March 22, 2012
The global market for laser systems for materials processing reached $10.1 billion in 2011, according to a new survey by Optech Consulting, Taegerwilen, Switzerland. The market is 28 percent ahead of its 2010 volume and 90 percent bigger than in the crisis year 2009.
East Asia presently reports the highest growth rates, with steeply growing demand for laser systems in China, Korea, and Taiwan. Laser system demand also accelerated in other countries with high industrial production growth rates, such as India and Brazil. The market comprises laser systems for macroprocessing — mainly for cutting, welding, and marking, worth about $7 billion - - and laser systems for microprocessing — for the production of semiconductors, flat-panel displays, printed circuit boards, and solar cells, worth about $3 billion.
In macroprocessing, high-power, solid-state lasers, including fiber and disk lasers, hold a surging market share in cutting, the largest application segment in laser materials processing. While not yet suited for all cutting applications, solid-state lasers offer low power consumption in the cutting of thin metal sheets.
Laser microprocessing contributed to market growth in 2011 as well, spurred by increased application in major segments. In the semiconductor and printed circuit board industry, lasers take a crucial role for the continued decrease of feature sizes, by direct ablative structuring and by the exposure of photoresist. Lasers also are used increasingly for the production of flat-panel displays, including high-resolution screens for smartphones and tablet computers, as well as large LCDs and OLEDs for television sets. Another growing application for laser microprocessing is the production of solar cells.