2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
China - Import/export industrial laser systems
Source: Han's Laser
grapple with safety and reliability standards. This is especially difficult in the Western world, which has established demands for
rapid service response and expedited replacement part supply.
Chinese system suppliers are realizing that the overriding concern
of buyers in the US and Europe is for equipment reliability, even
more than system selling price.
Somewhat mitigating the service and reliability issues is the use of
fiber lasers as the power source in many industrial laser systems on
the market. The fiber laser is an
tween-replacement, and easy-
to-maintain device that ensures
the prospect of cost-effective
operation in the manufacturing
environment. Long-time reliabil-
ity has been a major factor in
boosting fiber lasers to about a
third of the installed base of all
industrial lasers sold.
In 2016, Chinese system man-
ufacturers integrated 70,000
fiber lasers into the units sold.
Of these, 10,000 went into high-
power (>1k W) applications such
as welding and sheet metal
cutting, and 60,000 units into systems requiring pulsed laser out-
put (<1k W) for marking and microprocessing applications. Of note,
about 60% of high-power continuous-wave fiber lasers and 30% of
lower-power pulsed fiber lasers were from non-Chinese suppliers.
Now, the kicker in the competition situation is that successful
international industrial laser and systems manufacturers invest
a significant percentage of revenues in product research and
development to gain or retain market share in this very competitive global market. Two examples include IPG Photonics,
which reinvested about 7.9% of
sales (FY17, Q1), and TRUMPF,
which reinvested about 10.5%
(FY15/16). The result—invest in
research & development and
attendant intellectual property
(IP), and you get positive return
on your investment.
This was not lost on China’s
government when they drafted
the 13th Five-Year Plan, which
seeks to set a high 6.5% growth
rate to improve the average person’s quality of life and for man-
ufacturers to foster innovation
FIGURE 1. By the end of 2017, exports of Chinese industrial laser
systems may show a 21.9% CAGR, while imports of equivalent
systems may show a - 3.4% CAGR since 2010.