April 20—Mountain View, CA—On the 50th anniversary of the laser, the global market for lasers is expected to grow by $2.6 billion to $8.8 billion in 2014, a compound annual growth rate of 9%. This is more moderate than the average rate of 14% over the history of the market. Worldwide laser sales fell 25% in 2009, the first decline since 2000, but 2009 was still among the 6 top revenue years in the history of the laser. These are among the findings in a new report, Laser 2010, from Strategies Unlimited, the leader in market research of the photonics industry.
Sales of fiber lasers fell only 5% in 2009 to $280 million, much better than other segments. Sales of the leading supplier of fiber lasers, IPG Photonics, fell to its 2007 level, losing share. But, IPG stands to gain in the recovery with its strong coverage in kilowatt-grade fiber lasers.
The recovery is aided by a turnaround in equipment for fabricating semiconductors and displays, and for communication equipment, as well as stable sales in lasers for biomedical instrumentation, and military and scientific lasers. The materials processing sector will see a slower recovery. Lasers for data storage are in for harder times, as the world turns more toward online sourcing and flash memory. The laser market will continue at a lower growth rate, with economic cycles playing a larger part than in the past. Figure 1 illustrates the slowing growth as the market increases in size.
Figure 1. Forty years of market data on laser sales shows steady upward growth punctuated by recessions approximately every 9 years.
Some segments of the laser market began declining in 2007, with the full force felt in early 2009. An upturn was evident in mid-2009 due to inventory depletion and pent-up demand, particularly in the semiconductor and telecom sectors. But, it continues to be a time of turmoil as the supply chain is shuffled. Credit remains tight for small and medium-sized businesses, and visibility remains poor.
The management of the laser industry is surprisingly concentrated. About 87% of laser revenues attribute to companies headquartered in just three countries: the U.S., Germany, and Japan. Just 5 companies earn over 50% of the industrial laser revenues: Coherent, IPG Photonics, Newport, Rofin-Sinar, and TRUMPF. But, the top 10 industrial laser suppliers lost some market share because of their high exposure to the machine tool market. With tight credit and an uncertain economy, financial events among suppliers were limited to acquisitions of mostly small companies. Oclaro’s merger and acquisition was an exception.
There are many promising new applications on the horizon, spanning every market sector. Particularly notable are those in the medical and consumer sectors: lasers for off-the-shelf hair removal and skin rejuvenation appliances, new touch-screen display sensors, Intel’s LightPeak interface for consumer products, cataract and praesbyopia treatment, optically-assisted magnetic recording, and promising new laser technologies in the green and mid-infrared ranges.
Laser 2010 is the 6th in a series of reports on fiber lasers and other lasers for industrial and consumer applications. It is the only market report to cover the entire laser market in detail. Founded in 1979, Strategies Unlimited specializes in market research and strategic consulting directed at photonics systems and components. Other recent reports by Strategies Unlimited cover: lasers for materials processing, ultrafast lasers, optical molecular imaging, OCT, image sensors, and LED lighting systems. The company, based in Mountain View, California, is a research unit of PennWell Corporation, a global media and information company. PennWell’s many brands include Laser Focus World, Industrial Laser Solutions, Bio Optics World, Vision Systems Design, Photovoltaics World, Solid State Technology, and Lightwave.