The industrial lasers market in India

June 23, 2021
The industrial lasers market in 2020 was tested by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s been more than a year since we last touched upon India’s laser market; at that time, the Indian laser industry was expected to grow at 19% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to 1 billion EUR by 2020.** However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall laser market saw a dip globally, and the same was the case with India. This impacted sales for the first six months of 2020 (April–September 2020), then the market started to open and the last six months (September 2020–March 2021) saw tremendous growth. The Indian market was not expected to recover that fast after COVID-19; however, sectors such as infrastructure and automotive has given the boost to it.

The automotive sector, which contributes 49% to India’s manufacturing gross domestic product (GDP) and 7.1% to India’s overall GDP, has been on slowdown for more than a year; however, it took a V-shape recovery once the lockdown was lifted. The data by the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) says the Indian automotive industry (including component manufacturing) is expected to reach US$251.4–282.8 billion by 2026 and still will be a major contributor for growth. With the pandemic, demand for new cars has been consistently higher because of the need for personalized, safer transport and the swelling number of new car buyers. The coming 2021-2022 period should see this segment grow with better sales than 2019 figures.

Hidayath Mohammed, Director of Sales for Trumpf (India) Pvt Ltd, says, “Growth in the automobile industry is a primary driver for laser cutting and laser welding, as the demand for safety in cars is growing, which is leading to requirements for hot-formed parts to be used in car manufacturing. This is giving a great opportunity for laser cutting of hot-formed parts, which is a major change in the laser industry. Also, e-mobility is gaining momentum with electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing coming with aggressive plans in the country. This segment is key and going to be a major contributor for the laser and its growth in various laser processes.”

Various laser applications

Laser marking is the highest in terms of number of machines sold, but laser cutting was the major contributor in terms of revenue. Laser cutting is still the largest laser market in India and looks to be growing for at least another couple of years. The primary reason is the drop in laser machine prices and the push by government in some sectors, especially infrastructure and automotive. The majority of machines are imported from China: Rakesh Agarwal, Director of Laser Technology Pvt Ltd (LTPL) says, “We are anticipating the laser cutting industry to have 1.5X growth. Chinese-imported machines still dominate the cutting market with 74% share in terms of number of imported machines and LTPL has the highest share—17% of it—and we anticipate this segment to grow further.”

One important aspect of a changing scenario is the local manufacturing of these laser cutting machines, which is gaining momentum. Many machine builders such as SIL Pune, SLTL Ahmedabad, Proteck Chennai, Delta Automation, and many other companies are already manufacturing/integrating laser cutting machines in India. Another dozen companies are coming up with plans to integrate the machines locally. Sanjay Shah, Director of Suresh Indu Laser Pvt Ltd. (one of the largest laser cutting manufacturers) puts it, “In the coming years, the domestic manufacturing of laser cutting machines will increase and they will also compete with Chinese pricing by providing a better product and service, although importing some key parts like laser sources, cutting heads, or CNCs from China will remain.” However, the challenge for local manufacturers that are not dealing in volumes is to meet the Chinese machine price. This is due to the fact that the volume of machines produced by China is many times more than which India consumes. Once the demand increases, the price gap is going to be reduced.

Another important aspect of the laser cutting market is, the, power level of laser for cutting, as speed is going to be the key. K. Bala, Managing Director of Proteck Machinery Pvt Ltd says, “1.5–2 kW is the benchmark entry point for laser cutting machines, and still the majority of the total cutting market. However, power levels of 4 kW and more are picking up and we anticipate it growing further in the year 2021. This segment will be a substantial contributor to the growth of the laser cutting market with steady fall in the price per watt of laser power—the market trend is towards increasing cutting power, making laser cutting of thick materials economical.”

International players such as Trumpf, Amada, and others are strong and growing in this cutting market segment with new products and aggressive pricing. Also, the programmable fiber laser with changing mode, IPG Photonics’ high-peak-power fiber laser, and other additional features on fiber lasers from different manufacturers are giving a boost to the cutting/welding market.  IPG Photonics still dominates the Indian laser market as the single largest supplier; however, others such as nLIGHT are trying hard to catch up. Chinese companies, Raycus and Max, are aggressively promoting their lasers by offering substantial lower prices.

Apart from laser cutting and marking, laser cladding, hardening, and welding are growing at a steady pace. We are not seeing exponential growth in this segment and it seems that the conventional way of getting these applications done is more cost-effective than laser processes. However, with more automation companies coming into laser integration and Industry 4.0, I anticipate welding for metal and non-metals (plastic) will certainly take an upward curve in coming years.

