Global market for laser materials processing systems reaches record $19.8bn

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The global market for laser systems for materials processing reached a record volume of $19.8 billion in 2018, despite slowing market growth, a new report from Optech Consulting has revealed.

Market growth was 17 per cent last year, down from 30 per cent in 2017.

'2017 was an outstanding year for laser materials processing, and in 2018 some of the drivers paused or lost steam,' the report states. This led to growth rates increasingly weakening throughout 2018, with the trend continuing into the first quarter of 2019.

The report also showed that market growth in Europe exceeded 20 per cent in 2018, outpacing growth rates in North America and China. This was caused by European investments in laser equipment increasing substantially in line with growing capital equipment spending, defying the comparably weak growth.

High power laser cutting and welding, the largest application segment of laser materials processing, once again spurred the growing demand for laser equipment worldwide. Demand for welding systems was stimulated by automotive applications, especially with the industry’s continued transition towards e-mobility. It was noted in the report however that car sales are in fact decreasing worldwide, especially in China, which has spurred fears of decreasing investments in the automotive industry.

Market growth for laser applications in the electronics industry was mixed. While demand in the semiconductor segment continued to grow due to EUV and advanced packaging applications, market growth in the flat panel display segment dipped, caused by mobile electronics manufacturers cutting back their capital spending in response to a decrease in smartphone shipments. The microelectronics processing market also felt the decreasing growth rates of the mobile electronics market.

The global market value for laser materials processing systems between 1999 and 2018. (Image: Optech Consulting)

The global market for industrial laser sources reached $5.1 billion in 2018, up 10 per cent vs the previous year. The growth rate falls short of that for laser systems because the average sales price for laser sources decreased more than the average price for laser systems.

High power fibre laser prices were especially under pressure in 2018, due to the increased number of suppliers gaining market traction by cutting prices. This price war continues to further exacerbate the challenges for the laser industry in China, which Coherent CEO John Ambroseo highlighted in a quarterly financial statement recently. These challenges are reflected in the new market report, which states that the adoption of laser technology in the Chinese manufacturing industry continued at a slower pace in 2018.

Most visibly, the US-China trade row was often cited as a major reason for the slowdown of growth in the industrial laser market, according to the report. While the direct impact of the dispute on the laser market appears to be small, however, it also has an indirect impact by creating investment uncertainties and by slowing down global economic growth.

Optech consulting will present its next market update at the 14th International Laser Marketplace at the Laser World of Photonics trade fair in Munich in June, for which Laser Systems Europe has recently been made a media partner.

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