A lot of capacity in the weeds

March 28, 2018
I have been working on an analysis of the manufacturers/suppliers of flat sheet laser cutters with fiber laser output power ≥1 kW.
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I have been working on an analysis of the manufacturers/suppliers of flat sheet laser cutters with fiber laser output power ≥1 kW. What started as a rather straightforward market research project turned into a seemingly never-ending, time-consuming task that, as this is written, is not closed yet. I think an end is in sight, as the flow of information has reached the 'dribble' rate, suggesting that I have the bulk of the players identified.

In a thumbnail, here's what I found: the global market for fiber laser sheet metal cutters at the beginning of 2018 is served by 163 manufacturers of systems with output power ≥1 kW. They are located in several countries, mainly in China, Japan, Germany, India, and the U.S., with the largest number (94) of systems manufacturers in China.

These manufacturers for the most part purchase their fiber lasers from one or more of the 14 companies currently manufacturing high-power fiber lasers for metal cutting. As expected, IPG Photonics is the major supplier of the fiber lasers, holding a 60% or more market share. In China—the largest market—most system integrators use IPG Photonics, but 30% of the systems builders offer customers a choice of other laser suppliers, with Raycus being the second choice.

There could well be more system companies out there, but those in my database—gained from an extensive Google search—have websites and advertise these products. If there are others, their number would be small and not really affect the analysis I am doing.

So, what have I learned is that there is an unexpectedly large number of companies selling fiber laser-based flat sheet cutters. And as yet unconfirmed, another 10,000 laser cutters were sold last year, averaging out to about 60 units per company. If you believe some of the website descriptions of system companies, this is not an unreasonable number.

What intrigues me is the projected size of this business. Can it sustain unit sales in the many thousands annually? Surely the largest market (China) might, but then how many cutting systems can even China support? That's a question I've asked many times, as I tally more than 60,000 high-power laser cutters sold in the past 10 years, according to another database—and that does not include lower-power, <1 kW units.

Well, I've thrown some ideas and I'll now sit back and hear what you have to say. E-mail me at [email protected] with your thoughts.

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