Press Release – March 24, 2013

2012 Industrial Laser Systems Market Trends Sideways

North America Leads Growth – Europe Weighs

Taegerwilen, Switzerland, March 25, 2013 – – The global market for laser systems for materials processing accounted for US$ 10.2 billion in 2012, up by a marginal 1% versus the previous year. Market growth varied strongly by geographic region. The European market trended sideway in local currency, which translates into an 8% de-crease measured in US dollar terms due to the depreciation of the Euro. As Europe accounts for more than 30% of the global laser materials processing systems consumption the 8% decrease of the market weighed heavily on the global market trend. Within Europe the market trend showed a huge bandwidth, with healthy double-digit growth rates in the UK as well as in major economies in Eastern Europe, while the demand level shrank further versus an already very weak 2011 base in the recession beaten Southern European countries. The North American market grew double-digit in the USA as well in Canada. The demand for standard laser machines, such as flat sheet metal cutters, increased by more than 25%, and sales were substantially above the pre-crises peak lev-els reached in 2007 and 2008. The strong growth of the laser systems demand reflects the revival of U.S. manufacturing. With a consumption share of only about 15% in the global market, how-ever, the impact of market growth in North America on the global figures is limited. Korea was the growth locomotive in the Asian laser systems market, with an increase exceeding 30%, while China reported moderate growth and Japan a sideward trend.

Laser systems are capital goods and their demand reacts strongly on changes of economic expec-tations which went though a roller coaster in 2012. In the beginning of the year economic expecta-tions in Europe were depressed due to the public debt crisis. As Europe is China’s major trade partner Europe’s ailing economy also slowed down the Chinese export engine. Together, the two regions account for nearly 50% of the global consumption of laser materials processing systems. During the year economic expectations improved, before decreasing again towards the end of the year, also pulling the laser market up and down.

On a global base, growth segments in laser materials processing comprised applications in con-sumer electronics manufacturing, especially smartphones and tablet PCs. Laser processing is employed for the manufacturing of key components such as displays, integrated circuits, and printed circuit boards, as well as for marking, cutting and welding of mechanical components, in-cluding the hotly discussed cutting of touch panel glass. Another growth segment is laser-based manufacturing in the automotive industry. Automobile manufacturers and subcontractors increas-ingly adopt welding and cutting for car body as well as power train manufacturing. Including all applications of laser macro and micro processing the electronics sector currently consumes about 40% of all laser materials processing systems. The automotive sector has increased its share to 15%. The balance is accounted for by a wide range of industry sectors, including job shops which play an especially important role in laser sheet metal cutting. The market for laser sources for ma-terials processing accounted for US$ 3.1 billion in 2012. As in recent years, fiber lasers and other solid-state lasers increased their market share. The market share of fiber lasers now accounts for 18% as compared to 10% four years ago, and 4% seven years ago. The most discussed issue in the laser industry as well as among its investors is how quickly high power solid-state lasers, in-cluding fiber and disk lasers, will replace CO2 lasers in cutting. The substitution process had gained momentum in 2011 and continued in 2012, but missed some aggressive forecasts. With the technology for higher cross section cutting now becoming ready, and fiber laser prices ap-proaching those of CO2 lasers, the substitution process is expected to proceed and to eventually lead to a strong dominance of solid state lasers in high power cutting which is the largest single segment of the industrial laser market.

With a total volume of US$ 10.2 billion the market for laser materials processing systems has reached the substantial share of 11% of the worldwide machine tool market (about US$ 90 billion for 2012 according to Gartner / VDW). In the last 20 years, the volume of the laser systems market has increased by 600% while in the same period the global machine tool market increased by 190%. Optech Consulting expects continued growth for the laser systems market, with growth rates to 2020 outpacing global GDP growth by a factor of around 1.5.

Founded in 1992 Switzerland based Optech Consulting specializes in laser and photonics market research and consulting.

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