to equivalent-power fiber lasers—a situation that may change
as orders increase.
TABLE 7 shows that the growth driver for macroprocessing revenues has been in metal cutting—specifically sheet metal cutting, where more than 7000 units that generated more than 76%
of total revenues were sold in 2016, a year in which capital equipment investment was reduced in countries such as Brazil that
would normally be expanding their fabricating industries. After a
sputtering start, capital equipment sales in China perked up and
finished the year on an upswing in government-sanctioned equipment investment. Asia continues to be the largest market for laser
sheet metal cutting, with 38 domestic and 14 international companies supplying fiber laser-powered systems. Even so, metal cutting
only squeaked out a modest 3.5% growth.
Stepped-up high-power laser welding applications, among them
very high-power fiber laser welding on oil pipelines, helped grow
the macroprocessing category. High-power lasers are also experiencing expanding use in additive manufacturing, where production demands are calling for higher laser powers in other applications such as cladding and paint stripping.
Conclusions on 2016
Marking revenue growth was less than forecast last year as a
result of declining unit prices. Macroprocessing revenues were
also less than forecast, partially because of uncertainty over the
Microprocessing revenues were higher than last year’s forecast
as initial revenues from record orders for OLED-display annealing
lasers were recorded.
With the exception of these revenues, the industrial laser market experienced modest growth in 2016, a turbulent year for global
manufacturing—taken together, market growth was 10.2%. This
contrarian performance was supported by the production demands
of key industrial sectors such as automotive, aerospace, energy,
communications, and microelectronics, in which laser material processing is a significant contributor.
Looking ahead to 2017, laser equipment suppliers expect market
conditions to repeat those of 2016, with total anticipated revenues
growing almost 9%. Microprocessing, which includes laser annealing, should grow by 18%, while marking (1%) and macroprocessing (5%) will show modest gains.
CO2 lasers will continue to experience decreasing revenues as
high-power fiber lasers increase share in the cutting market. The
total fiber laser market may grow by 8%, while excimer and diode
lasers (in the “other” category) should show a strong double-digit
pattern. Market assumptions for 2017 are based on industry estimates of a repeat of 2016 results. ✺