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Laser welding poised for growth

17 Jun 2002

Laser welding is set to gain market share at the expense of conventional metal welding technologies.

Laser welding technology will slowly but surely chip away at rival techniques to increase its share of the European metallic welding equipment market - that is the conclusion of a report by market research firm Frost & Sullivan.

Today, laser welding represents one of the smallest segments of the European market, and that is not predicted to change in a hurry. In 2000, the technology accounted for just 6% of the total USD 1.73 billion market with revenues of USD 101.3 million. It will hit double digits in 2007 to capture a 10% share of a USD 1.94 billion market with revenues of USD 200.1 million, according to Frost estimates.

Ozan Dogruer, a research analyst with the consultancy, claims that laser welding owes its mounting appeal to its high-performance characteristics. The high quality of the weld creates fewer defects and little work is required on the metal after it has been welded. "Especially with metals like aluminium. Laser welding is very well-suited to that as it doesn't warp the metal," Dogruer stated.

But laser welding is very expensive at the moment, says Dogruer. "To get the most out of it companies have to keep production levels high to get their return on investment." But Dogruer stresses that as laser welding is used more extensively in areas such as the automotive industry, its continued growth will be assured.

Presently CO2, excimer and lamp-pumped solid-state lasers dominate the materials processing market. However, it is projected that diode-pumped solid-state lasers could bound into the lead if the technology and cost of high-power laser diodes develops.

"Solid-state lasers are a lot more versatile," said Dogruer, citing its use with robots as an example. CO2, on the other hand, is used for more specialized applications such as components and thicker metals.

Lisa van Beurden is a contributing editor at Optics.org.

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