Farewell 2009, you were a stinker

ILS looks forward to celebrating its 25th anniversary during more prosperous days in 2010

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ILS looks forward to celebrating its 25th anniversary during more prosperous days in 2010

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And so 2009 draws to a close, and not a moment too soon. In the history of this magazine, now ending its 24th year of publication, we have only one period of comparison—1990/1991—where laser sales were off 16% and laser systems sales off 15%. For 2008/2009 the decrease will be larger (as will be reported in the January issue of ILS). So it is obvious why we are ready to write 2009 off and look forward to a brighter 2010.

It has been a tumultuous year, especially in the fabricated metal products industry. This is a key sector for industrial laser sales where in 2009 about 75% of all high-power CO2 lasers were sold with a value of more than $550 million. These lasers were integrated into laser cutting systems worth more than $2 billion. Both revenue numbers are down substantially, at least 30%, from 2008 numbers. And as a consequence this industry sector, in a severe drought, has impacted the entire industrial laser equipment market.

By most accounts the great recession of 2008/2009 is over and recovery is underway. At ILS we have seen the industry news turn positive, so much so that we ceased Web site reporting on what we had called Slivers of Light, an attempt to bring some good news to an otherwise gloomy media output. A few weeks ago we also stopped consulting the industry health monitor we call the DABoMeter, which measures positive industry news versus negative, because the trend is definitely up and the need no longer exists.

Next month we will be reporting on the industry in our Annul Economic Review and, although the numbers are not tallied as this is being written, we know they will not be pretty. However, the optimism that always lurks in a marketer’s mind seems to have substance and we expect the forecast for 2010 to be brighter.

Which brings us to another matter. Industrial Laser Solutions was founded, as Industrial Laser Review, 24 years ago. (If you look to the left you can see what I looked like 24 years ago.) Conceptually, the publication was to have been a subscription newsletter. But an over-zealous media salesman managed to get five industrial laser product suppliers interested in the concept to take ads in the publication, which led to it being a hybrid publication in its early days.

At this point in time these companies deserve recognition for their foresight in sponsoring a one-of-a-kind publication focused exclusively on industrial laser materials processing for manufacturing. Then there was no exclusive outlet for editorial material that filled a void on the subject. Spectra Physics (now part of Newport Corporation), Laser Power Optics (now part of II-VI Corporation), Coherent General (now merged into Coherent Inc.), Apollo Laser Inc. (since departed), and II-VI Inc. stepped up to help solve the need. Over the 24-year history of ILS these companies have continued their support, for which we thank them; along with the multitude of other industry suppliers that have used the pages of ILS to carry their message to users of industrial lasers for materials processing.

As we begin our 25th year we have plans to expand our digital offerings using the power of this media delivery option to spread the message of industrial laser processing to a larger global audience. As an example, in a recent month we received almost 80,000 inbound links to ILS web topic pages from sites worldwide. We have many other exciting, innovative plans for next year, including for example virtual trade shows.

Finally to ILS readers (believe it or not 0.5% of current ILS subscribers started in 1992), we thank you for your years of support, as evidenced by the subscription renewals and we pledge to continue delivering the latest information on industrial laser materials processing.

David A. Belforte

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