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Japan sees recovery in laser machining market

10 Aug 2006

A Japanese market study has found that domestic sales of industrial laser machining equipment have bounced back after a period of decline.

A new study by the Yano Research Institute, a marketing research and consulting firm based in Japan, suggests that the Japanese market for laser machining equipment has shown a steady recovery between 2002 and 2005, driven in part by rising demand in the automotive and electronics industries.

The Laser Machine Market 2006 report also suggests that new high-tech laser technologies such as THG YAG, fiber and disk lasers are thriving in Japan.

Carried out between September and December 2005, the Yano study looked at the latest activities of laser oscillator and machine manufacturers and importers.

The study identifies a fall in economic activity following the collapse of the high-tech bubble in 2000, which bottomed out in 2002 in various Japanese industries. However, recent years have seen a gradual recovery in terms of both investments in production facilities and shipments of industrial lasers.

"Shipments of almost every type of laser machine have grown faster year-on-year, indicating that individual enterprises are positively investing in production facilities, which could be evidence of economic recovery," said the study's authors.

Among other findings, the Yano report reveals that the CO2 laser market recovered to just over 1000 units sold in fiscal year 2005 after shrinking down to 760 units in 2002 - following a peak of 1630 units in 2000. Growth in this area was fuelled by rising demand in the automotive industry, where the COsub>2 laser machining is replacing the traditional punching press in parts' manufacture.

The shipment of YAG lasers has also increased by 19% between 2002 and 2005. This growth has been driven by a recovery in the electronics industry, where YAG lasers are used widely for micromachining semiconductor and electronic parts. The study predicts continued demand in this area.

Also highlighted in the report is the growing market for emerging laser technologies such as THG YAG lasers and fiber lasers. For example, Yano's research predicts that the Japanese market for THG YAG lasers - which offer advantages for machining hard or transparent materials and has applications in the semiconductor industry - has grown from 285 units in 2000 to 495 units in 2005, and will reach 650 machines in 2007.

Similarly, the study estimates that the fiber laser market has grown from around 170 units in 2000 to 830 units in 2005, driven by demand in marking applications. The disk laser, for which a market has not yet been established, is also expected to gain widespread use in micro-machining applications.

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