Laser systems market down 2 per cent to $17.4bn in 2020

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The global market for laser systems for materials processing accounted for $17.4bn in 2020, down 2 per cent compared to the previous year, market research firm Optech Consulting has reported.

This decrease is remarkably moderate, according to the firm, given the macro-economic environment in 2020, which was characterised by a 3.5 per cent decrease of the global GDP1

The moderate decrease of the laser systems market is also in contrast to the sharp 20 per cent decrease of the global machine tool market in 2020.

Market growth in Asia despite pandemic

At the beginning of 2020, the industrial laser systems market was in a correction phase, after a decade of continued growth that started in 2010. The correction, which began in the second half of 2018, resulted in a 10 per cent decrease of the industrial laser systems market in 2019 vs 2018. In early 2020, the impact of the pandemic on the laser systems market was mainly limited to China. In the following months, the economic impact of the pandemic spread around the world with the virus. 

At the same time, however, the economy in China began to recover, and the industrial laser systems market in China even grew in 2020 vs 2019. Also in other parts of Asia the laser systems market increased, including Korea, Taiwan, and several of the ASEAN countries. In contrast, the markets in Europe, Japan, and to a lesser extent in North America decreased due to the pandemic.

The growth of the industrial laser systems market in Asia was driven by consumer electronics. In addition, laser applications in e-mobility added to the market growth, while the broader automotive industry remained at the sideline regarding capital expenditures due to the depressed car market. In China, a major driver of the market increase in 2020 was the revival of rapid adoption of laser technology in manufacturing, a process that started years ago, but came to a temporary halt in 2019.

Outlook for 2021

The demand for industrial laser systems is strongly susceptible to macro-economic cycles. The International Monetary Fund has repeatedly and upwardly revised its growth expectations for 2020 and 2021 versus very low estimates published earlier in 2020. Based on the present forecast of 6 per cent global GDP growth for 20211, Optech Consulting expects that the industrial laser systems market will increase at a double-digit rate in 2021. That estimate is for the USD based growth rate, while the growth rate measured in other currencies is expected to be lower due to the shift of exchange rates from 2020 to 2021.

Laser oscillator market for materials processing

While more information is still to be gathered by Optech Consulting at the time of writing, the firm has revealed that the market for laser oscillators for materials processing accounted for $4.3bn in 2020, up 2 per cent versus the previous year. The increase was mainly due to an increase of the market for low cost kilowatt class fibre lasers in China.

[1] International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook – April 2021

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