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Chinese laser firms outperform European and US brands in China

European and American brands including Trumpf and IPG are losing ground to Chinese laser firms in China, according to data presented by Guozhong Li at a meeting on lasers and material processing organised by the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC). Li is deputy chief editor for the Chinese publication, Laser Manufacture News, and was speaking at the event in Vilnius, Lithuania on 8 September.

Trumpf’s turnover in China was €360 million, down 2 per cent for its 2015/2016 financial year compared to the previous year, while IPG posted sales of US $96.4 million in China for Q2 2016, equating to 4 per cent growth.

By comparison, Han’s Laser, which is based in Shenzhen in Guangdong province, had total sales of US $467.44 million for the first half of 2016, growing 22.7 per cent, while HG Tech, based in Wuhan in Central China’s Hubei province, recorded total sales of US $246.14 million and growth of 30.4 per cent in the first half of 2016.

The Chinese laser processing market reached US $6,837 million in 2015, according to Li, with Guangdong and Hubei the two main hubs of laser processing, making up 31 per cent and 21 per cent respectively of the Chinese market.

There are a total of 1,134 Chinese laser companies, Li said. The main sector is laser marking, although laser cutting and welding are both growing, taking 30 per cent and 15 per cent of market share respectively.

The price of laser equipment has also dropped considerably in the last five years, Li said – a 20W pulsed fibre laser that cost US $12,500 in 2010 has halved in price to around US $6,000 in 2015; a 1,500W laser cutting machine that would have cost US $180,000 in 2010 now is priced at US $100,000.

Li was part of a delegation from the Guangdong Laser Institute Association (GDLIA) attending the EPIC event, alongside Ruohong Hou, president of Sunshine Laser and GDLIA.

GDLIA was founded in 2013 and now has 103 members. It signed a memorandum of understanding with EPIC and, in May 2017, will take part in the second EU-Asia Laser Summit, along with EPIC, in Shenzhen, China. It also has ties with Lithuanian photonics company Ekspla, one of the firms visited during the EPIC meeting in Vilnius.

Chinese companies are willing to adopt new technology from firms that are less well known than more recognised brands, Lynn Sheehan, director of global applications at laser producer NLight, said at the EPIC meeting in Vilnius. Sheehan has a lot of experience working in the Chinese market; 70 per cent of NLight's sales are in China, he estimated.

‘In Europe and the US it’s just the opposite; the adoption rate is slow, it’s very conservative, and brand recognition is a big part of the choice,’ he added.

The data from Li suggests that Chinese laser companies are taking advantage of the growth in manufacturing in the country, and becoming more important players in the global industrial laser market.

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China surpasses Europe as largest laser systems consumer - Arnold Mayer, general manager of Optech Consulting, analyses the major trends in lasers and laser systems for materials processing, including the Chinese and fibre laser markets

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