The China dragon rumbles

Nov. 20, 2019
The November/December 2019 issue features a very timely perspective on the China market for industrial lasers.
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I first wrote My View in the January 2006 issue of Industrial Laser Solutions, and to date about 60,000 words have appeared, which is about the length of a typical novel. Prior to that when the column was known as Editor's Note and From the Editor, another 140,000 words contributed to a total over 38 years of about 200,000 words. That’s the equivalent of one of J.K. Rowling’s’ biggest hits, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which when published in the year 2000 sold 66 million copies. Do you think I picked the wrong writing career?

Just a little more history. When I started these columns, it was advised they should be completely my opinionated views. And they have been, as I am an unequivocal cheerleader for industrial laser material processing. 

When the occasion arose, such as the depths of the Great Recession of 2008-2009 that devastated the industrial laser market, I wrote a Fable for Our Time about a Giant (the recession) trodding the land (the markets) and how little bits of positive news caused the Giant to change direction and normalcy (good times) returned. Maybe I do have a little Rowling in me.

Any comments about the current economic climate will be fully addressed in the Annual Economic Review in the January/February 2020 issue. However, considering the less-than-dynamic market conditions as this is being written, the time may be appropriate to read the fable again. The not-so-subtle subtle message of that 2009 column is very apt as the year 2019 closes.

In this issue, a very timely perspective on the China market for industrial lasers, written by ILS Editorial Advisor Bo Gu, is a case-in-point (see article). What I call the ‘China Situation,’ with its impact on the manufacturing world's economies, is on the minds of all of us. When China sneezes, everyone starts calling their allergists. And rightly so, as Bo presents his estimate of the Chinese market for industrial laser equipment approaching $8.6 billion in 2018. Considering that the total 2018 global market for laser systems for material processing was pegged at $19.8 billion by the highly respected Optech Consulting in June 2019, the China market in 2018 was about 43% of the world total, making that the single largest industrial laser market in the world. Expect a repeat in 2019, so place a call to your allergist.

Also in this issue, Christian Dini of Ophir defines a new non-contact beam measurement platform that aids in more efficient cutting of thinner materials, important in today’s growing laser blanking market (see article).  Another application showing growth potential, microvia drilling, is covered by George Oulundsen of Coherent, who describes CO laser drilling  of ≤40 µm vias in PCB materials (see article).

Xiaojun Shen of Coventry University continues ILS’ look at laser shock peening shows how improved fatigue, corrosion, and wear resistance in biomaterials develops with induced highly beneficial residual stress (see article). And laser fume control, which is a major factor in ultrashort-pulse (USP) laser processing hard glass, is reviewed by Stefan Jakschik of ULT and Steffen Blei of ILK Dresden (see article).

In the large laser cutting sector, Chris Wright of The Right Image cites laser component cutting's contribution to a UK gritting vehicle business growth (see article).

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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