Laser World of Photonics: The UFP Show

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World of Photonics 2013 closed on a high note with the record number of exhibitors still entertaining visitors as the exhibits were being dismantled. Although the attendance at the Munich show was equal to World of Photonics 2011, it was spread over each day so that only Thursday afternoon saw a drop in the volume. Surprisingly, the opening bell on Monday saw a large crowd of entrants, uncommon for a German trade show, where visitors are often traveling to the show on the first day, dampening attendance. However this is a characteristic that is known and taken into account.

So what got my attention? As I stated in my video reports, which will be uploaded soon, World of Photonics 2013 will be known as the Ultra-Fast Pulse (UFP) show, just as World of Photonics 2011 was the Fiber Laser show. I gave up counting exhibits with UFP lasers when passing randomly through the aisles. It was common to find a company introducing a UFP laser or a system with an integrated UFP laser. There were so many that one exhibitor asked me when ILS was going to add another category in the Annual Report for this technology. The answer – maybe this year.

Highlights for me were the introductions of two high-power fiber units: a 3 kW from SPI that looks like direct competition to IPG, and a 6 kW from Rofin Sinar that was directed toward the OEM thick section cutting and welding markets. Both of these suppliers are vertically oriented with SPI a part of TRUMPF and Rofin having subsidiaries for diodes, fiber, and scanner components.

Trumpf had a powerful display of 12 of 19 new solid-state products, featuring a 2 kW disk laser that I was told is direct-selling-price competitive with an equivalent power IPG unit. Not to throw cold water on this, but ILS is having difficulty finding average selling prices for IPG units as the company has a policy of passing manufacturing cost reductions on to its customers. We have heard a variety of selling prices for a 1 kW unit, for example. Also on exhibit was the new generation of TruDisk disk lasers, which deliver laser output powers of up to 6 kW from a single disk. This facilitates an even more compact design and leads to a significant reduction in operating costs of up to 25 percent with efficiency as high as 30 percent. 

Domestic market in China

Over the coming week, ILS will be introducing some other show stoppers, including some insights into the burgeoning domestic market in China, which was described at the biennial International Laser Marketplace conference in Munich. At this event, Dr. Qitao Lue, VP and CTO of Han’s Laser Technology Co. Ltd., presented the most comprehensive and complete analysis of the burgeoning China market for industrial lasers. In a private interview, Dr. Lue confided to me that this exercise was one of the most interesting, but exhausting, tasks he has accomplished recently.

Highlights of his report: imports of laser systems into China dropped 10% in 2012, mainly due to political problems between China and Japan. The total for imports was $794 million. Domestic systems sales were up 27% to $1.3 billion. On a unit basis, he accounts for more than 15,000 low power CO2 lasers, more than 1000 high-power CO2 and more than 300 high-power fiber lasers among others. His company sold $466 million of laser-related equipment last year. He predicts UV lasers as the fastest growing market, projecting unit sales of 2500 this year. His company will introduce a UFP laser in two years.

Dr. Lue’s report was an eye-opener for this laser market analyzer and, because of the in-depth details he shared, we will now have a solid basis for estimating total market sales for the coming year.

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