Monday, February 4, 2013

Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar at Photonics West -- a morning full of info

Laser Focus World's 2013 Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar, being held today (Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 at Photonics West, is off to a roaring start, with much of the general market info being presented in the morning.  With the caveat that one cannot capture more than a small portion of the info in a short blog, here's a quick recap of the morning's events so far . . .

General market
Allen Nogee of Strategies Unlimited was up first, giving an overall summary of the 2012 market and predictions for 2013.  His long list of quicly developing laser applications included some not well-known yet, such as the longe range detection of an automobile driver's breath alcohol through a car's window (ah, the benefits of spectroscopy!).

Allen notes that, for the general laser market, the good is that it is growing in emerging economies, but less good is the currently slowing growth in the Chines economy.  Greater than 95% of lasers come from 4 countries -- US, Japan, Germany, and China; biggest sales by application are lasers for communications and data storage, other laser diode applications, and materials processing.  Optical storage is on the way out, however, due to growth of online data storage and streaming.

China is now mandating optical fiber to all new homes, which is a boon for the datacom laser market.  In addition,  the effects of Hurricane Sandy are accelerating the replacement of copper with fiber for datacom in New York City.

Medical lasers had a good year in 2012, but a hitch in 2013 is a 2.3% tax imposed on medical equipment due to the Obama health-care initiative.  As for R&D lasers, the market will be up by a small amount in 2013.  Lasers for sensing (spectroscopy, etc.) will do well in 2013. For complete info in the 2013 laser market, Allen and Strategies Unlimited have put together the Worldwide Market for Lasers: Market Review and Forecast 2013 .

Industrial laser market
David Belforte of Industrial Laser Solutions was up next.  Fiber lasers have a projected 7% growth for 2013 -- fullfilling a need for compact and powerful lasers that are easy to deploy. Diode and excimer lasers for industry wull outperform the market in 2013.  Marking and engraving are the largest markets by unit sales -- here, fiber dominates.

The Asian fiber market has a half of the world's industrial laser installations. Both Asia and North America are exceeding expectations; Europe will be stagnant in 2013.

Interestingly, David believes that the predicted dip in the medical area (lasers are important for the manufacture of medical devices) due to the Obama changes to health care will work themselves out -- because they have to be.  To keep from injuring the industry, the taxes will have to be "tweaked."

Chinese market
Bo Gu, a San Francisco consultant, next presented on the laser market in China.  He notes that ultrafast laser processing for solar and semiconductor industries and direct-diode laser systems are growing fast. Low-power diode lasers have matured.  Chines laser equipment market for 2013 will be 54% low power welding lasers, with the rest high-power, but this will be reversed in a couple of years, says Gu.

A few of the trends for the next few years in China: green/UV and ultrafast lasers, especially picosecond lasers, will grow.  Chinese fiber-laser manufacturers will grow rapidly, and will become vertically integrated.  Kilowatt-level fiber lasers will enter the market, with 2 to 4 kW being the focus.  Government initiatives will be important for driving laser growth.

Before too long, China will become the largest economy in the world; to compete there, you will need to have the right business models and philosphies, says Gu.

OCT market
Eric Swanson of OCT News speaks next on the OCT (optical coherence tomography) market.  The field began in the late 1980s; now there are on the order of 50 companies.  More to come . . .

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