ANALYSIS & OPINION
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Fibre laser market set to double by 2011

Sales of fibre lasers are set to double by 2011, a new report reveals. The fibre laser market is expected to be worth $240m by the end of this year, a growth of 39 per cent since 2006, and the report predicts an increase of at least 26 per cent per year for the next four years.

Historically, the laser market has been conservative in accepting new technologies. This growth could be a signal that customers are finally warming to the new type of laser source, which promises to offer higher powers and better beam quality than traditional sources.

A proportion of these sales could come from industrial welding and cutting applications, or semiconductor processing. ‘A couple of years ago, people would have said that fibre lasers were incapable of doing these applications,’ Tom Hausken, director of components research at Strategies Unlimited, who published the report, told electrooptics.com. ‘The question has now become: When will this be possible?’

Hausken says that while the fibre laser technology in itself is fully developed and ready for these applications, many customers are still wary of buying systems that have not been tried and tested. Many of these processes require microscopic precision, so a reliable laser source is essential.

Many users believe there could still be unforeseen complications from replacing more mature sources such as CO2 or DPSS lasers with the new technology in industrial systems. The wavelengths, powers and beam characteristics of fibre lasers are different, and factors in the manufacturing process such as the processing speeds and production environment will need to be adapted to suit the systems.

However, the report suggests that the increasing number of competitors that produce fibre lasers, which now includes Rofin, Trumpf, and GSI, has added a credibility to the technology that is now increasing faith amongst potential users. ‘Even IPG [the current market leader] would be pleased to see other competitors,’ said Hausken. He believes that although there has been a vast increase in fibre laser suppliers recently, if the smaller companies concentrate on niche applications they could still be successful.

While this bodes well for the 40 fibre laser suppliers in the market at the moment, the growth could come at the expense of suppliers of other laser sources, which will only see a seven per cent annual increase in market over the same period. In particular, fibre lasers are often in direct competition with disk lasers for high-power industrial applications. ‘Disk lasers are not getting the same kind of traction as fibre lasers,’ said Hausken.

The report, ‘Fiber laser market review and forecast-2007’ is available now from http://www.strategies-u.com/.

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