What the future holds for lasers in India

I see the manufacturing scenario is certainly going to change due to a push for certain market segments such as defense, infrastructure, automotive, and others, and one of the keys can be the Indian government’s purchase policy. Due to the effect of the pandemic, the Indian government has put forth the Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat* more strongly to reduce dependency on imports from other countries. As per the new government procurement policy for purchase up to ~$26 million USD, preference will be given to the Indian manufacturer/integrator that can make systems locally or at least have a certain percentage of the components made locally. This will push companies to get into some kind of manufacturing if they have to do business with Indian government. This, I see in the long term, is a step towards giving a boost to local manufacturing even though it’s going to assembly/integration as a first step, as all major components for lasers are normally imported. Maulik Patel, Executive Director of the SLTL Group (Sahajanand Laser Tech Ltd.) says, “The world is poised for China + 1; there is already some visibility for the initiative of Make in India and the laser industry is definitely going to benefit with FDIs (foreign direct investments) and other initiatives that support directly or indirectly for manufacturing in India. Localization in photonics is crucial and vital for the next big growth. There are potentials for joint ventures and partnerships as the government is incentivizing manufacturing—companies will start setting up manufacturing units.”

Government labs such as IIT, CGCRI, and IISC are already developing different fiber lasers and other technologies. I am sure that with some private industries getting into partnerships, we may see manufacturing for laser or photonics components.

The Indian government has identified 24 sectors such as aerospace and defense, automotive and auto components, railways, biotechnology, and others, plus new upcoming technologies such as additive and Industry 4.0 will give a further push for local manufacturing. The Defense Production and Export Promotion Policy 2020 provides impetus to self-reliance in defense manufacturing under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat scheme. The government aims to achieve a turnover of US $25 billion (including an export of US $5 billion) in the aerospace and defense goods and services by 2025. The defense estimates potential contracts worth US $57.2 billion for the domestic industry in the next 5–7 years (2025–2027). This will encourage more participation from startups and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in defense research & development (R&D) in achieving the Atmanirbhar Bharat goal, and certainly lasers will be one of the key elements in the different production processes of defense equipment, from cutting, welding, and cladding to additive and others.

The Laser Industries Association of India (LIAI), founded in 2019, is a much-needed voice of the laser industry to put forth the issues faced by the Indian laser industry to government. With growing members every year, LIAI will have an active role to play in safeguarding and enhancing the domestic laser manufacturing and growth of the laser industry in the coming years in India.

The upcoming market is e-mobility, as the EV market in India is expected to be valued at $7 billion by 2025. Right now, the majority of the batteries for EVs are imported and assembled in India. The government is providing benefit under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Strong) Hybrid and Electric Vehicles in India (FAME India) scheme for adoption of EVs and a $4.6 billion incentive for setting up battery manufacturing plants in India. All big players like Tesla, Panasonic, and others are setting up plants in India, which will give further push to this segment for faster growth.

Laser additive manufacturing, which has been seeing rapid growth, will keep growing further in the coming years, as it is touching every field from aerospace and defense to medical and jewelry. Apart from powder-bed fusion (PBF), other laser additive manufacturing technologies such as directed energy deposition (DED) and wire additive manufacturing for large parts in marine/defense will grow slowly. Cost and skilled manpower are still deterrent factors for other laser-based additive technologies (apart from PBF) to be adopted by industry on a large scale. Research labs are purchasing other laser-based technologies and eventually in the coming years, we will see the same being used by industry.

Summing up

Cutting still dominates the Indian laser market and will be the major contributor in the coming years with a shift towards higher-power fiber cutting. However, the future looks bright for laser and laser-based applications, with new market segments opening up such as e-mobility, additive, solar, defense, and infrastructure. COVID-19 is still relevant and the second wave looks to be gripping India as this piece is going to press. It may happen that the market may take a pause until the COVID-19 situation improves; however, if COVID-19 carries on for longer, the scenario may change. Given the changes in the government policy and thrust to domestic manufacturing under Make in India and Atmanirbar Bharat, I anticipate development of technologies and growth in the manufacturing segment in the longer run. Thus, sooner or later India will march towards becoming the manufacturing hub for lasers and photonics. 

*Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan (Self-reliant India) is the vision of new India envisioned by the Prime Minister of India, an economic and comprehensive package equivalent to 10% of India’s GDP to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in India.

** India Photonics Market: 2017 Study by Industry ARC and SPECTARIS

About the Author

Anant Deshpande | Industrial Laser Solutions Editorial Advisor

Anant Deshpande is an Editorial Advisor to Industrial Laser Solutions, as well as the Technical Director at Trokut Solutions Pvt Ltd (Mumbai, India).

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