It is interesting for me to review my follow-up blog from the 2017 event compared to the 2019 event, as the 2017 event broke all records for attendance and vendor participation. This year, almost 1325 exhibitors (up from 1293 in 2017) participated in one of five halls at the Messe München exhibition center with more than 34,000 total attendees—up from 32,700. Once again, over 60% of both the exhibitors and attendees were from outside Germany and the number of visitors from the U.S. and Asia increased this year. I do not have the final metrics yet, but in 2017 the U.S. was sixth in the number of attendees—behind Switzerland and Japan. I hope that the final numbers will show more U.S. participation than they have in the past.
Except for the record heat, the event was great as usual with lots of things to see during the day and lots to do after hours—tons of booth parties, beer parties, wine parties, and just … well, parties! As before, there is not enough time even with four days to see and investigate everything, so this year I concentrated on ultrashort-pulse (USP) lasers, optics, and systems vendors to the exclusion of most everything else. I was also joined in Munich by at least two of the current Industrial Laser Solutions Editorial Advisory Board Members—Andreas Thoss and Kunihiko Washio. Andreas at least has kept up a constant stream of information, much of which can be seen on the Laser Focus World website.
Two years ago, I was impressed with the rising stock market prices of two companies, Coherent and IPG Photonics, whose revenues together make up a substantial portion of the entire laser industry. Both companies had large booths this year, but there is definitely a change in the industry and the stocks of both companies show this. Coherent stock is about half of what it was shortly after the 2017 show and IPG Photonics' stock has fallen about 40% from the high of the same time.
I thought it was a task to review all of the USP laser companies, but it would be a real task to try to tabulate all of the companies now offering fiber lasers of every kind from very low to very high power. The fiber market is still growing, but the profusion of new, smaller companies (many Chinese) and the slowdown of the Chinese market have contributed to the IPG Photonics stock decline. In years past, IPG Photonics probably had 80% of the fiber laser market and SPI Lasers 10-15%, with all of the rest being included in the remaining few percentage points. Now, I estimate IPG Photonics to be still the largest supplier of fiber lasers, but their market share has eroded due to competition. The fiber laser, especially at low power, is now a commodity.
On the other hand, USP laser companies are proliferating, but the larger and more active players are still growing in revenue. The companies I mentioned two years ago are all very active (for example, Amplitude, Light Conversion, Ekspla, Lumentum, Coherent, and Spectra-Physics) and there are many new players. It is generally agreed that the laser itself is not the end-all and it is very important to have the right optics, beam delivery, and systems integration (as well as the applications knowledge of how to use them). So, I concentrated on talking to the USP laser companies I know, meeting new companies getting into the market, and also talking to a lot of optics and systems suppliers. All of this is for information to be used in my upcoming webcast on August 7, 2019, sponsored by RPMC Lasers and produced by Endeavor Business Media (formerly known as PennWell Media).
A few other things of note from the show. First, on Sunday night there was a symposium and retirement party for Prof. Dr. Reinhard Poprawe from Fraunhofer ILT. His years of activity in the laser industry are well documented and his many awards are impressive. He is a true pioneer in the photonics industry. The institute he grew is a lasting testimony to him and his successor will have a strong base on which to continue to build. Who will his successor be? I think we will find out soon and rumors abound. Second, there were a large number of papers in the technical sessions, which I did not attend due to the fact that I was on the show floor every moment I could be. In particular, Prof. Gérard Mourou's talk was one of the highlights and was standing room only. Finally, the Germans in particular promote scientific inquiry by giving out Innovation Awards and also a special Start Up Award for new businesses.
Before the show, I sent out approximately 100 requests for information to companies that are making either USP lasers, optics for USP lasers, USP laser-based processing systems, and contract manufacturers (job shops) for feedback to be used in my webcast and in a more detailed follow-up article to appear in the January/February 2020 issue of Industrial Laser Solutions. I have received feedback from many people and I met more people and new companies in Munich, but I am sure that I have missed many players. So, if you are involved in USP laser processing and we have not talked, then please contact me to be included in this database!
As I have said before, I feel blessed to be in such a growing, interesting, and dynamic industry. I am sure that once again, I missed many cool things at the show, so please feel free to contact me with anything to share, and in particular anything involving USP lasers and laser processing.
I am always interested in hearing your thoughts concerning laser micromachining, the laser industry, comments on entrepreneurial endeavors, etc. AND … we are always looking for fresh, publishable material. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.