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2014 could be repeat of 2013 for industrial laser growth

2014 could be repeat of 2013 for industrial laser growth

As seen in the ILS Annual Review (see page 5), 2014 appears to be a replay of 2013 revenue growth. I say "appears" because we won't have confirmation of last-quarter 2014 revenue guidance from key public companies until later in the first quarter of this year. So a little tweaking may occur, but not enough to significantly change the overall numbers—last year, for example, we bumped the total revenue number up 1 percent as a result of unanticipated strength in the CO2 and direct-diode laser sectors. I shouldn't be so offhand about 1-percent growth—that's a cool $26 million.

Anyway, this page is called My View, and the ground rules are that I can express personal thoughts; in this case, my own perspective on the industrial laser market as opposed to the ILS industry-generated data and analysis on the earlier pages. Now, don't tighten up your sphincter anticipating some economic bomb I'll drop. This is just me in a contemplative mood after putting the last Review together in December 2013.

Industrial laser suppliers came charging out of the Great Recession with all guns blazing. New fiber, diode, and ultrafast-pulse lasers, developed during the dark days of 2008-2009, readied for a buying-mood market in 2010. The result was a 21-percent increase in 2010 revenues, followed by an 18-percent increase in 2011. While cracking the $2-billion sales mark in 2012, revenue growth slipped to 7 percent—a not-so-inconsequential $140 million of new laser sales and a growth number that stuck for the next three years.

The simple, obvious reason for the decline to single- from double-digit revenue growth is the pent-up buying demand after the recession. Prior to 2009, the industry was cruising along with acceptable, mid-single-digit growth numbers. And after the market dive, a spectacular 40-percent growth in fiber laser sales, followed by four years of double-digit growth, lugged the entire industrial laser market to successive years of single-digit growth. The industrial laser market, now approaching the $3-billion level, looks to be a mid-to-strong single-digit market. And as I said in the previous paragraph, what's wrong with a potential $200 million a year in sales increases?

And now shifting gears, let me turn to thanks mode. In 2014, ILS had the very strong support of 67 authors, located in the US and a dozen other countries. Without the valuable technical knowledge they shared with ILS readers in more than 150 countries, we would not have fulfilled our mission to provide cutting-edge educational information to manufacturing decision-makers to assist them in doing their jobs more efficiently and effectively.

I am humbled by the response I received when soliciting editorial material from these authors and the many others who have graced the pages of ILS, which is soon to approach its 30th year. For example, while planning the 2015 issues late last year, three dozen authors accepted an early invitation to contribute to this publication.

So, a blanket thanks goes to all of the contributors to a powerful ILS in 2014—you are welcomed to the ILS Author Honor Roll.

David A. Belforte

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