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Harnessing Light: Optical Science and Engineering for the 21st Century
product, as in the semiconductor industry's use of optical inspection tools to characterize particulate contamination.
Some applications may be relatively familiar, such as the use of high-power lasers for cutting, drilling, or welding steel. Others are less familiar, such as the use of optical sensors to monitor chemical processes in real-time or the use of lasers for alignment and control in the construction industry. Some of the challenges that these applications face are unique to a particular industry, but others, such as the need for trained optics technicians or the importance of making equipment robust and reliable, are universal.
Table 5.1 shows the most important uses of these optical manufacturing techniques for five major U.S. industries—automotive, semiconductor, chemical, aerospace, and construction. These industries in aggregate account for approximately $1 trillion, or 17% of the 1992 U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Each has a critical dependence on one or more optical manufacturing techniques.
Because of the diversity of U.S. industry, this chapter cannot address the use of optics in every single branch of manufacturing. It endeavors instead to cover a representative sample, including those applications
TABLE 5.1 Major Uses of Optics in Industrial Manufacturing
NOTE: Critical means that a technique is used pervasively and cannot be replaced by alternative nonoptical techniques without major negative economic impact to the entire industry. Major means that a technique is used pervasively and adds significant economic value to the entire industry. Significant means that a technique is used for specialized niche applications within an industry and adds significant economic value to those niche sectors. Emerging means that a technique is being put to increasing use in an industry and has the potential to be of at least significant importance.
a All shipment values are from the 116th Edition of the Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1996.