The very first time the UK's Association of Laser Users (AILU) presented its significant achievement award it was to Peter Houldcroft (former Director of Research at TWI), for the invention of gas assisted laser cutting.
Three years later, in 2000, the award was presented to Derek Russell, Martin Adams and Frans Van Rompuy. These people all worked at TWI in the early 1970s and the award was for the development of the fast axial flow CO2 laser. This design subsequently became the industrial laser of choice for flat bed and 3D cutting with over ten manufacturers adopting this version and with several thousand manufactured since the mid 1970s.
Frans left TWI in 1972 soon after the work was completed and could not be found at the time the award was made.
Much to their surprise, the Laser section received an e-mail from him asking if he and his wife could call in at TWI during their visit to the UK in April - over 44 years after he left Great Abington as a Scientific Officer. As a result, he was presented with his long-overdue certificate from AILU.
In an extract of a letter he wrote to Paul Hilton and Jon Blackburn following his visit, he said: 'Whilst writing this, now back home from our trip to Cambridge, I still feel very emotional about the exceptional reception that my wife and I were given during our visit of TWI.
Coming back to the very spot where I worked 44 years ago already on its own is most pleasant.
That pleasure evolved into a sense of contentment when learning that the work we did in 1970 - 1972 eventually resulted in a successful commercial product used by the industry. The climax however was the honour reserved for me to become a Life Member of AILU as a reward for my contribution to pioneering work of TWI for CO2 LASER welding. The photograph that I was given is a most valuable for me. It is a valuable asset for my career souvenirs.
I am most grateful for all that, thank you very much.'