Industrial laser suppliers deal with turmoil in their global markets

An end-of-the quarter review shows that the US economy is vital and continues to move.

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An end-of-the quarter review shows that the US economy is vital and continues to move; even though it has been tempered with concern, its export markets are being impacted by the strong dollar. February jobs reached 295,000 hires and the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) continued above 50 in economic growth.

Russia's economy is in recession because of rapidly dropping oil prices. There is better news in the Eurozone—which represents a significant share of the laser market—where the PMI hit 52.2 in March and there was growth in Spain and Italy, the latter usually a strong laser market. The strong dollar has become a factor when buying US capital equipment.

China lowered its interest rate to stimulate its economy and stable economic news in this most important laser market is being taken as a good sign. China remains a conundrum, as evidence of the government’s slow-down economic policy seems to be having an effect on domestic suppliers of industrial laser products. Sales of lasers cooled a little last year, as the Chinese auto industry is in the throes of a slowdown in executive-level car sales and this key industry’s problems have a trickle-down effect on the large subcontractor base who are a target area for most laser system suppliers.

The Middle East (a market for lasers only in Israel and Iran) remains an economic problem; OPEC keeps oil production high and Iraq, Syria, and Iran are under attack by ISIS. The collapse of Yemen's government promulgates continuing pessimism in these areas. No single economy there has much impact on the global economy and these countries are not considered as industrial laser markets at this point in time.

Within the laser industry, fiber lasers continue to penetrate into market sectors long held by makers of other lasers. Strong double-digit growth by industry leader IPG Photonics and the arrival of new kilowatt-level suppliers Rofin-Sinar, JDSU, Raycus, Jenoptik, and others compounds the penetration that this laser is making into global manufacturing operations. Additionally, the acceptance of high-power disk lasers from Trumpf and the growing demand for ultrafast lasers for microprocessing have been major drivers for growth.

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