Laser cutter Focus World’s annual review and forecast for the industry, presents exciting trends, challenges, and a bird’s eye look at the laser landscape, focusing on emerging industrial and consumer innovations in the industry.
For example, by 2008, many had arrived at the obvious conclusion that fem to second laser engraver machine was a much better option for industrial and surgical processes, due to their ability to outperform Ho:YAG, DPSS equivalents, and other lasers.
- The impact of photonics on an array of industries led one insider to predict that by 2050 photonics companies would be the largest companies in the world, and in particular, to laud fiber laser cutter for their role in helping revitalise and invigorate the renaissance of American manufacturing.
- When Laser Focus World checked their crystal ball last year, they predicted that new applications would create new inroads that would enable the industry to achieve double-digit growth in some laser sectors (Source: “Laser Marketplace 2014: Lasers forge 21st-century innovations”, Laser Focus World).
- Far from hyperbole, in 2013 Worldwide laser sales hit $8.806 billion dollars (growing by 1.7% from the previous year) and it’s expected that sales will reach $9.334 billion dollars in 2014.
The 2015 forecast and the forecasted market numbers to 2017 included in the Strategies Unlimited quantitative laser market report should please laser manufacturers playing in some emerging sectors.
Material Innovation through Lasers
Single industrial laser cutter systems can process a wide variety of materials, which is particularly useful given the rapid development of new materials in manufacturing. Before 2015, high-strength steel and aluminium, for aircraft assemblies and autos were the up-and-coming materials. Now it is carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP), half the weight of steel and 30% lighter than aluminium, which has as much if not more strength than its predecessors. The only drawback with CFRP is that, for the present, it is more expensive than aluminium and high-strength steel.
This results in “higher yields and more predictable processes”.
Emerging materials, such as organic films, ultra thin glasses, and some semiconductor materials, are optimally prepared by a laser cutter.
Achieving the desired power-per-area parameter is possible in any materials processing laser, either by fiber, DPSS-based, or other custom beam delivery optics, which enables lasers to meet customers at their optimal price point. For these reasons, industrial processes and materials uniquely suited to lasers should continue to propel laser sales.
Lasers in Manufacturing: Fact versus Fiction
For decade’s co2 laser engraver have dominated many laser-supported manufacturing processes. However, recently, fiber lasers have begun to usurp several other building applications, e.g., mechanical cutting, surface texturing, and welding, as a result of offering an efficient, low-cost, and reliable alternative.
There has been much hype around laser-only manufacturing applications, such as 3D printing, but the hype is at odds with reality. While $1000 to $3000 3D printers have entered the market, these are mostly student or small-business grade.
Professional (and more expensive) 3D printers, capable of producing additive manufacturing processes, are highly unlikely to become available to the average consumer and even broad commercial deployment will depend upon a substantial reduction of parts production costs.
Nevertheless, though it distorts the present reality, in the long-run the hype around 3D printing will invariably benefit laser engraver machine manufacturers by bringing greater acceptance – and it is hoped – innovation and economization to this industry.