Matthew Dale reports on the International Laser Marketplace that took place at Laser World of Photonics this year

The International Laser Marketplace grants attendees to Messe Munich’s Laser World of Photonics the opportunity to learn more about the markets, trends and driving applications of the laser materials processing industry. This year, thanks to a new media partnership that Laser Systems Europe has with the Marketplace, now in its 14th instalment, I had the chance to seize this opportunity myself and report my findings.

Slowing growth Dr Arnold Mayer, of Optech Consulting, who chaired the event, expanded on his report of the 2018 industrial laser market released earlier in the year. The report revealed that despite a decline in growth from 30 to 17 per cent, the global market for laser systems for materials processing reached a record volume of $19.8bn in 2018. Mayer emphasised that while newer applications, such as additive manufacturing, did contribute to the recent growth in system sales, the biggest impact came from added capacity to already well- established laser applications, such as cutting and welding. ‘If we really want growth,


we cannot only count on new applications. We need growth from the existing applications,’ he said. ‘Electronics, automotive, sheet metal processing, these are all dominant applications. If these don’t see growth, we won’t see growth for the laser industry.’ He added that the alternative

would instead be having a variety of ‘real, heavy-growing new applications’ emerge that would then stimulate further market growth. For 2019, Mayer expects

a market contraction on a worldwide basis, however he explained that this is not an unusual development. ‘In 2016 and 2017, I said that higher power lasers were being bought as if there’d be no lasers available tomorrow. That was my comment at the time as the market was overheated, this year is a counter reaction now,’ he said. ‘To me, if we come out of this year with 5 per cent less growth, this would be very moderate considering how much the market increased before. I don’t think there’s a very specific reason for such a moderate correction.’

Challenges in China Commenting on the progress of the Chinese laser market for 2018, Dr Qitao Lue, CTO of Chinese laser giant Han’s Laser, said: ‘For more than one year, we have experienced problems,

“If we really want growth, we cannot only count on new applications… we need growth from the existing applications”

big challenges for companies,’ he said. ‘The real conditions are not good. Demand has slowed down.’ He commented that following

13 years of unbroken growth in the sales of laser technologies, driven by applications in the smartphone, sheet metal cutting, electric vehicle and display industries, a downturn of 15 or even 20 per cent is now expected over the coming year. When questioned about

the reason, Lue said demand has slowed in the smartphone and sheet metal processing industries, and that due to strong competition, electric vehicle production is a ‘money losing business’ in China. On a more positive note, Lue

reported that last year the total Chinese laser market reached sales of $5bn, and that export growth has been steady. The main export market for Chinese companies are mainly countries in Asia such as Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea and India.

In addition, Lue said that while in general less laser systems are now imported to China due to the improving strength of domestic system integrators, there was a jump in imports from South Korea last year, mainly due to activities in the display and semiconductor



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