Laser applications may see weak growth in revenues in 2019, but there are still a few areas that are expected to pace the industry. Here’s a breakdown of the factors at play for manufacturers in 2019.
The laser market is not immune to the blowback from tariffs that’s currently plaguing many global and manufacturing industries. Tariffs imposed on trade between the United States and China is stifling growth across the market, and there could be more restrictions coming that affect exports in biotechnology, artificial intelligence, quantum information and sensing technology, additive manufacturing and advanced surveillance technology, according to Laser Focus World’s annual market report and outlook.
The report warns that “for the first time in nearly a decade, laser manufacturers are concerned that even a ‘slow and steady’ 5-6% sales growth rate could be in jeopardy.” The tariffs are no doubt having an effect on industry-wide growth. But LFW also notes that high-volume suppliers are also seeing their stock drop due to order pushouts and cancellations from major manufacturers like Apple.
Laser Applications to Note
Here are a few areas that are expected to drive growth in the laser industry in the coming year:
Metal processing: According to Laser Focus World, projections for industrial lasers show this sector should see increased revenues by about 4% in 2019. High-power fiber lasers for metal-cutting are expected to lead this growth, so those applications should continue to be an area of focus for manufacturers despite some setbacks in the previous quarter.
Telecommunications: While revenue for communications and optical storage lasers dipped in 2018 after seeing steady year-over-year growth in prior years, it looks like the market will rebound in 2019. The rollout of 5G infrastructure should play a big role in this, as well as new opportunities like quantum communications.
Medical lasers: Cosmetic and dermatology lasers had a strong year of growth in 2018, as did surgical lasers. Laser Focus World calls the market for medical lasers “ever-expanding” and projects to see more increases in revenue and opportunities for growth in 2019. Laser solutions could play a major role in pain management, helping with prevention of opioid addictions as well as other significant medical applications. They’re extremely beneficial in medical environments because laser light and disposable laser probes are less likely to carry germs and contaminants than other products on the market.
Instrumentation and sensors: Lasers may only be part of a larger market for optics and photonics devices used for measurement and sensing, but they are often the essential components. Laser Focus World projects growth once again for this segment in 2019, and VCSELs in particular should see a significant rise. LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is another important technology being rolled out in self-driving cars, for example, but the annual LFW report cautions that it may not be ready for a breakthrough just yet because of high cost of production, competing configurations and unproven performance in real-world varying conditions.