Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The industrial laser spring

Why do most people seem to need external reinforcement of situations they have already evaluated? Over the past two weeks, two events, EASTEC 2011 in the U.S. and Laser World of Photonics in Munich, put the seal of approval on the roaring recovery in the industrial laser market. No longer is it a wish; it is a full blown phenomenon.

At EASTEC, a regional manufacturing trade show which has become a must-do for makers of laser marking and engraving systems, about two dozen companies showed their products, many new to market, to a crowd of 11,000 Northeast manufacturers who braved three days of rain to scurry between five halls at windy West Springfield fairgrounds.

The common thread this observer picked up was that suppliers were dancing on the grave of the recent recession. Not only was it dead and buried, it’s ugly memory was almost erased as the industrial laser market is booming with record sales and bookings, and the future looks very bright for continuing good business at pre-recession levels.

Four thousand miles and a week apart, the good burghers of Munich welcomed a record crowd to this year's renewal of the biennial event. We knew that this one would be different when on opening day, which traditionally does not attract German visitors in large numbers, crowds entered the halls as the opening bell rang, a pattern that was in effect for three of the four show days. As the closing bell sounded. more than 27,500 visitors, an 8% rise over 2009, had pushed through the turnstiles.

What they saw was one of the most powerful displays of innovative industrial laser technology in the two Production halls of the six hall show. Product suppliers had used the recession to advantage, marshalling their reduced work force to focus on new products to introduce to a post-recession market.

On top of this, the German VDMA announced a 57% increase in industrial laser sales over 2009. But more exciting was the 2010 order intake of German companies: 90% over 2009 and within 25% of the record year of 2007, which looks to be reachable in 2012, a year and a half ahead of the industry consensus schedule

The more than 3200 attendees at the concurrent World of Photonics Congress heard hundreds of papers on the new applications, such as ultra-fast laser processing, that will be using the new products shown at the show. Topping it off, if you are a German supplier, was the Federal Ministry of Education and Research's announcement at this trade fair of itsone-billion Euro, ten-year investment to promote photonics research and development. Line up at the trough, guys.

Euphoria was the rule as personnel from over 1100 exhibitors made their way home from this -- the most successful ever -- Munich Show, The consensus of exhibitors and attendees was that business is great and will continue for the next 12 months.

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