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IPG clocks up 22% annual growth

30 Jul 2013

Demand for fiber lasers continues to expand rapidly as IPG reports very strong performance in China.

IPG Photonics has registered yet another quarter of rapid sales growth, as the market for fiber lasers continues to expand.

The Oxford, Massachusetts, headquartered company, which also has an extensive production presence in Germany and Russia, posted a net profit of $41.7 million on sales of $168.2 million for the three months that ended on June 30 - equivalent to year-on-year jumps of 11% and 22% respectively.

Among the reasons cited for that increase were very strong sales in China (up 50% on last year, and up 35% sequentially), where high-power fiber lasers appear to be displacing carbon dioxide laser technology rapidly in cutting applications, as well as a sharp uptick in demand for glass cutting.

IPG’s CFO Tim Mammen told an investor conference call that IPG sold more than 50 lasers for glass cutting applications during the latest quarter, helping revenues attributed to quasi-continuous-wave (QCW) lasers to more than double year-on-year to $5.6 million.

Seen as more efficient and convenient replacements for older Nd:YAG lasers, IPG has also cut the price of its QCW sources – Mammen said that unit sales had tripled year-on-year.

Glass cutting is regarded by the wider laser industry as an application area that is ripe for growth, and many are targeting it with high-specification ultrafast sources.

With solid demand for its high-power lasers also starting to emerge from more traditional industrial sectors such as construction, IPG sees no reason why the rapid growth of the fiber laser market will not continue for at least the next three years.

Additive manufacturing: adding sales momentum
Laser additive manufacturing is regarded as another growth area to watch. Even though systems companies such as Germany’s EOS have been using IPG’s laser sources for several years already, Mammen’s view is that the additive manufacturing space will increasingly focus on engineered metal parts, with less emphasis on plastic materials in the future. He says that customers are now asking for higher-power IPG lasers, with which they can produce larger components, or manufacture at higher speeds.

CEO and founder Valentin Gapontsev added: “We continue to penetrate major OEMs and are gaining market share from conventional lasers for cutting and welding applications. High-power laser sales were up 38% year over year, driven by automotive and general manufacturing applications. Medium power lasers benefited from strong sales for welding and cutting of thinner materials, primarily for consumer electronics, resulting in 41% growth.”

Gapontsev believes that sales of ultraviolet lasers, hitherto only a tiny proportion of IPG’s overall revenues, should pick up in earnest in 2014 – thanks in part to development work taking place at the company’s new Mobius Photonics division, which was acquired by IPG in March.

Among the few areas of weakness for IPG remains the German automotive sector, where there is a continued hesitance to invest large capital sums. Mammen described sales growth among German auto makers as having been “anaemic” for several quarters.

The CFO also said that industry rumors suggesting any very sharp drop in the price of IPG’s pulsed lasers were “without foundation”.

Despite a relatively flat outlook for the current quarter - Mammen said that third-quarter sales should be between $165 million and $175 million - IPG's stock rose in value by around 3% following the update.

Trading at just over $63, a value around which it has hovered for much of the past year, IPG now has a market capitalization of $3.25 billion.

TWI video: IPG lasers and the potential for application in nuclear decommissioning:

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