UMass Amherst alumnus Marshall Jones, who earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in our Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame on May 4 for his pioneering work on industrial lasers. At the organization’s 45th annual induction ceremony in May, Jones will join the likes of other inductees such as Tesla, Edison, and the Wright Brothers. The induction ceremony is billed by the National Inventors Hall of Fame as “The greatest celebration of American innovation…Here we honor and celebrate the world’s foremost inventors and their contributions to society.”
Jones is a General Electric (GE) engineer who holds more than 50 U.S. patents and is recognized as one of the foremost authorities in the field of laser material processing. “It is an incredible honor to join such a prestigious group of GE inventors and others in the National Inventors Hall of Fame,” Jones said in an article in GE Reports. “If I trace my steps up to this point, it has been a love of learning, having a focused set of goals, and sheer determination that have gotten me to this point and time.”
As the GE Reports piece explained about the early life of Jones: “A model of perseverance, the laser pioneer was raised by his extended family on a duck ranch but ended up laying the foundation for the new field of additive manufacturing, which includes 3D printing. Jones was born during World War II in Southampton on New York’s Long Island, when the area was best known for agriculture, rather than summer mansions of the rich and famous. Because his father was serving in the Navy and his mother worked as a seamstress in New York City, he lived under his great aunt and uncle’s care on the duck ranch.”
From such humble beginnings, Jones struggled with his early schooling but later persisted to become a top-flight doctoral student at UMass Amherst and a groundbreaking engineer at GE.
As the GE Reports article quoted Vic Abate, GE’s chief technology officer, “Marshall Jones isn’t just a laser pioneer, he’s a trailblazer whose laser research is helping to transform manufacturing and build a new additive business for GE today.”
According to a write-up on the Hall of Fame website about Jones and his accomplishments, “he invented novel methods to weld dissimilar metals and developed fiber optic systems making lasers much more convenient for industrial applications.”
The write-up said that lasers are a powerful heat source that can deliver enough light energy to weld and cut metals and plastics. In the mid-1970s, Jones invented a technique using a laser to rapidly weld copper and aluminum. He later developed methods to weld other dissimilar metals including molybdenum and tungsten.
“In 1982,” said the Hall of Fame article, “Jones initiated research and development of fiber-optic laser-beam delivery systems resulting in a laser beam powerful enough to cut steel, titanium, and nickel-based alloys, and to weld and drill them at multiple angles.”
Then, in 1988, Jones and his team developed a laser-welding system using fiber-optic cables to simultaneously split a laser beam and heat opposite sides of a workpiece.
In addition, “Jones’s work revolutionized the method of making lead wires used in light bulbs,” the Hall of Fame write-up noted. “It is utilized in GE’s production of ceramic metal halide lamps, diesel engine head-liner assemblies for locomotives, control rods for nuclear reactors, and flat emitters for x-ray tubes. Manufacturers including Ford and Lockheed Martin have used products and hardware that resulted from GE’s laser based processes.”
Dale Lombardo, who worked with Jones as manager of GE’s Manufacturing Processes Laboratory, says about the era of the mid-1970s when Jones first joined GE that “At a time when the original Star Wars trilogy and Superman movies dominated people’s imagination with light sabers and superheroes that could bend steel, Marshall was showing how lasers could perform amazing feats in the real world.” He added that the laser applications Jones has developed “have changed the way manufacturing is done, demonstrating new ways to work with the most difficult advanced materials at a speed, cost, and quality that can’t be beat.” (March 2017)