It wasn't the best or the worst of times

This is a traditional time for editors to review the old year, citing the highlights and often the lowlights.

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It’s the end of the year, a traditional time for editors to look back at the old year, citing the highlights and often the lowlights of the past twelve months. Frankly this is not one of my favorite subjects. In fact, I usually skip these end-of-year summaries, on the premise that current history is too fresh for instant analysis of its effect. So if you are looking for my highlights of industrial laser activity in 2013, this may not be the place.

Actually, 2013 was rather "blah" newswise; no blockbuster deals or technology break-throughs to report. And other than 3 stories — the dramatic rise of laser-assisted manufacturing led by the non-laser 3D printing phenomena, the industry's rapid acceptance of picosecond laser material processing driven by the manufacturers of hand-held communication devices (smart phones), and the concurrent fascination with femtosecond laser processing potential — it was just your average year. (See "David Belforte to speak on laser market at LME 2013".)

Revenues flirted with new highs in the early months only to return to normalcy in the second half after a rather slow summer as U.S. government tax action on medical devices put the brakes on company investment in this usually dependable market sector for precision laser processing. Fulfilling the experts' forecast, it was a year of low growth with several estimating low single digit growth; for the record, ILS will report 3.6% overall revenue growth for industrial lasers.

Economic problems in key markets: China, Eastern Europe, Japan, and Brazil stultified the promise of vibrant revenue growth that would have boosted global markets. Positive activity in Germany did offset continuing Western European malaise and a continually active manufacturing export activity in the US, while good for domestic companies, was not enough to effectively move the global markets.

What saved 2013 revenues from almost flat growth was a dynamic fiber laser market that grew 19% in 2013, increasing that laser's share of the total market to 33%, according to our partner, Strategies Unlimited.

Looking ahead to 2014, the industrial laser market is expected to notch up by about 5%, as the global economies experience slightly increased growth. Of course, it a fresh new calendar with 12 months to fill and 365 days to prove the experts wrong.

Happy New Year everyone.


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