How might economic sanctions against Russia impact industrial lasers?

March 2, 2022
I think many of us are very concerned about the political, economic, and social situation in Ukraine.

I think many of us are very concerned about the political, economic, and social situation in Ukraine, which at the end of February was very fluid with the Russian military entering the country in a massive attack. There is an immediate question as to how the US and Western Europe’s economic sanctions against Russia might affect the world’s largest industrial fiber laser manufacturer IPG Photonics.

In their fourth quarter earnings call presentation on February 15, 2022, Tim Mammen (Exec. VP and CFO of IPG Photonics) stated, “We are closely monitoring the situation between Russia and Ukraine. As we have disclosed before, we supply components between our major manufacturing operations in the U.S., Germany, and Russia. At this time, its unclear if sanctions would be put in place and should they be, if they would cover components bought or sold from our Russian subsidiary. Sanctions could also target Russian banks and the banking system. In response to this uncertainty, were developing contingency plans to mitigate possible disruptions, including increasing local inventory levels of key imported components and increasing production at other locations.”

A disclaimer on my part: I am privileged to have been elected, in 1993, as the second non-Ukraine and first North American member of the Ukraine Academy of Engineering Sciences. Further, one of my oldest, special friends is Kyiv Polytechnic Institute Professor Vladimir Kovalenko, a well-known Ukraine laser processing practitioner, author, lecturer, and educator. During a lengthy teaching assignment in China, Vladimir was elected as a National Distinguished Expert of China, where he was responsible for my appointment as Distinguished Expert of Overseas Expertise at the Zhejiang University of Technology in China.

Vladimir, and his wife, have been ardent supporters of democracy in Ukraine, and at one point in time he notified me that he was manning a barrier in the streets in a protest that occurred in Ukraine after claims of massive corruption, voter intimidation and electoral fraud in the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election.

Ukraine citizens are zealous advocates for their country, always ready to rally in support of others in need. I learned this firsthand when on one of his visits to the U.S., Vladimir’s flight home had to be postponed several weeks due to airline flight cancellations. I was able to tap into the tight-knit U.S. and Canadian Ukraine communities who rallied to offer Vladimir-funded speaking engagements that allowed him support here in North America during this period. There are slightly more than one million Americans of Ukrainian descent, representing 0.3% of the American population and about 1.4 million persons of full or partial Ukraine origin residing in Canada (the worlds third-largest Ukrainian population behind Ukraine itself and Russia).

So, I am not surprised when I hear about the patriotic response of Ukraine citizens. I can attest it’s in the genes.

About the Author

David Belforte | Contributing Editor

David Belforte (1932-2023) was an internationally recognized authority on industrial laser materials processing and had been actively involved in this technology for more than 50 years. His consulting business, Belforte Associates, served clients interested in advanced manufacturing applications. David held degrees in Chemistry and Production Technology from Northeastern University (Boston, MA). As a researcher, he conducted basic studies in material synthesis for high-temperature applications and held increasingly important positions with companies involved with high-technology materials processing. He co-founded a company that introduced several firsts in advanced welding technology and equipment. David's career in lasers started with the commercialization of the first industrial solid-state laser and a compact CO2 laser for sheet-metal cutting. For several years, he led the development of very high power CO2 lasers for welding and surface treating applications. In addition to consulting, David was the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Industrial Laser Solutions magazine (1986-2022) and contributed to other laser publications, including Laser Focus World. He retired from Laser Focus World in late June 2022.

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