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American Institute of Physics



Book Review

Laser Material Processing, 3rd ed.

William M. Steen Springer-Verlag, London, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2003
408 pp. ISBN 1-85233-698-6

Reviewed by Anatoliy Bekrenev

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Laser Material ProcessingSince their inception 50 years ago, lasers have evolved from a source of high-intensity monochromatic radiation into a powerful tool in engineering and manufacturing. A focused laser beam is one of the highestpower- density sources available to industry today. Mechanically speaking, a laser beam is a nonwearing tool. A laser’s high power and high density of energy make it useful in a wide range of manufacturing processes.

A laser processing system closely resembles a generic machine tool, where energy is transferred to a material under some form of control. There are two major laser material processing applications: applications requiring delivery to the workplace of limited and well-controlled amounts of energy, and applications requiring a substantial amount of energy to induce required transformations. Materials to be treated can be of any hardness, plasticity, or brittleness. Yet, despite all the achievements in laser material processing, laser technologies are still in their infancy.

In Laser Material Processing, William M. Steen notes that a laser must be reasonably powerful for material processing, which reduces the number of eligible lasers (based on about 15,000 types of laser oscillations) to only a few gas lasers, solid-state lasers, and semiconductor lasers. CO2 lasers and Nd-YAG lasers, invented in 1964, are the most effective lasers for science and technology. These lasers are often used for various manufacturing processes and have the longest life. Steen points out that industrial lasers are effective for cutting, welding, surface heating, bending, melting, alloying, cladding, texturing, roughening, marking, cleaning, and so on. With the development of highly automated workstations with lasers—which cost less and are powerful, reliable, and compact—laser material processing is set to become the fashion of the next decade. To understand the capabilities and limitations of laser material processing, however, it is important to analyze the physical processes of the interaction between radiation and matter. These interactions are the basis for laser material processing applications. Unfortunately, the author does not discuss these interactions in depth, nor does he review materials science problems connected with laser reactions.

Laser Material Processing is a clear and instructive textbook for students who will become the next generation of laser specialists, and it is a good source of updated knowledge for practicing engineers and technicians in optoelectronics, laser processing, materials treatment, and advanced manufacturing. The book also will be helpful as a reference source. The chapters are largely independent of one another, and a reader interested in only one topic may be satisfied by reading all or parts of the relevant chapter without going to other chapters. Well written, with many useful diagrams and examples of industrial applications, Steen’s book is a good guide in the field.


Anatoliy Bekrenev is a professor of physics at National American University in Bloomington, Minnesota. He is currently researching the structure and mechanical properties of materials subjected to laser reactions.