Current growth prospects for industrial lasers point to the China market
For those readers that follow my blogs on www.industrial-lasers.com, you'll recall that I have been digging into early published references to establish the first appearance of the term "industrial laser." In doing so, I couldn't help but notice among them the following titles:
- "Will Laser Make Grade as Proven Welding Process?" – Iron Age (1964)
- "Lasers Ready for Production Role" – Steel (1964)
- "Laser Applications Invade Production Field" – Automation (1968)
- "The Great Potential of Laser Beams in Industry" – The Engineer (1969)
- "Will Lasers Serve as Heat Treaters Ally" – Iron Age (1970)
- "Laser Makers Finally Get Practical" – Purchasing Week (1971)
- The Laser May Be Ready For the Big Time – Business Week (1971)
I especially liked the last one because it actually took 29 years before industrial laser system revenues cracked the billion-dollar mark in 1990, which I consider the big time. Sales passed $5 billion in 2006 and $10 billion in 2011, and revenues are projected for more than $13 billion this year.
A major contributor to this growth in the last few years has been the China market, which today makes up about a third of all industrial laser system revenues. In my article describing this vibrant market, I point out that estimated laser processing equipment sales in China are expected to top $4.5 billion, or 35% of the total market (see article). No wonder all eyes are on China when considering the growth prospects for industrial lasers.
It's a difficult market for analysts to understand as verifiable in the form of available official government historical statistics—which are not available, at least to Westerners. Fortunately, the laser industry itself has become more sharing, and ILS has tapped resources there to publish background information on this vibrant market.
In addition, this month we also offer readers a look at proven applications in laser additive manufacturing, fiber laser cutting and welding, and surface treatment.
Our cover features Airbus, who made their first steps into additive manufacturing in flying aircraft in 2014. Peter Sander (Airbus Operations GmbH) tells how the company uses a multistep approach, from first parts to clean sheet design (see article).
Benjamin Mehlmann and Josef Sedlmair (F&K Delvotec Bondtechnik GmbH) describe combining a 1kW fiber laser with a heavy-wire bonder to connect copper ribbons measuring several millimeters wide with excellent connection quality and high speed, specifically for battery pack connections for e-mobility (see article).
Christian Dornscheidt and Caesar Sasse (SMS group) describe the production of hard-to-weld strip materials using patented inductive heat treatment, including information about fiber lasers and weld-seam heat treatment on recent installations for pickling lines in Finland and in Arkansas (see article).
I'm happy to welcome back Bob Kolcz (Prima Power), who writes about P & A Metal Fab (Clackamas, OR), a contract fab shop that installed a laser/punch combination machine that provides them with outstanding flexibility, speed, accuracy, and productivity (see article).
David Gillen (Blueacre Technology) says that in the past, laser cleaning applications have been limited. However, he says now it is advancing, as companies are implementing similar principles used in medical device and semiconductor processing to increase yield and reduce overall production costs (see article).