Global laser systems market for materials processing down 9 per cent in 2019

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The global market for laser systems for materials processing reached $17.9 billion in 2019, a decline of 9 per cent compared to 2018, Optech Consulting reported in January.

The decrease follows nine years of continued growth – from $5.3 billion in 2009 to a record $19.8 billion in 2018. In 2017 and 2018 alone, the market increased by 50 per cent due to a combination of drivers, including the rapid adoption of laser manufacturing in China, a market push by decreased laser prices, and an end market pull in the consumer electronics and automotive industry.

In 2019 the macroeconomic environment deteriorated. According to the International Monetary Fund, global GDP growth was down to 3.0 per cent in 2019 compared to 3.6 per cent in 2018, with the corresponding World Bank figures being 2.4 per cent in 2019 and 3.0 per cent in 2018.

Major end industries for laser systems have cut their equipment spending, notably smartphone makers and car manufacturers. The downturn in spending for laser equipment can also be seen as a correction after years of strong growth. Factory floors are now well-equipped with new laser technology, and given the decreased economic growth expectations, less equipment was purchased in 2019.

China has become the largest market for laser materials processing equipment, with a 30 per cent share in worldwide demand. Due to its large share in global industrial manufacturing, the country’s leading position in laser equipment consumption is well justified, according to Optech Consulting. Moreover, China is rapidly building its own laser industry, and therefore the share of imported laser equipment is decreasing – resulting in reduced export growth opportunities for foreign equipment manufacturers. Lastly, the USA China trade row and the associated tariffs continue to have a detrimental effect on the laser equipment market.

Looking ahead into 2020, Optech Consulting reported that the repeatedly downward revised GDP growth forecasts and uncertainties in the consumer electronics and automotive industries weigh on revenue expectations for the laser sector. The presently available data indicates that first quarter 2020 revenues will be clearly down year-on-year.

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