The History of Laser in Construction

The History of Laser in Construction


The Popular Tool Is Relatively Young, but the Lasers of

Today Wouldn’t Recognize Their Older Family Members


Interior construction lasers are 31 years old this year, and to the joy of many, that first big baby was followed by many smaller, and smarter, relatives.

laser company in the world. Today it is known as Spectra Precision. Theodore Maiman grabbed the worlds attention in 1960 when he introduced the first laser, but so ready was the world for this technology that within months many other scientists had duplicated the feat with different materials—Maiman later joked that nearly everything scientists touched seemed to lase.

Physicists building lasers quickly set up companies to commercialize their inventions. Most of those early startups

failed. The first to succeed, Spectra Physics, Dayton, Spectra introduced a laser for interior construction in 1968.

By the standards of today’s workhorses, it was, well, lazy. It did not have a spinning rotor, says Mike Yowler, product manager for construction instruments at Spectra Precision. The operator turned it to point in the direction he wanted. Users leveled it manually with the help of a built in carpenter’s bubble level. The laser plasma tube-the tube containing the mixture of helium and neon gases that “lased” to produce the laser beam—only lasted about 300 hours. And the whole thing cost between $7,000 and $8,000, he says.

Ohio, is by most accounts still the largest construction It wasn’t long before Spectra stuck a motor on the rotor to cre- ate the first rotating laser. The great advantage here was that it allowed sevsource, Jacksonville, Ark, says his com- ductivity of interior contractors by 25 pany didn’t even have wall mounts percent to 50 percent.

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