series of presentations, panel discussions and an unconference, SIs will gain an understanding of how to take advantage of these emerging models.

Economist Alan Beaulieu, president of ITR Economics, will open the conference with his latest economic outlook for manufacturing, providing a solid outlook for attendees to use to guide their companies’ into the future.

In addition to the educational sessions included during the conference, CSIA will offer a two-day intensive training workshop on Best Practices implementation on Monday, May 1 and Tuesday, May 2, just prior to the conference.

Those attending the conference will have opportunities for networking, including the annual industry expo, awards banquet and a closing reception. The CSIA Fun Run/Walk will be held again this year, along with other special events and tours.

See complete details and register at the CSIA 2017 Executive Conference website.

Awards For Creative Application of HMI and SCADA Software

Awards For Creative Application of HMI and SCADA Software

Inductive Automation recently named the six recipients of its Ignition Firebrand Awards for 2016. The announcements were made at the Ignition Community Conference (ICC), held September 19-21 in Folsom, Calif.

The Ignition Firebrand Awards recognize system integrators and industrial organizations that use the Ignition software platform to create innovative new projects. Ignition by Inductive Automation is an industrial applications platform with fully integrated tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Ignition is used in more than 100 countries. Its popularity has helped Inductive Automation increase its revenues at an average annual rate of more than 40 percent over the past six years.

The Ignition Firebrand Awards are presented every year at ICC. The award-winning projects are part of the ICC Discover Gallery, which featured the best 18 Ignition projects submitted by integrators and industrial organizations. Inductive Automation received a record number of entries this year, and saw more innovation than ever before.

“We were extremely impressed with the quality and variety of Discover Gallery entries this year,” said Don Pearson, chief strategy officer for Inductive Automation. “It made it very difficult to select the top six. But we were very pleased to see that this year’s Firebrand Award winners represent a deeper level of understanding of the power of Ignition than we’ve ever seen before.”

“When you install the Ignition platform, it does nothing on its own,” said Travis Cox, co-director of sales engineering for Inductive Automation. “It’s inspiring to see what people can do as they innovate and build these creative and unique applications with Ignition.”

These six award winners demonstrated the versatility and power of Ignition:

  • Bixby International (Newburyport, Mass.) had one of its managers learn and implement Ignition on his own, creating numerous screens for three plastics extrusion lines, showing real-time data on a number of clients.
  • HTC High Tech Consultant (Vicenza, Italy) used Ignition to eliminate paper and improve production efficiencies for a large producer of leather products. The solution included the ability to expand Ignition to more than 100 tablets.
  • Kymera Systems (Leduc, Alberta, Canada) used Ignition to provide an oil company with a highly cost-effective, new SCADA system that worked with numerous types of legacy field devices.
  • MartinCSI (Plain City, Ohio) used Ignition in a highly creative way to make a realistic training simulation of a water purification system used by the United States Army.
  • Tyrion Integration Services (Bakersfield, Calif.) used Ignition and message queuing telemetry transport (MQTT) to provide real-time data for testing of oil wells. The project included a cloud-based solution and expanded mobile capabilities.
  • Vertech (Phoenix, Ariz.; Irvine, Calif.; Nashville, Tenn.) created a White Box with Ignition that can connect to a brewery’s bottling or canning line, unobtrusively, in just one day. The White Box instantly delivers valuable data that brewers were not able to see previously.


Awards For Creative Application of HMI and SCADA Software

Internet of Things Alliance

The Internet of Things (IoT), or specifically the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), is all the rage right now. All companies want to be seen to be developing it. Or using it. I’ve even seen some standards bodies ask how their standards reflect the Internet of Things.

There are some problems here. No one really knows what the Internet of Things is. Maybe because all the analysts (including me) are rushing to be the one to provide the definitive definition. I’ve been discussing “ecosystem” to describe the phenomenon in its entirety. Recently I saw another analyst also use the term.

Further, there are no standards. If you don’t know what it is, then there can be no standards. However, it is built upon standards. IP communications, for example.

Kepware Technologies is taking a stab at the situation. It announced Dec. 8 the launch of its IoT Alliance program. The alliance is composed of a strategic network of IoT solutions providers that are committed to growing the global IoT market potential and shaping the direction of industry through smart technology, thought leadership, and marketing initiatives. Alliance members will have access to proprietary technology from Kepware that enables their respective solutions to access industrial data from the industry’s communications platform, KEPServerEX.

“The IoT Alliance has the potential to be a disruptive force in the Industrial Automation market,” said Tony Paine, CEO, Kepware. “By collaborating closely with Kepware and fellow alliance members, we have the capability to release new, innovative, and proven solutions—reducing risk and accelerating time to market. This translates to tangible IoT solutions for our customers.”

