Fiber laser cutting continues upward trend amongst exhibitors
This issue will have extra distribution at one of the major North American tradeshows that feature laser processing equipment. FABTECH 2018, to take place the first week of November in Atlanta, GA, is the premier selling show for exhibitors of high-power fiber laser-powered flat sheet cutting systems. At FABTECH, more than 20 fiber laser cutting system exhibitors will have equipment on the show floor, making this the largest laser cutting show in this hemisphere.
And in September, about 40 industrial laser system companies will be showing products at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago, IL. Many of these are laser marking system companies that find a ready market in the 2700 other exhibitors at this show.
There is increasing discussion in the laser community, and the investment sector, concerning the state of global manufacturing in the second half of 2018 and its impact on high-power fiber laser revenues. Right now, it is only anecdotal and speculative, engendered mostly by a recent sudden dip in the stock value of IPG Photonics, the leading supplier of high-power fiber lasers for the OEM cutting systems market. Currently, IPG Photonics, in its second-quarter earnings call, revised downward its full-year revenue guidance from 8–15% growth to 7–9%. It was this, coupled with company comments about “macro- and geopolitical- rather than competitively driven” weakness, that many analysts blamed for the stock hit.
Forgive me for pointing this out, but in the ILS projection for total 2018 revenue growth that was 7% (published January 2018 based on late November 2017 estimates), we took some flak for our conservatism from the global laser community who were basking in IPG Photonics’ 26% revenue growth for Q1 and guidance of 10–15% for 2018, led by an active macro-cutting market in China, Japan, and Europe.
Regardless, when we recently took the pulse of the market, the response was guarded optimism—a term we last heard back in 2008 before the collapse of global manufacturing in the great recession of that year.
This issue features four articles about industrial laser systems that visitors to FABTECH will see. Dustin Diehl (Amada America) looks at fiber laser-enhanced edge quality in aluminum and stainless steel and reduced cost per part in mild steel applications (see article). Kaylee Swearingen (Mazak Optonics) describes a direct-diode laser cutting machine at an Iowa manufacturing company that provides higher throughput with near-perfect edge quality (see article). Dahv Kliner and Brian Victor (nLIGHT) introduce a novel, all-fiber technology for optimized cutting of a wide range of metals and thicknesses that enable the development of universal cutting tools (see article). And in our cover story, Nick Stanczyc (TRUMPF) reviews a company that is using a laser sheet metal cutting system equipped with a high-speed N2 assist gas nozzle, reporting significantly increased throughput and drastically reduced gas consumption (see article).
Also in this issue, Victor Matylitsky (Spectra-Physics) writes about femtosecond laser-machined manufacturing surfaces with enhanced fog-collection efficiency and anti-fogging properties (see article). And Masahiro Tsukamoto (Osaka University) details a new high-power blue laser and explains the processing differences between this and the traditional infrared diode laser (see article).