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Metal cutting drives fiber laser market

26 Jan 2006

Valentin Gapontsev of IPG Photonics gives his view on the high-power fiber laser market.

Talking at Photonics West's busy LASE session, Valentin Gapontsev began with some startling market data about the fiber laser industry. The IPG CEO estimates that the sector was worth $135 million in 2005 with his company taking a 75% share.

Looking at the wider solid-state laser market, he estimates that fiber lasers took an 18.5% share last year in terms of the number of units sold. What's more, Gapontsev is bullish that this figure will increase to 26% in 2006. In effect, this means that by the end of this year more than 1 out of every 4 solid-state lasers sold will be a fiber laser.

IPG's Valentin Gapontsev

Gapontsev

More than 60% of IPG's business comes from applications such as cutting, welding, drilling and marking in the automotive, aerospace and semiconductor industries. Firms such as Toyota, Hyundai, Boeing and Northrop Grumman have all purchased systems from IPG.

"In the metal cutting market [for example] the situation is changing very fast as a fibre laser provides a better solution than a CO2 laser - it's more efficient, more compact and cheaper," Gapontsev told Optics.org. "Fibre lasers now compete very successfully with CO2 sources and it's a huge market."

He revealed that IPG is looking to push output well into double figures with a range of products emitting 50 kW. The firm's highest power installation to date is a 36 kW model that is being used by the nuclear industry.

"For remote welding for automotive, people claimed that no one needed more than 4 kW," said Gapontsev. "Now all car companies are asking for 6, 8 or 10 kW, because they prefer to use higher power to get higher speeds and lower costs per weld."

Author
Jacqueline Hewett is technology editor on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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