March 28, 2013
The global market for laser systems for materials processing accounted for $10.2 billion in 2012, up by a marginal 1 percent versus the previous year, according to Optech Consulting, Taegerwilen, Switzerland.
Market growth varied strongly by geographic region. The North American market grew double-digit in the U.S. and Canada. The demand for standard laser machines, such as flat sheet metal cutters, increased by more than 25 percent, and sales were substantially above the prerecession peak levels reached in 2007 and 2008.
With a consumption share of only about 15 percent in the global market, however, 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 percent, while China reported moderate growth and Japan a sideways trend.
The European market trended sideways in local currency, which translates into an 8 percent decrease measured in U.S. dollars because of the depreciation of the euro. As Europe accounts for more than 30 percent of the global laser materials processing systems consumption, the 8 percent 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 U.K. and major Eastern European economies, while the demand level shrank further versus an already very weak 2011 base in the recession-beaten Southern European countries.
In the beginning of 2012 economic expectations in Europe were depressed by 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 percent of the global consumption of laser materials processing systems. During the year economic expectations improved before decreasing again toward the end of the year, also pulling the laser market up and down.
Globally, growth segments in laser materials processing comprise applications in consumer electronics and automotive manufacturing.