Kepware offers IoT Alliance members a connected network of more than 40 technology partners, 80 system integrators, and 90 Kepware resellers operating in more than 100 countries. By establishing relationships between alliance members and existing partners, Kepware aims to introduce members to new markets and opportunities. Furthermore, the alliance offers members proprietary insight into Kepware’s product road map and creates a safe environment for interoperability and proof of concept testing.

Kepware recently released the IoT Gateway for KEPServerEX, which streams industrial data into Cloud and on-premise solutions for real-time analytics.

The initial Alliance partners are:

  • Aizoon – sells Consulting Services in IT, Innovation for business, Engineering, Process and Organization, Cyber Security, IoT, Smart Factory
  • Altizon – created an Enterprise Internet of Things (IoT) Platform with special focus on Manufacturing and CleanTech (Energy) Sectors
  • DeviceLynk – embraces Industrial IoT technology by creating informative dashboards that are cloud based and capable of collecting and visualizing data from any connected device
  • Falkonry – enables analysts to produce real-time condition predictions from complex sensor datasets
  • Informatica – delivers enterprise data integration and management software powering analytics for big data and cloud
  • IOT Technology Solutions – provides product management resources and customer teams that deliver the complete definition, architecture, design, coding, testing and deployment of an IoT platform, solution or product
  • Mnubo – it’s SmartObjects service transforms ‘connected things’ into ‘smart objects’. Its focus is to help extract true value from sensor data by delivering advanced real-time analytics, strategic insights and enabling richer applications
  • Perseus – provider of managed services for high-precision, high-speed, high-performance applications
  • Splunk – operational intelligence platform that allows customers to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine data
  • ThingWorx – A PTC company providing connectivity solutions


Construct a Website That Builds Business-Automation Integrators Lag

Construct a Website That Builds Business-Automation Integrators Lag

Jon DiPietroAuthentia has published a comprehensive study of the control system integrator industry’s digital marketing performance. You can find additional information on the author’s blog. Many industrial/manufacturing industries lag behind in their adoption of modern digital marketing practices, largely due to target demographics that have been slow to embrace social media and mobile computing. This has especially been the case in the control system integrator industry. However, with digital trends accelerating and workforce demographics rapidly changing, businesses are being forced to adapt quickly.

[Disclaimer: I have a relationship with Authentia; I also hired it to construct a Website for Maintenance Technology magazine; Jon DiPietro built this site for me two years ago. Obviously, I like their work.]

Authentia randomly selected 100 North American control system integrators and assessed their digital marketing effectiveness against 32 separate criteria. The results indicate areas of opportunity for control system integrators to take advantage of industry-wide latencies. Owners, business developers, and marketing professionals will find this information valuable in assessing their own efforts and opportunities against their peers and competitors.

“With my background in industrial controls and leadership positions in the International Society of Automation (ISA), control system integrators are near and dear to my heart,” said Authentia Strategic Marketing Consultant Jon DiPietro. “I have many friends and colleagues who work in that industry. Over the past few years, I’ve conducted dozens of digital marketing assessments for control system integrators and other automation companies. I thought it would be interesting to conduct an industry-wide assessment and see how the industry as a whole is adapting to digital marketing trends.”

Key findings from the report include:

Websites are outdated in terms of messaging and technology:

  • 79% of CSI websites we analyzed make site visits from a mobile device difficult or impossible, alienating nearly half of their web visitors.
  • 48% of the website cannot easily change site content or even enable blogging, as they do not use a Content Management System (CMS).
  • 45% of all sites studied make no attempt to establish trust with site visitors through the use of social proof, such as testimonials, awards, certifications, memberships, etc.

Search engine marketing is nearly non-existent in the industry:

  • 3% of websites surveyed were determined to be paying for advertisements on search engines.
  • 85% of CSI websites had a Domain Authority below 40, which is a measure of how much clout a website carries with search engines.
  • 42% of websites did not have any analytics operating which track their performance.

The industry has not yet adopted content marketing as a strategy:

  • 67% of those studied do not list or promote social media accounts, such as Facebook or LinkedIn
  • 65% of websites have no blog or news feed.
  • 12% had a blog and published industry-focused content (as opposed to company news).
  • 88% of websites surveyed did not incorporate social sharing buttons, making their content difficult to find and share.

There are very few mechanisms in place to interact with prospects:

  • 2% of websites were connected to a marketing automation tool.
  • 84% of websites surveyed did not utilize visible call-to-action buttons.
  • 95% of websites failed to use landing pages, which contain an offer designed to collect information from prospects.

The 2015 Control System Integrator Digital Marketing Benchmark Report can be downloaded for free at

End Note

I just went through my list of RSS feeds for blogs and Website changes that I’ve accumulated over the past several years. No fewer than 20 of them had not been updated for two years. I could not believe the number of companies who started a very good information and content system, and then they just bailed out on it. When I think of the lost opportunities for these companies, I just shudder.

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