I have long suspected that the annual Laser Market Review & Forecast
(http://www.laserfocusworld.com/laser-marketplace-2013-laser-markets-rise-above-global-headwinds.html), as published in the January 2013 issue of Laser Focus World, underestimates the total laser market simply due to the fact that it is difficult to get actual production statistics from domestic laser companies in China. The presentation from Bo Gu--respected photonics industry expert formerly with IPG and GSI and now an independent consultant--at our 2013 Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar
(http://www.marketplaceseminar.com) held during SPIE Photonics West confirmed my opinion. According to Gu, there are 200 laser companies in China, 150 job shops, 60,000 professionals in the laser field, and 25 companies (and perhaps more) alone making fiber lasers. You can watch a short video of Bo Gu here:
Gu explained that China has historically manufactured its own low-power lasers for marking/micromachining applications, but has recently made inroads into high-power lasers; for example, Raycus just completed a 4 kW fiber laser. Gu discussed how the Chinese government is eager to reduce or eliminate its dependence on foreign-manufactured lasers and mentioned that just in 2012, the National Laser Industry Alliance (NLIA) and the China Laser and Optoelectronic Cluster had been formed with that precise goal.
In its late December 2012 news posting, HG Laser wrote about details of the NLIA at http://en.hglaser.com/en-news/en-new/468.aspx. The news story wrote that on December 22, 2012, the NLIA was composed of 42 enterprises and institutions , including Wuhan HuaGong Tech Co., Wuhan Raycus Fiber Laser Technologies Co., Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing Co., Sany Heavy Industry Co.,and HuaZhong University of Science & Technology, and that the Secretary of the HGTech Party Committee was recommended as the chairman of the Alliance. The image below shows the NLIA ceremony taking place:
It also specifically discusses the 4 kW Raycus laser: "Otherwise, 4KW Fiber Laser Source, co-developed by HGLaser, Raycus and HUST, was accepted by Science & Technology Department of Hubei Province and made HGLaser and Raycus become the 3rd enterprise acknowledging the advanced technology after IPG and Rofin. What's more, Laser Processing National Project Research Center, co-built by HGTech and HUST, has become the connection between 'China Optic Valley' and 'International Science Industry'." The report concludes, "During the next phrase of work, all the members will make great breakthrough in the key technology area, integrate all resources to promote laser industry and will form industrial cluster in laser industry."
Indeed, a laser cluster has also been formed. In a news story at http://ftec.wenzhou.gov.cn/zsyz/files/en/index4-6-1.html, "The 'China (Wenzhou-based) Laser and Optoelectronic Industry Cluster' is among the first 41 objects for building and nurturing the national innovative industry cluster approved by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) ... ". The report continues: "Laser and optoelectronic industry is a basic industry out of the seven major strategic emerging industries of our country. Despite its later start, Wenzhou has achieved a rapid growth with considerable foundation laid in industrial size, chain and cluster, enterprise development and innovation capabilities. By far, over 80 laser and optoelectronic enterprises including 21 high-tech ones that settle in Wenzhou have achieve an output of RMB 22.88 billion and an industrial chain featured by laser application, PV generation, LED lighting and optical communication takes shape. Output of the cluster is predicted to break through RMB 100 billion [$16 billion dollars] in the forthcoming 5 years."
Wenzhou, the report continues, will lead off its focus on four major sectors including lasers, optoelectronic energy, semiconductor lighting, and optical communication, and launch the construction of the Innovation Park for China Laser and Optoelectronic Technologies, of which the construction of the 5 km2 starting area in the Hi-tech Zone, the Economic and Technological Development and Oujiangkou New District will be first commenced to ensure development space and enhance independent innovation capacities of the cluster (see image below of proposed Oujiangkou Industry Cluster Park):
American and European laser manufacturers should be prepared to possibly see laser sales into China fall as these key NLIA and cluster initiatives are implemented and acted upon. And as I prepare to travel to "Laser World of Photonics China" in Shanghai in mid March 2013, I cannot wait to compare and contrast what I see to Photonics West and Laser Munich.