I’ve always been a person who has been very interested in the latest technology, and sometimes it’s hard for me to believe how much technology has changed over the years.
Everything from flat screen TVs, DVRs, audio equipment, cables and wiring, computers, tablets, smartphones, and so many others have evolved over the years, and in most ways, the new technology is quicker, smaller, cheaper, and more energy efficient. Today we take all these things for granted, but it wasn’t that long ago that a flat screen TV or a smartphone was a novelty. Today we just can’t even imagine living without these things.
Like most technology, laser technology is also evolving, but in different ways than in other industries. For the most part, laser technology undergoes incremental improvements rather than radical changes. The laser is more than 50 years old, but many lasers still require very complex and expensive optics, on-going maintenance, and gas recharges. Diode lasers have advanced laser technology in the last 10 years, but individual diode lasers are still limited in their power output. Then there is the fiber laser; yes, the fiber laser.
Fiber lasers are not a new technology, having existed for almost as long as the laser itself, but commercializing the fiber laser is something that took many years and probably wouldn’t have happened as quickly had it not been for the telecom bubble bursting around the early 2000s. At that time, companies involved in telecom fiber saw their sales quickly evaporating, so they looked for alternative fiber applications so that they could survive. The fiber laser was a natural fit. A variety of telecom companies jumped into the fiber laser business, but IPG Photonics was one of the biggest early supporters of fiber lasers and perhaps the best positioned to take advantage of the technology. Today, IPG is the largest producer of fiber lasers, but many other companies have jumped in to the fiber laser fray as well.
In 2014, laser revenue from fiber lasers will exceed $1B, up from just $229M just 5 years earlier, a compound annual growth rate of almost 38% per year. In the next 5 years, the rate of growth of fiber lasers will slow, but fiber lasers will still remain the fastest growing type of laser for many applications.
Why fiber lasers have become so popular so fast shouldn’t be a surprise because, like flat screen TVs and other recent technology, they are energy efficient, reliable, easily maintained, and tend to be very rugged. Fiber lasers can also be very scalable, which is a characteristic that makes them great for the military in directed energy weapons.
While fiber lasers continue to gain in the high-power industrial space, this is only one of many applications that fiber lasers are capturing. New development is producing fiber lasers that can produce light in wavelengths from deep UV up to the mid-IR and beyond at increasing power levels. Fiber lasers are also increasingly becoming the go-to laser type when ultrashort, high-power pulses are required.
Given the past success and future opportunities for fiber lasers, it is not an overstatement to say that fiber lasers are transforming and modernizing many laser applications. It is for this reason that Strategies Unlimited felt now was the time for a complete market report and forecast of the fiber laser market. This report covers not only the industrial uses of fiber lasers (KW cutting and welding, marking, and micro materials processing), but also commercial printing, military, sensors, and R&D usage and outlook for fiber lasers, including forecasts for each segment out to 2018. This report was just released, and is available HERE.