When we look back over the great inventions of the 20th century – and it was a period in which some quite amazing new products and processes were developed, especially in terms of technology – we tend to think of those that are for domestic use.
For example, you may be reading this on a laptop, which is very much a 20th century invention. As is the mobile phone, which you could also be using. The silicon chip, which is essential to both of those devices and more, is also a product of great minds of those years. Look around your home and you’ll see the television, the microwave oven, halogen and LED lights, and many other items that were not around 120 years ago.
Search for the ‘greatest inventions of the 20th century’ and inevitably the TV will be in the top 10, as will the personal computer, plus radio, the aeroplane, the commercially viable motor car and – latterly – the internet. We, however, think that there’s one invention that is much overlooked, and that’s the laser.
Why Laser is Important
The first laser dates from the 1960’s; now, this highly controllable source of light emission is used in many items we use daily. There is a laser in your CD and DVD player; when you check out your goods on a scanner in the store, you are using a laser barcode scanner; you might have a laser printer attached to your computer, or have had corrective laser surgery. The list goes on, and on, and then we come to a machine that is widely used but perhaps does not spring to mind, which is the laser marking machine.
If you stop to think for a moment, how many items do you buy or use that have been necessarily marked in some way? Have a look at the sidewalls of your tyres, for example: it will have details on the side that have been laser marked. Metal objects with serial numbers on may have been marked with a laser, and many other industries such as printing and packaging use laser marking machines for a variety of purposes.
These devices are fast, cost-effective and sometimes even portable, and use the laser intrinsically. It’s difficult to express how important such a machine is in industrial terms unless you happen to use one, or work in an industry that does.
Engraving and Marking
From marking simple serial numbers of other details on individual products, to etching and engraving designs on metal and other materials, laser marking machines are an essential part of the world of industry and manufacturing as any other part of the process. Yet, the laser remains unheralded among the great inventions of the 20th century.
Perhaps that is because the world advanced so quickly and often alarmingly in that century that many great inventions have been overlooked, but we can rest assured that laser technology, thanks to its vast array of uses, deserves its place among the other usual suspects.