Global Military lasers see robust growth and soon will be over 1 billion in research and sales

Automotive, aerospace, energy, electronics, and communications (smartphones) materials processing applications continued to drive strong industrial laser sales. Of the three major industrial laser categories, the Micro category, which includes all applications using lasers with less than 500 Watts of power, climbed to 35% of the total laser market thanks to 105% growth in the sector that included display applications requiring excimer lasers­Coherent alone said in its third fiscal quarter 38 ended July 2, 2016, “As expected, we received significant orders for flat panel annealing lasers including a single order in excess of $100 million.” The Macro category, including laser processes requiring over 500 Watts of power, is the largest (at 47%) of all laser revenues, thanks to fiber lasers that comprise 44% of all Macro revenues. And finally, Marking (including engraving) contributed about 18% of all laser revenues, with solid growth continuing at 3.9% dominated by fiber lasers representing 49% of total sales.

Laser sales for R and D applications will trend similarly to the global R and D spending rate of 3.5% in 2016, growing at a slightly better 4.2% to 471.4 million in 2016 compared to 2015. Companies like NKT Photonics (Birkerød, Denmark), who acquired Fianium (Southampton, England) for around $29 million in early 2016 to strengthen its position in ultrafast fiber lasers and supercontinuum lasers for scientific and metrology markets, is betting on a strong—or at least slow and steady— R and D growth market to solidify future sales. The military segment, however, offers a brighter laser future. For 2016, laser spending in the military segment reached $406.0 million, a 9.4% increase over 2015 spending levels amid improved demand for laser­ based military technology.

Defense­ laser ­based growth rates are even better than overall military spending, as evidenced by progress in a few key technology areas. The National Defense Industry Association (NDIA; Arlington, VA) says that directed ­energy weapons are gaining traction across the U.S. military, and that investments in directed energy grew 23% in fiscal 2015 compared to the previous four year average, reaching $600 million. And infrared countermeasures are enjoying robust sales: Elbit Systems (Haifa, Israel) is headed into its second year of deliveries on a $26.5 million contract to supply fiber­ laser­ directed multispectral IRCMs for wide­body jets, and Northrop Grumman (Falls Church, VA) is moving forward with its $35 million quantum cascade laser (QCL)­ based Common Infrared Countermeasure (CIRCM) program.

Han’s Laser (Shenzhen, China) is branching out from its industrial laser roots into aerospace and defense ­related assembly equipment through its early 2016 acquisition of a large stake in Aritex (Badalona, Spain). Han’s Laser also acquired CorActive (Quebec City, QC, Canada) in November 2016 to improve its capabilities in fiber laser and specialty optical fiber markets.

Consequently, Chinese companies continue to make inroads into high­ power fiber laser manufacturing, encroaching upon a once­ exclusively European­ and North American­ supplied product. Raycus (Wuhan, China) advertises up to 10 kW fiber lasers and in November 2016, the Fourth Research Institute of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (Beijing, China) announced that it had developed a 20 kW fiber laser.

SOURCE- Laser Focus World – Annual Laser reviwew