Laser Technology - Markets and Applications
Laser Technology and its Current Market Status
Laser technology is currently one of the most desirable technologies on the market, used throughout the entire production process, from the production of the smallest elements to the finishing of the final product. Since the first laser was developed in the 1960s, new applications have been found for these devices in many different fields, including science, the military, medicine, and telecommunications. In a report entitled "Laser Market Review & Forecast" published at the beginning of 2018. experts estimate that 2018 will bring record profits for manufacturers of semiconductor lasers and photonic devices. The total sales of lasers in the world brought a profit of nearly $12.5 billion in 2017, and in 2018 it is expected to exceed $13 billion (of which 43% were diode lasers). At the same time, it should be emphasized that the value of the market of industrial lasers is estimated at about $3.16 billion (data for Global and China Industrial Laser Industry Report, 2017-2021).
The rapid development of the market can also be seen when analyzing the increase in sales of lasers in industries that until recently were not associated with this technology. For example, it is worth noting that in 2016 the dental laser market reached a value of $183.5 million. According to forecasts, by 2022, this value will increase by another 52.9 million dollars, while in 2024, it is expected that the market will be more than ever higher. The market will already be worth USD 278.4 million (data based on the report: "Global Dental Lasers Market", commissioned by medgaget.com in 2017).
Currently, it is impossible to imagine everyday life without lasers. The vast majority of people use laser technology on a daily basis, e.g.: calling on the phone, watching TV, or using the Internet, where data is transmitted via laser diodes and optical fibers, shopping (product labels and scanners at checkouts) or driving a car. It is also important to mention laser cutting, laser welding, and laser marking in vehicle manufacturing, laser diodes as indicators, headlights or traffic lights, etc.
The most popular types of lasers include diode lasers. The market for all laser diodes, regardless of their type, mode of operation, wavelength or application, will reach $11.94 billion in 2020, with an average growth rate over the coming years of
13% (data from the "Lasers Market" report by Markets&Markets). The largest market share of all wavelengths is near-infrared diodes, while blue diodes are expected to grow the most (by 16.7%).
Blue Engraving Laser Technology
Most of the diode laser heads currently in use are low power devices and are therefore not used to process hard and demanding materials. However, the optical beam from laser diodes and the way it works is not significantly different from high power lasers used for cutting, welding, and similar tasks in many industries. In this type of laser, the energy beam has such power that it can instantly melt and even evaporate the material of the workpiece.
The modern development of laser technology is associated with the construction of heads with increasing power and technical parameters. It should be noted that already in the 90s of the twentieth century, intensive research was conducted around the world to build and improve diode lasers emitting blue light. Such laser diodes are mainly used to read the information contained on CDs. The use of a blue light-emitting laser diode for these purposes significantly increases the capacity of the discs due to the higher spatial resolution of blue light (a smaller wavelength means a smaller size of the light spot falling on the disc).
Due to their small size, low production costs, and high performance, semiconductor lasers (blue among others) are the most commonly used type of laser technology today. The blue light-emitting heads are mounted, among others, in CD, DVD, Blu-ray, XDCAM, laser indicators, fiber optic communication, in target indicators, or for distance measurement (rangefinders) used by the military.
Laser technology related to cutting and engraving is developing very rapidly. It is assumed that over the next 10 years CO2 and YAG lasers will have equivalent industrial applications in the form of blue laser technology for cutting and engraving. Due to the technological possibilities of the production of laser diodes, CO2 lasers, in particular plotters and other CNC machines, will find their substitutes first. YAG and Fiber lasers will find their substitutes in the second place due to better optical parameters and the possibility to use galvo scanning heads.