Because Fiber Laser applications are increasing by the day, this technology is key in the future of many markets. Laser systems are increasingly conquering various markets and being used in many fields of art and technology.
Material processing, Direct marking, biomedical applications, Branding, imaging and machine vision are just a few examples for a trend on the rise.
1. Fiber Laser – A Unique Industrial Technology
Fiber laser machines are types of devices, which are optically pumped, most commonly with laser diodes but in a few cases with other fiber lasers. The optics used in these systems, are usually fiber components, with most, or all the components fiber-coupled to one another. In some systems, bulk optics are used, and sometimes an internal fiber-coupling system is combined with external bulk optics.
The global fiber laser market reached $1.8 billion in 2017, and is projected to reach $4.4 billion by 2025.
This will be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.9% from 2018 to 2025.
Advantages of fiber lasers over other laser technologies
Fiber lasers are neither the only type of laser machines on the market, nor are they dominant in laser applications at current.
Gas based laser systems, especially the ones that use CO2 or helium are more readily available in the market today, for the simple reason that they have been in commercial use for many more years than fiber lasers.
However, because of the rapidly growing knowledge about the raw power of fiber lasers, their advantages over the older types of laser machines have far reaching implications on advancement of old methods and invention of new applications.
Their versatility ensures that their use will exponentially grow in the coming years as shown above. Let us look at a brief summary of fiber lasers over the gas based laser systems;
- Fiber laser machines can seamlessly adapt across a wide array of applications in many industries, including machining, healthcare, transport, art, education and healthcare with unrivalled versatility.
- The machines are usually compact and tend to be much smaller than older systems, making them increasingly more motile and versatile for machining and transport.
- They work on a much wider variety of materials, including wood, leather, stone, ceramic, all metals, plastics and glass, with high quality results on reflective and hard surfaces.
- Fiber lasers are hardy and low sensitive, and can work in very harsh environments and comparing much better than other laser technologies.
- Since fiber lasers don’t use gas and other consumables, they achieve better results as compared to the older systems, and at less than half the cost of operating older systems.
- The machines usually produce low heat due to brilliant designs in their cooling systems, meaning that they do not damage the materials you are working on in the material surrounding the laser application area. This also means that the machine is not exposed to excess heat damage.
- Due to their compact design, brilliant designs and low maintenance costs, these machines have much lower costs of ownership with significantly better levels of performance.
2. Diverse Use Cases of Fiber Laser Technology
According to the 2018 report by IDTechEx, a global leader in market research and technology, fiber laser technologies have been put onto the commercial markets while others are emerging in four key segments, namely material processing, sensing, health-care and the general category.
Current fiber laser technology innovations led by key suppliers are enabling fiber lasers to continue their increasing dominance over other competing laser and non-laser technologies in material processing.
The material processing sector has most of the established applications of fiber laser technology with several major applications, namely cutting, welding, ablation, 3D printing, drilling, micromachining and cleaning;
Fiber laser marking machines have found a very fertile marking in non-subtractive material marking. Although related to laser engraving, marking is done at surface level, and fiber lasers can mark or label anything from ceramics, glass, plastic, metals, stones, LEDs, rubber, graphic composites, etc. Marking is usually done so as to achieve a permanent high contrast marking in black or other colors depending on the material being marked.
As opposed to marking, a fiber laser engraving machine removes a portion of material to create a mark with depth, where the Laser acts as a chisel to blow away selected areas of the subject material.
Laser welding machines are used to weld materials together, single-piece or multiple pieces of similar or different materials across a wide range of fabrication applications.
This technique is gaining popularity due to increased weld strengths, and fiber laser welding is being adopted by highly sensitive industries such as aircraft and medical equipment welding.
A fiber laser cutting machine is capable of cutting through a wide range of materials, achieving awkward and complex cuts that are highly repeatable at ridiculously cheap costs.
Laser cleaning is achieved when contaminants, debris or impurities (e.g. carbon, silicon and rubber) are removed from a surface by use of laser irradiation.
This is achieved at very low costs, and laser cleaning is increasingly being used across many industries all over the world.
Laser cleaning machines can achieve this cleaning by either removing an undesirable layer on the surface of a material, or removing the entire outer part of material to achieve a clean piece through a subtractive process.
IDTechEx concluded in their 2018 report that recent innovations in fiber laser welding and 3D printing will become increasingly important to lightweight tooling and manufacturing in the automotive and aerospace engineering.
Here, we have both commercial and emerging applications.
Terrestrial mapping, wind sensing and military range finding are already commercialized use cases using fiber laser, while automotive LiDAR, Structural Health Monitoring, Vibration Measurement, Remote Gas Sensing and Oil & Gas Exploration are emerging uses of fiber lasers.
Fiber laser machines can provide wavelengths that are excellent for use with cutting edge fluorescent markers and biological molecules. These technologies are already being used in vision correction, skin rejuvenation and photo-coagulative surgery.
Areas that are emerging for use of fiber lasers in healthcare include multi-photon microscopy, dentistry, Kidney stone ablation, and soft tissue ablation.
Fiber lasers are already being used in communication, with fiber optic cables driving the global connectivity of devices on the internet.
However, other concepts under development include directed energy weapons, advanced cinema projections, optical molecular tweezers, 3D scanning, ultra-fast photography and the discovery of gravitational waves, all of which will have significant uses in many types of industries.
