Mountain View, CA--Optoelectronics market analysis firm Strategies Unlimited says that sales of lasers in 2010 and 2011 recovered better than expected, growing 52% since the recent low in 2009 and setting a new record. Investments in machine tools and telecom equipment, and strong growth of sales into China, were keys to the strong recovery. And while sales slowed in late 2011 in the uncertain economic climate, the outlook for long-term growth is still strong. Laser sales for 2012 are expected to be approximately flat, with growth returning in 2013 and reaching $9.4 billion by 2015. These are among the findings in a new report from photonics market research firm Strategies Unlimited, The Worldwide Market for Lasers: Market Review and Forecast--2012.
Fiber laser sales in 2011 grew 114% over the 2008 level, thanks to strong sales in kilowatt lasers for sheet metal cutting and pulsed lasers for marking. IPG Photonics regained its 70% share among fiber laser suppliers with the recovery. But a looming question is: how many other suppliers can capture sales in the lucrative kilowatt fiber laser segment?
The report says that strong sales in tablet computers and smartphones helped sales of laser-based equipment for semiconductor, display, and electronics fabrication. Sales of biomedical instrumentation also helped the recovery. Military spending has peaked, but many programs that use laser-based equipment will have a long tail, or even long term growth, such as infrared countermeasures and dazzlers. Only lasers for data storage are in for harder times, as prices decline and the world turns more toward other forms of storage. But even there, lasers show promise in enabling magnetic storage to achieve the next generation in hard drives, possibly opening a large new opportunity for lasers.
Just 5 companies earned over 50% of the industrial laser revenues: Coherent, Trumpf, Cymer, IPG Photonics, and Rofin-Sinar. Among companies making strategic acquisitions last year, optics companies stand out, such as Newport and CVI Melles Griot.
Promising new applications span every market sector. Using femtosecond lasers for cataract treatment are now approved for use in the U.S. Lasers are gaining adoption from conference room front projectors to digital cinema. And many groups are tinkering with the Microsoft Kinect gesture recognition platform to create new applications. The telecom industry is installing 40 Gbps transmitters, and moving closer to 100 Gbps transmission (http://www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/print/volume-46/issue-9/features/fibers-for-telecommunications.html), while the semiconductor industry is developing new soft X-ray lithography processes that require kilowatt CO2 lasers.
The Worldwide Market for Lasers: Market Review and Forecast--2012 is the 8th in a series of reports on lasers for industrial and consumer applications and is the only market report to cover the entire laser market in detail. Founded in 1979, Strategies Unlimited specializes in market research and strategic consulting directed at photonics systems and components. Other recent reports available from Strategies Unlimited cover: mid-infrared lasers, ultrafast lasers, autonomous robots, optical molecular imaging, OCT, LEDs, and LED lighting systems. The company, based in Mountain View, CA, is a research unit of PennWell Corporation, a global media and information company. PennWell’s many brands include Laser Focus World, Industrial Laser Solutions, Bio Optics World, Vision Systems Design, Photovoltaics World, Solid State Technology, and Lightwave.
For more information, contact Strategies Unlimited at +1 650 941-3438 (voice) or e‑mail at info@strategies‑u.com.
SOURCE: Strategies Unlimited; www.strategies-u.com
IMAGE: Laser suppliers suffered a deep but short recession, and the prospects for long-term growth are strong. (Courtesy Strategies Unlimited)