Lasers calm a stormy sea

Feb. 3, 2016
Analyzing the 2015 industrial laser market was a challenge this year because of global economic conditions in manufacturing, as noted in the Annual Economic Review.

Analyzing the 2015 industrial laser market was a challenge this year because of global economic conditions in manufacturing, as noted in the Annual Economic Review. Readers will see that in 2015, fiber lasers at all power levels represented 54% of all industrial laser revenues. Just 10 years ago—when ILS first broke out fiber laser sales for materials processing—they represented 11%, essentially from one supplier (IPG Photonics). Today, fiber lasers in several output powers are available from more than a dozen suppliers, but are still dominated by IPG Photonics holding about 52% of total revenues.

Revenue growth in 2015, led by fiber lasers, topped the $3 billion level. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the past 10 years is 9.47%, and this period includes the Great Recession of 2008/2009. As this is being written, prospects in the global economy are not as bright as they were a year ago when ILS projected a nominal 5% increase, which booming fiber laser revenues then boosted almost 3%. We are tempering the 2016 forecast to 4.4% and wouldn't mind being wrong again.

Also in this issue, Günther Braun (formerly with Rofin-Sinar) predicts that new laser technologies and emerging markets should support high-single-digit growth rates long-term for the industry. Ralf Kimmel (TRUMPF) projects that tomorrow's cars will be lighter with boosted mileage and reduced weight due primarily to the increased use of laser light.

Björn Wedel (Photonic Tools) describes simpler system integration facilitated by laser light cables that enable lasers to be located further away from the application. In the same vein, Tom Graham (Abicor Binzel) says laser process advances will promote the use of joint configurations previously not capable in mass production.

Rick Slagle (Technical Solutions Marketing) profiles A. Zildjian, one of the oldest family-owned businesses in the US now using lasers to mark their world-famous cymbals. And Scott Sabreen (The Sabreen Group) suggests that fast speed, superior contrast, and cost savings are among the benefits of incorporating novel FDA-approved additives into polymers for laser marking.

All of these informative feature articles, typical of what ILS has published for 30 years, are brought to readers through the combined efforts of a world-class production team, to whom I am greatly indebted. Those responsible for the quality of this magazine are many, but I want to single out two who have been with ILS the longest. Editorial Creative Director Meg Fuschetti produces the eye-catching layouts of this publication and does so under occasional tight deadlines with a calm professionalism that is admired by all. Senior Illustrator Chris Hipp has a unique talent—he's a fine artist who carefully listens to editors' sketchy ideas and turns these into delightful caricatures, such as the one on this page.

Of course, the editorial couldn't appear if weren't for the steady hand of Associate Editor Lee Dubay, my partner for only a couple of very enjoyable years. Lee turns my edited copy into readable text with apparent ease. I have yet to test the limits of her patience with last-minute changes or missing photos—she handles all with great aplomb.

Finally, a special thanks to our Editorial Advisors who were very active this past year. I value your contributions and suggestions.

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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