3. Interesting Market structure and growth
Much of the growth of fiber laser markets will increasingly depend on the versatility of the new machines on the market and the need for legacy industries to re-invent and cut operational costs by exploiting fiber lasers high efficiency and low maintenance costs.
The world market share of laser equipment is ballooning. The global industrial market for lasers jumped from $2.63 billion in 2014 to slightly over $4.59 billion in 2018, which is a CAGR of 14.9%. It is expected to show a CAGR of between 6%-8% between 2019 and 2025.
In China, for example, the fiber laser business has been spurred by political goodwill and increased innovation. In 2018, the market was worth $0.77 billion, and this was a 9% year on year improvement on the growth rate.
The Chinese economy is driven by policy to replace imports with local products in this sector, and
Globally, the top 5 manufacturers had a combined market share of 72.6% in the fiber laser business in 2018. Out of this, IPG ranked first with a market share of 27%, followed by TRUMPF of Germany with 18%; meanwhile, the Chinese Fiber Laser equipment giant, Wuhan Raycus Fiber Laser Technologies, seized 4.4% of the global market.
It is expected that this proportion will hold in the coming years, even with the projected 11-12% CAGR for the 2019-2025 period.
4. Material processing market growth
By far, material processing is the biggest sector in fiber laser technologies use cases, affecting many huge industries like aviation, healthcare, jewelry, automotive and defense.
The increased control of output power and wavelength, coupled with computer controlled applications allow for an ever increasing range of materials for processing and complex applications of such techniques as cutting, engraving, marking and cutting.
So fast is the rate with which these technologies are being churned out, such that it is now possible, for example, to use laser technologies to create luminous and color markings on metals.
The growth in material processing will be spurred by several factors that together conspire in favor of this growth;
Decreasing fiber laser machine prices
Increasing equipment portability and convenience for use, e.g. the use of batteries and hand held devices.
Increasing awareness about the various use cases of fiber laser technologies.
The advent of do-it-yourself cottage industry for fiber applications like on jewelry, the gift industry and interior design.
5. The Who’s Who in the Fiber Laser Industry
The global industrial laser landscape has many players consisting mainly of the following;
IPG is the world’s leader in fiber laser technologies. It has manufacturing facilities in the U.S., Europe (Germany, Russia, UK and Italy), and Sales offices in China, India, Brazil, Mexico and many other countries.
Headquartered in Germany. It was founded in 1923 as a series of workshops, and has since become the world’s leader in laser technology, and electronics used in industrial applications.
In the 2017/18 fiscal year, the company, had a turnover of 3.6 billion euros.
Founded in the 60’s, Coherent is a leading photonics manufacturer and innovator. Its headquarters are in the heart of Silicon Valley, California, with offices spanning the globe.
The company offers a product portfolio touching many different markets and industries.
Wuhan Raycus Fiber Laser Technologies
Started in 2006, Wuhan Raycus is the first Chinese company engaged in the research and development of fiber laser devices.
Backed by Chinese policy for production of home-made equipment and with a world-class R&D team headed by Dr. Yan Dapeng, the company has specialized in the research and development of pulse and continuous fiber core devices for the Chinese market.
HeatSign is a Chinese company which has specialized in Direct Marking Technologies and Marking Machines with more than 10 years of excellent customer service. They make superior marking solutions for a variety of customers, affording low prices, fast and reliable machines for practically all marking requirements.
Their fiber laser marking devices are fast becoming a must-have for those who want speed, agility, low capital and maintenance costs and high customer service.
Due to their highly interactive research, development and sales teams, they are reaching out to niche markets in cottage marking, automotive marking, personalized gift markets and many others, in high and low end markets of the world.
Other manufacturers and players in the industry include Han’s Laser, Maxphotonics, JPT Opto-electronics, and nLIGHT from the United States.
6. Amazing Fiber Laser Machine Price Trends
There are many applications, as highlighted earlier, for fiber laser technologies, and their prices are determined in large part by their design, intended use and the cost of fabrication.
As an example, it is now common to see desktop fiber laser markers selling at prices start $2500 on major e-commerce websites like Alibaba and Amazon.
As the technologies for making devices more compact and energy efficient grows, so does the market demand and geographical reach increase, and the incentive for mass production allows manufacturers of these devices to enjoy economies of scale, and therefore offer ever reducing prices.
7. Fiber laser technology roadmap for 2019-2028
As can be seen here, fiber laser technology is poised to grow from strength to strength, with the following realities;
- Fiber laser machines will continue being invented for many industries to include a myriad of applications in the coming decade.
- Existing devices will continue to be improved to increase efficiency, accuracy and complexity of output while reducing costs of acquisition and operation of devices.
- New fiber laser equipment will be used to replace older and more expensive non-fiber laser equipment.
- New markets for fiber laser solutions will continue to emerge, both industry-wise and geographically, increasing the need for continued development of these technologies now and for the future.
Fiber Laser is a unique technological innovation that is fast finding a wide variety of use cases across many industries in the world.
It has huge advantages over other laser based technologies in material processing, healthcare, sensing and many other general uses.
With a double digit compound annual growth rate of the global trade in fiber laser core devices, experimenting with these technologies in any industry is a timely and potentially cost saving endeavor that will have far reaching effects on global economies.
The industry is dominated by a few top players, but many specialized smaller players are emerging in many countries, especially China, to claim a place on the global stage.
The market trends show that this innovative field is just getting started, and in the period between 2019 – 2025, these technologies will have a place at the table during the ongoing fourth industrial revolution!