Materials processing and lithography
Industrial laser systems in 2014 represented about 14% of global machine tool sales, so there is no question that the health
of the world’s manufacturing sector implies overall health for
the industrial laser industry. Projections for 2014 machine tool
consumption were in the 5–7% range, and the industrial laser systems market is expected to follow.
In the markets of interest to the industrial laser communi-
ty, China’s priority was to remake their economy with more
domestic demand, less reliance on exports, and investments
in capital-intensive state-owned companies. European man-
ufacturing, in recession territory even with modest growth in
Germany, started showing the first signs of recovery mid-year
with slightly positive indications as the year ended. In North
America, the U.S. was one of the “bright lights” with the
economy on the mend, housing and non-residential strength
growing into 2015, and an energy boom for at least the next
three years. The BRIC nations that were projected to drive
the 2014 industrial laser market underperformed with Russia
and Brazil stagnant and China and India slowing down to
5–7% growth. And for 2015, the International Monetary
Fund spotlighted the U.S., India, and the UK as the most
likely positive growth regions, but cautioned about global
capital investment increases.
As 2014 ended, the total market for the industrial lasers that
power the systems used in manufacturing operations exceeded $2.6 billion, a 6% increase over 2013 revenues (see table).
In 2014, fiber lasers used in materials processing applications
comprised 29% of the total revenues in the global laser market, trailing only lasers used in communications applications
(32%). The vagaries of the world’s manufacturing industries
are thus closely followed by those who track lasers in photonics.
Clearly evident is the influence of the continued strong
growth of fiber lasers, which increased their share of the to-
tal industrial laser market to 36% at the expense of solid-state
and CO2 lasers. As the largest revenue-producing category, the
fiber lasers sector is the most watched in the Industrial Laser
Solutions annual market survey.
Fiber lasers used as the power source in metal cutting applications—especially sheet metal cutting, where systems are
priced in excess of $650,000—will generate more than $1.3
billion of revenue in 2014. Adding in the revenue from high-power CO2 lasers in that same application (but rapidly losing
market share to high-power fiber lasers) results in a capital
equipment investment of almost $4 billion—about a third of
all industrial laser systems sold in 2014.
Also notable in 2014 is the 13% share of the total market
held mostly by high-power direct diodes. This relatively new-
to-the market product is being used in on-line applications
such as brazing the roofs and other sheet metal components
on automobiles. Quietly, this highly efficient laser is carving
out a niche in the market.
Not so quietly making a market entrance in 2014 is the high-brightness, high-power direct diode lasers that are being offered as an alternative to fiber lasers in sheet metal fabrication,
with cutting results equal in quality and speed to equivalent-power fiber and disk lasers. Sales were miniscule, but interest
was high at the fabricating shows in 2014.
As fiber lasers continue their relentless penetration into established markets such as marking, revenues from solid-state laser sales are decreasing. The $750+ million marking/engraving
Materials processing & lithography
Includes lasers used for all types of metal processing (welding,
cutting, annealing, drilling); semiconductor and microelectronics
manufacturing (lithography, scribing, defect repair, via drilling);
marking of all materials; and other materials processing (such as
cutting and welding organics, rapid prototyping, micromachining,
and grating manufacture). Also includes lasers for lithography.
Lasers for industrial use had a strong year in 2014, helped both
by an improving economy in most regions of the world, especially
in Europe, and increased adoption of laser technology in more
manufacturing processes, including additive manufacturing.
While metal welding and cutting were strong, some segments like
solar were particularly weak, while smartphones and flat panel
displays—large contributors to lasers in past years—have become
close to flat.
Demand for semiconductors was strong in 2014, with the SIA
reporting that worldwide semiconductor sales were up around
7% over 2013. This increased demand for semiconductors has
increased demand for excimer lasers and supplies. Extreme
UV photolithography continues to evolve and improve, but is
nowhere near the point where it is taking away any demand for
deep-UV excimer lasers.
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Year
Industrial laser revenues (US$M)
LaserType 2013 2014 2015
CO2 863 884 2 877 1
Solidstate 456 444 - 3 431 - 3
Fiber 841 960 14 1085 13
Other 327 343 5 366 7
Total 2487 2631 6 2759 5
Source: Strategies Unlimited