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03 Nov, 2023, Company News

Overview of Industrial Laser Technology in Domestic and International Markets

Overview of Industrial Laser Technology in Domestic and International Markets
The current situation and trends of industrial lasers abroad are impressive. Developed countries such as the United States, Germany, and Japan have achieved remarkable growth in the laser processing industry. They have successfully replaced traditional processes with laser processing technology in major manufacturing industries like automobiles, electronics, machinery, aviation, and steel. This has led to the emergence of "light manufacturing" era. The cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and potential of lasers in industrial manufacturing have become key drivers of competition among major industrial countries. Consequently, these countries actively support laser technology as a cutting-edge technology and intensify the development of national-level laser industry plans. For example, the United States encourages the development of new process technology through its Precision Laser Machining (PLM) Association, with the aim of becoming a leader in industrial laser technology and gaining a larger share in the world market. Similarly, Germany has formulated a national laser development plan that has placed them in a leading position globally. In recent years, the widespread use of laser equipment in German automotive and machinery manufacturing has significantly improved their competitiveness in these fields. Germany also recognizes laser technology as a top priority and believes that more than 12% of future manufacturing processes will require laser technology to replace traditional methods. Additionally, countries like the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Singapore, and India have also formulated dedicated laser technology development plans.

According to the statistical data released by the authoritative international laser industry publication "Laser Focus World," the global laser industry market is experiencing rapid growth. Laser product sales have been growing at an average rate of over 10% per year and this growth trend is accelerating. In 2008, the global laser industry had an annual output value of over $7 billion for laser devices (excluding semiconductor lasers widely used in communication and consumer electronics) and over $13 billion for laser processing equipment.

Manufacturers of industrial laser equipment have evolved from research-based specialized equipment manufacturers to multinational companies engaged in standardized and large-scale production. Many well-known foreign laser companies have experienced rapid growth through mergers and reorganizations. For example, Germany's Trumpf company, through mergers and reorganizations, has become the dominant force in the global laser equipment manufacturing industry, with seven enterprises engaged in laser product manufacturing. Coherent, after selling its medical laser group to Israeli ESC/Sharplan in early 2001, purchased several companies engaged in industrial laser product manufacturing and focused on technical research and product development in the field of industrial lasers. The formation of these large enterprises not only promotes the development of laser application technology and industry but also indicates that these manufacturers are seeking to improve the performance-to-price ratio of laser equipment in order to monopolize the market.

The development trends of industrial lasers abroad can be summarized as follows:

(1) Distinctive product differentiation and evident core competitiveness: Well-known foreign laser companies have achieved core competitiveness through distinctive product characteristics. For example, Trumpf in Germany produces high-power axial flow CO2 lasers and disc lasers, Rofin in Germany produces line lasers, Synrad produces RF-excited continuous-wave lasers for medium and small powers, and Coherent produces RF-excited pulsed lasers for medium and small powers. Similarly, PRC in the United States produces axial flow CO2 lasers, and IPG produces fiber lasers.

(2) Continuous expansion and extension of new application areas: Developed countries have made astonishing advancements in exploring new laser technology applications. They have successfully replaced traditional processes with laser processing technology in major manufacturing industries such as automobiles, electronics, machinery, aviation, and steel, leading to the emergence of the "light manufacturing" era. Lasers, due to their high time and spatial resolution, have also been further promoted and applied in situations requiring highly precise processing, such as in the electronics, semiconductor, micro/nano mechanical manufacturing, biotechnology, and environmental protection industries.

(3) Increasing specialization in the industrial chain: A notable characteristic of the foreign laser industry's development is the increasing specialization and division of labor in the industrial chain. Related components have reached the highest level in the industry, creating a comprehensive laser industry chain. For example, II-VI in the United States and Kugler in Germany have become famous professional suppliers of laser optical lenses. German institutions such as Fraunhofer, Nutech, Hanover Laser Research Institute, and Munich Technical University's IWB Institute are professional organizations conducting research and development in laser technology applications. They have made significant achievements in laser cutting, welding, cladding, and laser remanufacturing, which have been widely applied in companies such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, and Airbus. Specialized power supply companies provide RF power supplies for Trumpf's series of high-power axial flow CO2 lasers, Rofin's series of line CO2 lasers, and PNA's CP series lasers. German companies Precitec, HighYAG, Laser Mech, Laserline, Fraunhofer, and Scansonic have developed laser cutting heads, welding heads, and specialized cladding heads, which have become core components for various laser processing equipment manufacturers. Laser processing numerical control systems developed by professional companies such as Siemens in Germany, Fanuc in Japan, and Fagor in Spain have become monopolistic products of the laser processing equipment manufacturing industry.

(4) Traditional lasers moving towards high power, while new types of lasers continue to emerge: Traditional gas and solid-state lasers are gradually moving towards higher power and cost-effectiveness, driven by technological advancements and the pursuit of efficiency and profitability. For example, Trumpf has introduced multi-kilowatt axial flow CO2 lasers five-axis cutting, welding, and surface treatment systems. The United States, Germany, and Japan are leading the development of new types of lasers, which have become the core driving force behind the growth of the laser industry. New types of lasers such as fiber lasers, semiconductor lasers, and ultraviolet lasers have emerged and are becoming increasingly mature. The main development directions are high power, high beam quality, high reliability, high intelligence, solid-state technology, and low cost. High-brightness high-power semiconductor-pumped solid-state lasers, ultraviolet lasers, and ultra-short pulse solid-state lasers (picosecond and femtosecond) have become the focus of future development for new types of lasers.

(II) Current Situation and Development Trends of Industrial Lasers in China:

China's laser technology research started simultaneously with foreign countries and was the high-tech field with the smallest technology gap at that time. With the support of national science and technology projects from the "Sixth Five-Year Plan" to the "Eleventh Five-Year Plan," China has made comprehensive technical achievements in the research and development of some core laser technologies. China has established five national-level laser technology research centers, with Huazhong University of Science and Technology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences' four institutes of optoelectronics being typical representatives. Wuhan, where these research centers are located, has become the birthplace of laser technology in China.

China's laser processing industry has been growing exponentially. Currently, China has formed four major laser industry clusters in the central, Pearl River Delta, Yangtze River Delta, and Bohai Rim regions. There are 21 provinces and municipalities engaged in the production and sales of laser equipment, with regular production and sales of standardized products. There are about 200 enterprises of a certain scale, and two listed companies whose main business is laser products. In 2008, the output value of China's laser processing industry exceeded 10 billion yuan, and the industry employed more than 200,000 people.

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